Identifying Bullying Tactics: 5 Experts Weigh In
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Bullying these days can come in many forms and is no longer just a physical act. With all of the social media platforms and apps available, cyberbullying is running rampant. So, we asked 5 experts to share stories of how schools, parents, and educators can identify and help students manage bullying and its impact.
Students need to be taught that what bullies say or do to them is not their fault, but rather a reflection of the pain the bully is feeling. Let your student know that you will never laugh at them or blame them for being bullied when they need to share what is happening to them at school or online.
1. Create open communication within the student-parent-teacher relationship triangle
Sylvia Hall, Founder, GAB-on!
Bullying takes many forms including physical, mental, and emotional, and is both visible and ‘invisible’. As students grow up and interact with their peers more on social media, through other electronics, and less on the playground, their relationships can change and shift dramatically or can disintegrate altogether. A student’s mental health is developed and strengthened through the relationships they have and communicating on social media can wreak havoc with many student’s sense of self and confidence. A student’s relationship with their family, trusted adults, mentors, and friends is paramount to their emotional health.
Consistent, open communication within the student-parent-teacher relationship triangle is critical. However, what’s often missing in that communication is the student’s inclusion. Include students in conversations about school, their home life, and everyday life.
The real magic is when conversations about small moments in school lead to bigger conversations at home. If a student shared, “I have invisible armor that I have to wear in class” the parent or teacher could continue the discussion to find out why the student feels that way. Having a conversation about “armor” opened a door for the student to be able to share his story, to make the parents aware, and for the family to take the next steps.
The consistent parent-student conversations about a student’s day, perspective, and experience build family connectedness. And it is family-connectedness that is the foundation for a student's mental health, social and emotional well-being, academic achievement, and to recognize their future possibilities.
2. Emphasize core values and clear behavior expectations
Lois McGuire, Retired Superintendent of Schools from New Jersey, Author of Don't Be That KID!
Students don’t become bullies in middle or high school. It is a learned behavior that begins before students start school and is reinforced throughout elementary school. That is why it is imperative for parents, grandparents, and educators to place more emphasis on core values and always establish clear behavior expectations.
Throughout my career, whether I was an elementary school teacher or a Superintendent of Schools, I always told parents, “I would rather your student was an ‘A’ person rather than an ‘A’ student.”
Many parents place more emphasis on their student’s academic performance instead of whether or not they are kind, considerate, and respectful to others. I believe the above three character traits, for example, can be learned. Students, at an early age, must be taught kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. They are skills that can be learned like any other skill.
3. The hardest thing to remember is that being bullied is not your fault
Lynda Fairly, Co-founder, Marketing, Numlooker
I had a friend who was being bullied at school as she was a unique student with some learning disorders. The administrator had seen this happening before and found a way to diffuse the situation before it escalated into violence. He showed up at the school after classes were over and talked with the other students about what happened with my friend. He could get them to see that my friend only wanted to be their friend, but they kept pushing her away.
He also talked with the bullies about the dangers of bullying and how it has ultimately caused people to commit suicide. The administrators then re-iterated the bullying prevention policies in school to the mass. Students, parents, and educators were provided with full knowledge of what the procedure entails after that incident.
Bullying these days can be verbal, social, or physical. It can be cyberbullying or even mute bullying. Students these days are verbally abused in person or behind their back, but now more than ever, are being abused online. Students can be hurt by negative comments which can damage their beliefs and feelings about themselves. This can also occur when someone tries to physically intimidate a student in public places such as school or a community center.
Some tips for students if they are feeling that others are bullying them:
- Never take the bullies' words personally because what they say is never true
- Do not threaten back as this will only make the situation worse
- Go out with friends and make sure you have a sound support system to help you feel safe
- Talk to your parents (or another trusted adult) about what is going on at school and ask for help if needed. Also, talk to a teacher or other trusted adult about what is happening
- If you are being bullied, it is not your fault, and you don't deserve the negative attention
4. Create a safe, inclusive environment for all students
Brigida Aversa, Chief Operating Officer and Co-founder of Tiny Hoppers
For young students, bullying can be identified if an individual is being left out of the group regularly. The person being bullied might be disinterested in activities and participating in social activities.
A common theme in bullying is if there seems to be a ringleader in a friend group. Often that person is the one that is the boss, and everyone has to follow them or do what they say. Bullying is usually targeted towards an individual to make them feel less or isolated.
One of the ways that students can avoid bullying is to teach students to be more confident, assertive and let go of any victim thinking. Bullying is a tactic to make someone else feel less and insecure, which encourages further bullying down the line.
One of the most critical responsibilities of an educator is to make a safe space for each student. As students continue to grow, they are extremely sensitive and vulnerable as people, so it is super important to establish good relationships with students by not showing favoritism in the classroom and ensuring everyone feels included.
5. Help students focus on confidence in oneself; a trait that bullies fear
Patrizia Pisani, Editor, Vionix Studio
Bullying can have lasting negative impacts on a student. The best way to avoid bullying at school or anywhere is self-confidence.
Be confident and stand for yourself. Never answer with violence but do tell the bully you do not want to engage with respect and authority.
You are in school so why not develop strong friendships with other classmates? You are more prone to bullying if you are lonely. However, having friends does not mean that you engage in fights or talk-backs. Recognize bullies, their usual hangout spots, and stay away from them.
Each student is different. Bullies will test their targets to find what affects them most and capitalize on it. Speaking up about bullying is embarrassing to students, so never stop checking up on your student to make sure they’re okay.
Call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
If you have done everything you can to resolve the situation and nothing has worked, or someone is in immediate danger, there are ways to get help.
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