Bullying is a problem of growing concern within the culture. Many parents and teachers alike are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the issue and are finding that they need more education and resources in order to deal with the problems of bullying and cyber bullying both at home and at school. Learn more on the relationship between parents and teachers and bullying.
Bullying involves aggressive behavior. A bully is someone who intentionally causes physical, verbal or mental harm to another. This behavior is termed bullying when it is repeated and the victim or the person being bullied has done nothing to ’cause’ the bullies actions.
Bullying and Cyberbullying are detrimental to the mental well-being of all those involved. Studies have found that both the bully and the victim experience long-term problems that include socio-pathic tendencies, mental health problems, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
The best thing you as a parent or teacher can do if you suspect that a child is being bullied or bullying is to intervene immediately and decisively. Left to their own devices, many of these children’s problems only increase and lead to more difficulty that could include numerous and disastrous results such as serious mental health problems or even death.
What Can You Do?
Here are some tips for Parents and Teachers from Susan Swearer, PhD. Ms. Swearer is an associate professor at the University of Nebraska (School of Psychology) and she is the co-director of the Bullying Research Network.
Question: What should a parent or teacher do if he or she suspects bullying in order to protect the victim?
According to Dr. Swearer, it is imperative that you as a teacher or parent get involved, intervening immediately when you see or suspect bullying is occuring. Here are the steps she says are a must.
- The Parent or Teacher must tell the bully to stop
- The Parent or Teacher must document what you saw (keep records of any subsequent bullying events)
- The Parent or Teacher must reassure the victimized child that he/she is believed and supported
- The Parent or Teacher must help the bullied student feel connected both at school and at home
- The Parent or Teacher should suggest counseling or therapy for the bullied child (either individual or group)
Question: Are there specific character traits or personality traits that are markers parents and teachers should watch for in order to prevent such incidents as suicide.
Dr. Swearer admits there is no particular profile of the victimized child who chooses to take his/her own life. However, she does refer to Brenda High’s book ‘Bullycide in America’ for more information on this point. According to High’s the stories from the moms of young people who have committed suicide listed in her book are all very different, the one commonality is that the bullying endured.
Psychologists know that there is a link between bullying and depression and between depression and suicide. Parents and Teachers should watch for symptoms and signs that the victimized child might be depressed. There is a definite link between mental health and bullying. Bullying is a mental health issue and as such (whether you are dealing with the victim, bully, bystander or bully/victim) he/she should be assessed for depression and/or anxiety as these are usually present in cases of bullying.
School-aged children who are bullied at home by older siblings sometimes determine that bullying is the way to get what they want. As a result, they may bully others at school in order to get their way. Again, the key for Parents and Teachers is to stop this behavior as soon as it is identified.
Question: Are there certain conditions that fuel bullying behavior? If so, how do you stop the cycle?
According to her research (conducted for just over a decade) there are definitely factors within certain families, schools and peer groups that influence the presence of bullying. As Parents of Teachers you should ask yourself what conditions within your setting are allowing the bullying to occur. Once these areas are identified, they are the ones that you ought to address immediately. She encourages that any intervention should be based on evidence. Since there are so many varying conditions across the country, it is recommended that each district or community compile their own data and methods of corresponding interventions in order to address and prevent the bullying in their own situation.
Question: What about cyberbullying and social media?
Like everything else in life, the social media outlets have taken things to a whole new level of availability and interaction. These sites and technological advances have enabled bullies to operate and terrorize their victims 24 hours a day all week long. Dr. Swearer compares unmonitored texting and computer use to a child being alone in a dark alley. She sees the cyber world as a breeding ground for potential bullies. On the internet they don’t have to be face-to-face. Parents and Teachers need to monitor any technology use and realize that there is a real danger and negative side to its use.