In Expert Interviews

Bullying Advice from the Directors of FHI 360 Founder Ciaran Connolly talks to Merle Froschl and Barbara Sprung, Co Directors of FHI 360 in New York. FHI 360 is a national and international organization working on teasing and bullying since the 1990’s for the ages between 5-8 years old. Learn more Bullying Advice from the founders of FHI 360.

The interview on Bullying Advice with FHI 360 Directors can also be found here and here.

Below is a transcript of the extensive interview on Bullying Advice with the directors of FHI 360:

Merle Froschl: Well I will start , my name is Merle Froschl, I am co-director of the education equity group here at( FHI  360) we are located in new York city  but (FHI 360) it’s a national and international organization , Barbara will tell you as well as we have been working together  for a long time on the issue of teasing and bullying since the mid 1990’s, and our work deals primarily with young children in grades , united states it will be g 2-3 the ages 5-8   , that’s the group our work is primarily aimed at.

Barabra Sprung:I am Barabra Sprung, I am the other co-director of the educational equity group here at FHI 360, and we do alot of different programs but teasing and bullying addressing that at the beginning of the children education has been kind of issue for us as of the 1990’s and we have been at it for a while.

Ciaran Connolly: And in that time have you seen an increase or decrease in bullying as a whole.

Barabra Sprung: I would have to say there has been an increase and a change, the change being of course with social media, and children being younger on cell phones, iPad, and other devices, the issue that we parents teacher need to face and help children face have changed somewhat, but there is still a lot of face to face bullying goes on in school, and we can talk about the nature of the kind of bullying we have seen since we began our work.

Merle Froschl: I do think , I am not sure whether bullying the incidents themselves have increased but sure they have changed  in nature , and when actually on your web site we have noticed that you focus on cyber bullying ,the biggest issue is when somebody  chase in the playground you can go home and feel safe but cyber bullying just follows kids everywhere and it pervasiveness and that it is of a very different nature.

Ciaran Connolly: I hope you will tell me that you are dealing with kids 5-8 years that cyber bullying isn’t an issue for them yet, I hope.

Barabra Sprung: what we are trying to do is that we proactive and preventive, we are getting parents and teachers to , and this is not easy because it is rather abstract to get across the idea of prominence and privacy to young children is a real challenge and that’s we are hoping to address in  our next phase of our  work trying to make it concrete when it is ,…. concrete example if you know what that means to young children it’s no easy task , but we will do it cause it needs to be done.

Merle Froschl: Is a little bit when we began the work in a book that is now published it is called (QUIT IT )we really were addressing the pre cursors  to issue like sexual harassment and while you don’t use the word sexual harassment when you deal with young children ages 5 to 8 , it does begins in the form of teasing and bullying , and probably where we will not going to use the word cyber bullying or talk about cyber bullying specifically with young children , it is about creating good citizenship and behaviour and just as if you are treating somebody and we want your children to treat  other children kindly regardless of the situation that they need to understand that extends to social media behaviour as well, and well may be they don’t own cell phones at age 5  but they see them everywhere , their parents are using them their older siblings are using them ,they are well aware that this equipment exist , and I know myself I have a young granddaughter   who doesn’t have a cell phone , but she can move those icons on the iPad , like it’s nobody’s business , they know what to do before they know what this machine is.

Barabra Sprung: And that is an important concept, when we began to think about addressing cyber bullying, I think we were thinking more in terms of the age the children will be using, but teachers and parents were the one encouraging us to go younger, they have a sense that it is enormous and they need strategy for how to deal with it, until we moved out thinking back to this 5-8 age group, which worked so well in reversing the other type face to face teasing and bullying.

Ciaran Connolly: Makes perfect sense to give children the foundation so actually when they do come in contact with theses medias they are equipped to deal with them and actually when you mentioned one of your books and the other I believe is ( anti bullying and teasing for preschool for children )Is there a difference between bullying and teasing?

Merle Froschl: Well we have always talked about it’s a teasing type and behaviour, well it can start with name calling and it can escalate, bullying typically is considered more physical type and behaviour, but really our feeling that all such behaviour are really harmful, if there isn’t this difference between teasing and bullying it doesn’t make it any less hurtful to the child that it is happening to him.

Cyber Bullying Advice

Ciaran Connolly: And I guess there is a lot of media attention on your idea even on our site now cyber bullying that seems to be the hot topic that parents and teachers worried about and even young people seems to be struggling a lot about , is that helping raise the awareness of bullying and cyber bullying ?

Barabra Sprung: Well what happens with cyber bullying is that there are really dreadful cases that end up in tragedy, yet with all the attention nobody is looking at creating good citizenship and preventing that kind of end result, it is sensationalized rather than really thinking in an educational way so there really is a need for attention but that kind of attention to the issue.

Merle Froschl:I think more and more you are seeing now web sites such as yours and other information available  but  none of them is geared to parents of young children , really young children ,so I think that kind of awareness needs to be raised as well.

Ciaran Connolly: If I was a parent of a young children and I am watching you how could they educate their child at home to know that bullying is wrong , and I guess ensure when they go to school  they understand what is right and wrong when it comes to bullying and teasing.

Barabra Sprung: Well as we have mentioned before we try to install kindness in children , acts of kindness , that needs to be done at home and at school and they need to be in concert with each other people need to get attention to this , I don’t know about the schools in Ireland but here there is such a push for testing and mandated them that many teachers feel that they don’t have time to address this characteristics of good citizenship which are as essential , they have a term for here they call it soft skills, skills of social behaviour, they  want to do more  but the …… mandate in the school  are not allowing a lot of time to address this issues and yet we better do it is essential.

More Bullying Advice

Ciaran Connolly: Totally agree , and you mentioned earlier that you take your directions from the needs of teachers , teachers are asking and parents are asking you for your help with the topics that you are covering , do you think that teachers at school are under immense pressure , and do we actually probably need to change our priority and help change their priorities , because you are right in every school there are grades and attendance , but some people may be myself as well would argue that soft skills are more important than the score you get in geography or math , when you are in a class in kindergarten been able to talk and communicate and probably good citizenship will probably more important and will stand the children for their whole life as opposed than just focus on grades

Barabra Sprung: Well you have said it so well, there is nothing to say about it , I guess you could think of both of us , we couldn’t agree with you more , you said that …   ,the social skills and the social emotional development in the early stage the other thing will come along , but if you don’t notice children who don’t really feel comfortable at school and that leads to both teasing and bullying behavior both in person and online so it’s essential.

Merle Froschl: And actually we found when we were developing the activities for (QUIT IT) we tested them in classrooms and schools, and teacher who have might be in resistance at first because they felt they , quote ~don’t have time to deal with this issue~ , told us afterwards that dealing with it proactively and talking about it there were so much less , fewer behavior issues , that they have much more time to do the work that they were mandated to do , so in fact it actually help the situation as well , but it’s going to take a lot more attention and as you say a shift in priority to make it happen.

Ciaran Connolly: And hopefully sooner rather than later , And you have been working in this space quit few no. of years , have you seen long term effects on heard of long term impacts on young people lives’ that have been bullied ?

Merle Froschl: Well yes us actually a little before, when we started talking to you, our feeling is that there is no child is not affected if he or she is teased, and sometimes it takes more serious consequences than others, there are children who don’t want to go to school who develop physical elements or illness and that could stay with you for a long time, and the thing that also happens is that there are really horrific incidents such as (Columbine). I think that people first thought the young people who committed those acts where the bullies, but in fact it turned out in almost all cases they were the kids who themselves were bullied and they basically thought they couldn’t stand it any more and had this horrific results. In fact there was a four years old, well this is I am changing the subject, but we were working with a kindergarten class room they were 4 years old, we were talking to a kid about how he felt when he was bullied he said sometimes I take it and take it and I just feel like I am going to pop, so there is this envy sense in children it’s an awful thing, and so I think the consequences is different for each child  , but I don’t think that there is such thing as getting away with it being hurt it’s a must.

Barabra Sprung: It cuts of course all socio-economics lines it is not something that affect poor children more than middle class children or middle class children more than upper class children, it’s an issue that is pervasive through all the years of school an international issue, the research we have done and we continue to read about it affects each country just around the globe so it’s a very serious issue that’s been(heightened) by the addition of cyber bullying.

Parents Bullying Advice

Ciaran Connolly: I guess rather than your site and text and articles you are very focused on empowering adults and children. How should an adult deal with someone who is a bully or even bullied, if a parent think his child is a bully or a victim, I guess we all agreed that there is a long term consequences for that scenario. How should a parent react and what should they do?

Barabra Sprung : They should definitely address , you know not try to say , kids will be kids , the school make you stronger those kind of typical not facing the issue really don’t help anybody ,and you know , so we , have dealt a lot with parents in our work and we have given them strategies that they need to find out who the child , they need to develop trust with the child who tell them , because very often it guess a sort of subconscious message they you don’t talk about this , so making the space for children to talk about it and  get their feeling out and then if feasible the parent  of the child who is teased needs to have a conversation with the parent of the child who is bullying , if there is a mediator person of  the school if it happen on a school ground , it is so much better , but it needs to be addressed , because it goes on and on and it tears the fabric of the school days and the home day if it isn’t addressed , so we say confront it not in an aggressive way but find a way to help your child talk to you about it and get that child some help , it could be from school it could be somebody out in the community, somebody that everybody can trust , but the issue must be dealt with.

Merle Froschl: Parents can use story books if they feel that the child is uncomfortable about talking in what’s happening to him or her. Reading a story and asking the children how they feel about it, there are ways to begin the conversation and probably the most important thing is to do it.

Barabra Sprung: We have some problem solving techniques in (QUIT IT) using puppets, taking it one step away from the personal so that the issue could come out. We did develop a CD for children to go with the program where there were those problem solving …..then the child could say I could do this or I could do that about it so they could feel some sense of control that they could do something about the situation.

Ciaran Connolly: In relation to bullying what will you be most concerned about today, the scariest thing the anti bullying movement is facing at the moment , the most dangerous or the most challenging thing the anti bullying movement  are facing at the moment  , is it cyber bullying or the fact that may be we all really have to change the community, the education , parents and adults mindset trying to break the cycle , and what do you think the main challenge to fixing this problem

Merle Froschl: well I think it is all of those things you have mentioned. I do think that this whole issue of the pervasiveness of cyber bullying and the fact that children can’t just get away from it when its happening, they don’t have a safe space , I think it just makes it much harder to deal with than previous , I mean for example although it’s horrible , somebody writes something terrible on a bathroom wall or a bathroom stall you can wash it or paint it over , yes its horribly hurtful and we shouldn’t diminish  that , but the fact that whatever that is goes out to everybody and there is no way to stop  this, just can’t imagine how totally helpless that would make a child feel.

Barabra Sprung: And that effects, teasing and bullying affects both the teaser and the bully as well as the child who is being bullied, but I am thinking of the long term effect on someone who did something really mean on cyberspace and then regrets it and then its available, and that sense you did that must feel awful, and it doesn’t go away just like the child who’s been victimized never goes away from him, it’s that permanent factor that I think brings it to a new level.

Merle Froschl: and I think that what happens is that a threat it could happen, is that to be scared of things as well.

Ciaran Connolly: May be children don’t realize when you post something and favourite of friends where they can like it, share or re-tweet something that is making fun of someone else and all of a sudden it could be 20 or 30 people involved and they are not even  realizing that they actually taking something small and making it into a massive mountain and may be the person feels its gang bullying at that stage ,and do you think young people actually realize what to do and how powerful social media is and can be and may be how dangerous it could be as well , of course social media is probably one of the best things in connecting people , but just wondering do you think children are capable to understand again I am thinking of the terms and conditions they have to be 13 to sign up to most of the social accounts , but I know some people ignore that and may be sign a little bit earlier but do you think it is too young even in that.

Barabra Sprung: I certainly do. I mean we all know that children who go through adolescence are basically children and they hardly realize the consequences of what their behavior is, unless we find a way to help them understand that I think its really dangerous, but it’s going to be there and that’s the other thing, I guess parents feel a certain sense of I can’t control all of this. I did something some years ago about television they don’t feel empowered to do a lot about it , but you could turn off the television set , but really once it’s out there, it’s out there, its an enormous challenge to address.

Ciaran Connolly: I guess parents as well who may be not using their computer every day don’t use email or don’t have smart phones yet their kids do, and its ever bigger challenge to explain and help  a child be safe from something save a child from a something you don’t even understand yourself so I can understand that for sure , and…

Merle Froschl: People say that children can use these devices long before they understand their potential and whether they are potential for good or potential for evil it is hard for young children to understand that, learning to use it is something they almost do naturally, it is an interesting problem, it’s the information that’s available, and that there are consequences that are really hard to understand. Somebody used the analogy recently that you wouldn’t give someone a key to a car without explaining to them how the car works, you just wouldn’t take them toward that, and a cell phone has as much potential to be dangerous and yet kids can get them and use them without understanding what they can do all the time , and that’s is the challenge.

Ciaran Connolly: Of course and you go online and ,you could be connected up to billion people who use internet and your child could be sitting beside you on the couch and with a mobile device he could be talking to anyone in the world so it is scary when you think about it . Brilliant , if someone wants to find more about( FHI 360 )or ( QUIT IT ) or the (anti bullying and teasing book for preschool class rooms) or the resources you are working on or the projects you are dealing with now , they can do to your web site?

Merle Froschl: Yes

Ciaran Connolly: Excellent and again remind me of the main name.

Merle Froschl: The organization name is (FHI 360) and there is a huge web site called, but if you want to go find information specifically about (QUT IT) and anti teasing an bullying we have a separate web site you can go to which is

Barabra Sprung: and for the preschool guide I will go back to a question you asked earlier that also can develop when teachers in preschool said we found some lessons little hard for young children including , we can do something and to meet that we developed the (anti bullying and teasing for preschool class rooms) its available through the (gryphonhouse) which is the publisher of it and it is also available as an e book in Spanish , so if you have people who are Spanish speaking they can access it so that one is available through (gryphonhouse)and ours as I said (QUIT IT) is available through find it a very practical and user friendly to address these issue and it also build literacy because so much of it is for school and engaging children and make it easier for parents to address the issue.

Ciaran Connolly: Brilliant , we will make sure to add live links just below this video while they are watching so people can find this resources , and excellent , thank you for your time.

We hope you have enjoyed our interview on Bullying Advice with the Directors of FHI 360 and we hope you have found the Bullying Advice as inspiring and informative as we have. 

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