While October is designated as national bullying prevention month, efforts to alleviate bullying should be maintained all year-round.
What is Bullying?
Described as unwanted, aggressive behavior, bullying involves a real or perceived power imbalance, and can come in the verbal form of teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting or threatening to cause harm.
When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable, and research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time, according to stopbullying.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“In the digital age, everyone is more susceptible to bullying,” said Jeff Nalin, Psy.D., founder and chief clinical officer of Paradigm Treatment.
“The reason that young people are more susceptible is because, on average, they have a larger digital footprint than any other age group,” Dr. Nalin said. “So naturally, being out there more lends itself to a greater amount of feedback both positive and negative. And for better or worse, the Internet seems to thrive on negative feedback.”
What Are the Effects of Teen Bullying?
When young people have experienced bullying or any related trauma, the significant impact that it has in their lives is their developing view of themselves in relation to their view of the world, Dr. Nalin warned.
“People who have been bullied, which represents 80 to 85% majority of our clients, view the world as a potentially hostile place that they have to be weary of,” he said. “This generates a tremendous amount of anxiety and self-consciousness, which results in being fearful social interactions.”
This can spike the anxiety, eventually create depressive episodes, and more importantly, stop the young person from participating in open, meaningful interactions with peers, Dr. Nalin further emphasized.
“When interactions with peers are cut off we no longer can see accurate reflections of ourselves, which is the single most important way that we progress towards more fully functioning personality development,” he said.
How Can You Prevent Teen Bullying?
Parents, school staff, and other adults can help adolescents and teens prevent bullying by following these tips:
1. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Adolescents and teens that know what bullying is can better identify it. They can talk about bullying if it happens to them or others. Youths need to know ways to safely stand up to bullying and how to get help.
2. Check in with youths often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns. Research shows that youths really do look to parents and caregivers for advice and help on tough decisions. Sometimes spending 15 minutes a day talking can reassure youths that they can talk to their parents if they have a problem. Questions that can prompt these conversations include:
- What was one good thing that happened today? Any bad things?
- What is lunch time like at your school? Who do you sit with? What do you talk about?
- What are you good at? What would do you like best about yourself?
3. Encourage adolescents and teens to do what they enjoy, such as special activities, interests and hobbies. This can help boost their confidence, make friends and potentially protect them from bullying behavior.
4. Model how to treat others with kindness and respect. Youths learn from adults’ actions, and by treating others with kindness and respect, adults show the youths in their lives that there is no place for bullying. Even if it seems like they are not paying attention, youths are watching how adults manage stress and conflict, as well as how they treat their friends, colleagues, and families.
Additionally, youths should know ways to safely stand up to bullying, and how to get help:
- Encourage youths to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied. The adult can give comfort, support, and advice, even if they can’t solve the problem directly.
- Discuss ways to stand up to youths who bully, such as using humor and saying “stop” directly and confidently. Talk about what to do if those actions don’t work, like walking away.
- Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other peers.
- Urge youths to help their peers who are bullied by showing kindness or getting help.
It’s also important to avoid the following mistakes:
- Never tell the youth to ignore the bullying.
- Do not blame the youth for being bullied. Even if he or she provoked the bullying, no one deserves to be bullied.
- Do not tell the youth to physically fight back against the person who is bullying. The youth could become hurt, suspended, or expelled.
- Parents should resist the urge to contact the other parents involved. It may make matters worse. School or other officials can act as mediators between parents.
For more free information about bullying, visit Stop Bullying.