Wellness Wednesday: Don't Feed the Bully
Next month is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, a time when many schools and communities emphasize bullying prevention measures. While the research is developing, the Centers for Disease Control reports there is evidence these prevention measures have a positive impact on reducing bullying behavior.
Though the stereotypical schoolyard bully hurling cruel comments still exists, the prevalence of cyberbullying is now an additional threat. StopBullying.Gov offers research-based information for individuals, schools, and administrators on how to help combat this pervasive type of bullying, which can have devastating consequences.
As an adult, how you address cyberbullying with the children in your lives is critical. Janet Olsen of Michigan State University Extension shares these strategies:
- Stress how important it is to stay calm and not react quickly out of anger or fear. Encourage kids to be aware of their thoughts and feelings before moving to action.
- Don’t retaliate. Even though a young person’s first response might be to use the same hurtful tools as the person doing the bullying, emphasize that retaliating can make a situation much worse.
- Don’t feed the bully. Share with kids that in some situations, the best response may be no response at all. Sometimes people are hoping for their targets to lose their cool and have a strong response so they can boast about this to others. In the virtual world, this can mean that many other people might see a victim’s response.
- Sometimes, if it is safe, it may be important for kids to use their voice to respond publicly or privately. Help them know when to use their voice publicly to show that they do not tolerate or support hurtful behaviors. Help them consider whether it would be helpful to follow up privately with the person who sent the hurtful message in a respectful and caring way that holds that person accountable.
- Whether kids respond to cyberbullying publicly, privately or both – in person or online – stress the importance of being respectful, constructive and clear. Sometimes people really do not know that their actions have been hurtful, and responding to them with clarity and without blame or shame can be very effective.
- Emphasize how important it is to be a friend to those who have been targeted. This may mean responding publicly to hurtful messages about others, and it also involves reaching out to victims to find ways to support them.
- When young people or their friends are targeted with threatening or ongoing negative messages, tell them to keep the evidence (such as screen names or links to messages). Help them follow up by lodging complaints with the website or service where a message was posted or shared.
Have you had a positive outcome come from what began as a bullying incident? If you'd like to share, please leave your comments on this blog post!