A few weeks ago I posted some information about our Olweus program and the data we’ve collected regarding our bullying prevention activities. Since that time I’ve had several very productive conversations with parents, students and staff concerning bullying prevention. In the end, it’s the goal of this blog is to promote awareness regarding school issues. So to further that goal, and after some reflection on those conversations, I believe a little more discussion on bullying might be beneficial.
From my perspective, one of the greatest obstacles to bullying prevention is often a misunderstanding of what bullying really is. Appropriately identifying bullying is a key component to bullying prevention. It important to know the difference between bullying, teasing, or rough and tumble play, and real fighting.
As a part of the Olweus program, all of our staff members have been trained to identify the components of bullying. However, accurately identifying the components listed above can be one of the most challenging responsibilities for an administrator tasked with sorting out alleged bullying event. And with an ever growing number of students with online access through their cell phones, the majority of our bullying issues now deal with exclusion, social isolation and threats via social media and texting that doesn’t occur at school.
Parents can help their child’s school prevent bullying by: 1) Knowing the components of bullying, 2) Keeping accurate records of the bullying to assist school teachers and administrators, and 3) Knowing what parents can do to prevent cyber-bullying.
1) Knowing the Components of Bullying: Dan Olweus, creator of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, provides this commonly accepted definition for bullying in his book, Bullying at School: What We Know and What We Can Do:
“A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.”
This definition includes three important components:
1. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
2. Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
3. Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.
Understanding the components of bullying will allow students and parents to work more effectively with teachers and administrators in finding proactive prevention measures.
Bullying and Record Keeping: When a child is a target of bullying, parents need to document the events and develop a record (or history) of what is happening to their child. This record is useful when talking with school educators, law enforcement personnel, or other individuals who may need to assist parents in intervening against bullying. Parents, as the most invested party, should do their best to keep track of events. In this way, emotions alone do not drive the discussion. Records can help parents keep a concise, accurate timeline of events. Parents may think they are going to remember the events, but it is easier to use a written record when referring to events versus trying to recreate them afterward. The record can also help in determining if the actions meet the criteria for bullying and if bullying behavior has increased or decreased in frequency or duration. The record should be factual and based on actual events and are more effective if the parent does not add opinions or emotional statements.
Preventing Cyber-Bullying: Adults seldom are present in the online environments
frequented by children and youth. Therefore, it is extremely important that adults pay close attention to cyber-bullying and the activities of children and youth when using these new technologies. Cyber-bullying occurs when children and youth use cyber-technologies such as text messaging, Internet sites, and cell phones to bully others. Indirect forms
of bullying like this can include spreading of false rumors, gossip, and verbal taunts or attacks.
Here are some ideas of ways to protect your child from cyber-bullying or address the issue if you find your child is cyber-bullying others:
- Keep your home computer(s) in easily viewable places, such as a family room or kitchen.
- Talk specifically about cyber-bullying and encourage your child to tell you immediately if he or she is the victim of cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, or other illegal or troublesome online behaviors.
- Explain that cyber-bullying is harmful and unacceptable behavior. Outline your expectations for responsible online behavior and make it clear that there will be consequences for inappropriate behavior.
- Tell your child that you may review his or her online communications if you
think there is reason for concern.
- Consider installing parental control filtering software and/or tracking programs, but don’t rely solely on these tools.
Bullying affects the safety and wellbeing of all students. Help us work to prevent bullying at Sublette County School District #1.