Would it surprise you to know that those who witness bullying may be more impacted than those who are victims or those who bully? According to the American Psychological Association, “Students who witnessed acts of bullying were more likely to report greater psychological distress than those students who were bullies or victims, according to the results. This was the case even for students who had not been victims themselves, although being both a witness and a victim did also significantly predict mental health problems.”
We may spend time talking to our kids about not bullying, or what to do if they are bullied, but do we talk to them about what happens if they witness bullying? Statistics show that every child will be a witness to bullying at least once during their school years. As TGIM accepts submissions for The Bully Diaries Volume II, we know that many bystanders of bullying experience feelings of guilt, shame and helplessness. They don’t want to simply stand by, but they don’t know exactly what to do.
About.com provides some ideas about how to handle being a bystander:
Avoid joining in or laughing. Sometimes kids will chime in or laugh at a bullying incident in order to avoid becoming the next target. Explain to your children that you expect them not to join in the bullying. Even if they don’t feel brave enough to do something, they can at least avoid giving in to peer pressure.
Walk away. Sometimes bullies are bullying simply to get the attention. And, if they don’t have an audience, they will stop. As a result, sometimes all it takes is to walk away from the incident or to ignore the bully. Still, your child should report the bullying incident to an adult so that it doesn’t happen again.
Tell the bully to stop. Usually if a bully is not getting positive attention from the crowd, he will stop what he is doing. It only takes one or two people to show disapproval and the bullying will end. Tell your children to use this method only if they feel safe in doing so. If the bully poses a physical threat, another option might be to find help.
Get an adult. Encourage your child to calmly walk away from a bullying incident and go find help. This can be done discreetly and keeps your child out of harm’s way.
Use a cell phone to call or text for help. Most tweens and teens have cell phones these days. If your child is one of these kids, tell him that he can always call or text an adult and ask for help. This keeps him from having to say something directly to the bully, but gives him a way to help the victim. Some schools have even implemented help lines where kids can text or call anonymously when someone is being bullied.
Request other bystanders to stand up too. Sometimes it’s safer and more effective if a group of kids confronts the bully. In fact, research shows that when peers intervene in a bullying incident, the bullying stops nearly 60% of the time.
Address cyberbullying. Keep in mind that your child doesn’t have to be physically present to be impacted by bullying. Witnessing a classmate being targeted online can affect your child too. Be sure you teach her how to report cyberbullying. For instance, your child should save the message or postings and report the cyberbullying to an adult. What’s more, many social media sites have mechanisms for reporting abuse. Help her become familiar with how to report harassment.
Support the victim. Sometimes the best way to get involved in a bullying incident is to be a friend to victims. In fact, research shows that having at least one friend can deter bullying. Give your child ideas on how to be a friend to the victim. This might mean walking to class together, sitting with them at lunch and inviting them to social events.
The Bully Diaries
Chances are that you experienced bullying in your life. Whether your experience was as a victim, a bystander or the bully, if you search your memories, you will probably find instances when bullying was a part of your life. For many of us, these experiences have defined us and shaped us. Our experiences made us stronger, and helped us become who we are today.
When you are being bullied, it is hard to think about much more than getting through today. For others, there is no today. Their experience being bullied was too overwhelming, and drove them to a devastating and permanent solution to the temporary pain.
Through a community partnership with Stand for the Silent, Writing for the Soul Workshop collected stories, letters and poems from youth, teens and adults from around the world. These stories are pieces of lives impacted by bullying; written to show everyone affected by bullying that you are not alone, that you can survive the experience, that you are somebody.
A portion of the proceeds from book sales goes to support Stand for the Silent.
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Do you have a story about bullying? Writing for the Soul Workshop™ is collecting stories from youth around the world for Volume II of “The Bully Diaries”. Every voice is important, so submit your story today! You can use the Contact Form below, or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.