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Raising Upstanders Can Stop Bullying, In Person and Online

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Encourage kids to be up standers to combat bullyingChildren and teens are spending more time online during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing the risk of cyberbullying. “With so much more screen time, there’s more opportunity for it to happen,” said Beth Jacobson, director of Community Response and Education for NewBridge Services.

During National Bullying Prevention Month, NewBridge urges parents to help children become upstanders. “We all need to be upstanders, willing to call out bullying and offer support to children who are targets of it,” Jacobson said. More of the onus on bullying prevention falls on parents this year, with most students doing at least part of their schooling virtually from home.

Bullying includes physical abuse, verbal attacks and rumor-spreading. Always, the intention is to inflict harm. “We want our kids to understand that bullying in any form is not acceptable,” Jacobson said.

The Impact of Bullying

The middle school years are ripe for bullying, but negative behaviors towards classmates take root earlier, she said. “You want to begin ingraining the qualities of being upstanders early, to build children’s resiliency,” Jacobson said.

According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, one in five children ages 12 to 18 reported having been bullied. Of those, 15% said it happened online or by text. The percentage of people who’ve experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lives more than doubled between 2007 and 2019, the center reported. 

Bullying can leave serious emotional scars on both the victim and the perpetrator. Studies show that children who bully are more prone in adulthood to addiction, and have trouble keeping a job and maintaining relationships. Bullying also has been found to have negative consequences for children who witness an incident but do nothing to stop it.

The unrest of this year makes it even more imperative for parents to be mindful of their own behavior. Whether parents notice or not, children are paying attention to their actions and emotions, Jacobson said.

Role-Playing

Role-playing can be an effective technique to teach children how recognize and appropriately respond to bullying, Jacobson said. Children can practice standing up to aggressors, and giving empathy and support to someone who’s been bullied. Checking in daily with children about their feelings makes them more comfortable sharing both good and concerning experiences, Jacobson said. Parents should also be on the lookout for changes in behavior.

Signs a child is being bullied (from StopBullying.gov):

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

Signs a child is doing the bullying:

  • Gets into physical or verbal fights
  • Has friends who bully others
  • Shows increasingly aggressiveness
  • Gets sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
  • Has unexplained extra money or new belongings
  • Blames others for their problems
  • Doesn’t accept responsibility for their actions
  • Worries about their reputation or popularity

Here’s how children can become upstanders and help themselves:

  • Treat everyone with respect. Stop yourself from saying or doing something that could hurt someone. And if you think you’ve ever bullied someone, say you’re sorry.
  • If you’re being bullied, look at the person who’s doing it and tell him or her to stop in a calm, clear voice. If you can’t, walk away. Talk to a trusted adult, who can help you make a plan to stop the bullying. Staying near adults and other kids can help you avoid bullying situations.
  • Stay safe online. Think about what you post, knowing someone could forward it. Don’t share anything that could hurt or embarrass someone. Don’t share passwords with friends or other classmates (but do share with your parents!) Check your security settings to ensure only the people you want to see your posts see them. If you get a message or see a post that alarms you, talk to a trusted adult.
  • Stand up for other kids. If you see bullying, let an adult know. Reach out to the person who was bullied so they know they are not alone.

For more information about in-school program provided by NewBridge, contact Jacobson at 973-686-2228 or ejacobson@newbridge.org.

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