October is National Bullying Prevention Month.
Bullying is a serious problem for students because it can increase their risks of developing anxiety and depression, struggling with their academic performance, and dropping out of school. It’s imperative for educators to try to prevent bullying, stop it in its tracks when it begins, and support students who have been bullied in the past.
What Is Bullying?
According to StopBullying.gov, “Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”
StopBullying.gov says there are three types of bullying: verbal, social, and physical.
- Verbal bullying includes teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, and threatening to cause harm.
- Social bullying includes leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, and embarrassing someone in public.
- Physical bullying includes hitting, kicking, or pinching; spitting; tripping or pushing; taking someone’s things; and making mean or rude hand gestures.
Bullying can occur in person or virtually (referred to as “cyberbullying”) and happens in schools, in students’ neighborhoods, and online.
What Are the Effects of Bullying?
The effects of bullying run deeper than hurt feelings.
The Centers for Disease Control explains that “bullying can result in physical injury, social and emotional distress, self-harm, and even death. It also increases the risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school.”
And these effects don’t end when a student graduates or drops out of school. Kids who are bullied may struggle with self-esteem as adults and have difficulties building personal relationships and engaging in social interactions, according to author and bullying prevention advocate Sherri Gordon in an article for Verywell Health that was reviewed by a physician.
Why Should Educators Care?
Bullying not only has social-emotional effects, but it also makes an impact on students’ school performance. As educators, we care about our students’ wellbeing, which is a good enough reason to fight bullying. However, bullying also has implications for student performance and graduation rates.
“Slipping grades is one of the first signs that a child is being bullied,” Gordon writes. The anxiety caused by bullying may preoccupy a student’s thoughts to the point where they forget about assignments or cannot pay attention in class. Additionally, students may respond to bullying with avoidance. Skipping school or class can keep them away from bullies, but it also results in school absences and failing grades, which put students at risk of dropping out of school.
America’s Promise Alliance lists fearing for safety/bullying as a common dropout risk factor. If we can prevent bullying, we can mitigate bullying-related dropouts, though there will still be students who withdraw from school for this reason. For more information on how partnering with Graduation Alliance can provide a safe alternative learning environment when there is no other solution, please fill out our request for information form. Ensuring students stay engaged with their learning and have an option is key, regardless if that’s on campus or at home.
How Can We Prevent Bullying?
It’s not enough to discipline bullies or provide assistance to kids who have been bullied. We need to implement bullying prevention strategies to reduce the amount of bullying occurring in our schools.
Many schools have successful bullying prevention programs, and parents, school staff, and other adults can help prevent bullying in the following ways, according to StopBullying.gov:
- “Help kids understand bullying. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bullying is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Check-in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
- Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
- Model how to treat others with kindness and respect.”
Check out the National Bullying Prevention Center’s website for more ideas on how to show your support for bullying prevention.