Bully Prevention

How do you prevent bullying?

Prevention efforts for schools should:

  • Create anti-bullying policies and communicate them to staff, parents, and students
  • Integrate bullying prevention material into curriculum at all grade levels
  • Encourage students to stand up to bullies, report incidents, and support victims

Prevention efforts for parents should include:

  • Talk with your child about what to do if they or someone they know is being bullied
  • Become familiar with your school’s anti-bullying policies and rules
  • Reach out to your school for help if you know a child who is involved in bullying

Bullying is more than disagreements, differences of opinion, or conflicts that occur between friends, peers, and classmates. Kids who are bullied and those who bully others may develop serious, lasting problems.

Bullying definitions include:

  • The target is being hurt or harmed by unwanted words or behavior
  • The hurtful behavior is repeated or there is a concern that it will be repeated
  • The target being hurt has a hard time stopping or preventing the unwanted behavior
  • The hurtful behavior is carried out by those who have more (real or perceived) power, which is used to control or harm others. Power can mean students who are older, are physically stronger, have access to embarrassing information, have more social status, or are part of a group that is singling out an individual.

This year in the United States, more than one of every five students report being bullied. They are often scared to go to school. That means those students lose the opportunity to learn. It is every student’s right to feel safe – and be safe – in school.

Students who are bullied may also have lower self-esteem, less self-confidence, increased fear and anxiety, depression, lower grades, and even suicidal thoughts.

It’s not just the targets of bullying who affected. Students who bully grow up to have a greater risk of getting in trouble with the law. By the age of 25, one in four who have bullied will have spent time in jail.

Those who witness bullying often express that they feel less safe at school. Their feelings about seeing the bullying range from anger to guilt to fear, and they often wish they could help but don’t know how.

Take Action

We are often asked “what can I do to help?” Every contribution—whether it’s taking part in a community event, looking out for someone being bullied, or raising awareness through conversation—makes a difference and changes lives. In addition to individuals around the world sharing information, we receive heartfelt contributions of as little as five dollars from California to Maine, from Argentina to Norway and all around the globe, from donors ages 5 to 90. As damaging as bullying is, there is hope, because bullying is an issue that can be prevented. When teens unite it means one less student being bullied, one more person speaking out, or another young person knowing that they are not alone.

Tips For Parents

If you’re the parent, aunt, uncle, teacher, coach, religious leader or friend of a teen who’s being bullied because of his or her weight, you can help the adolescent cope with the difficult situation. Experts recommend these strategies:

  • Emphasize the bullying isn’t their fault. Many teenagers who are taunted about their weight blame themselves for the abuse and for their excessive pounds, Puhl says. “A lot of teens internalize the stigma of being overweight and blame themselves for being bullied, they think it’s their fault for not being thin,” Puhl says. “We need parents (and others) to communicate to teens that they’re not to blame for being teased or bullied, that it’s the responsibility of whoever’s taunting them.”
  • Don’t urge the teen to lose weight to stop the harassment. Doing so would imply that the adolescent is responsible for the bullying and could stop it if he or she would just adopt better eating and exercise habits and lose weight, Puhl says. In fact, personal behavior is just one of a complex set of factors relating to weight, she says. Those factors include genetics, family customs and traditions about eating and accessibility to healthy foods and exercise opportunities, she says. It’s good to encourage teens with weight issues (all adolescents, for that matter) to adopt healthy habits, but that is a separate issue from coping with bullying and should be a separate discussion, Puhl advises.
  • Be mindful of your language. Parents and others use nicknames for teens they consider a term of endearment but may be harmful to the adolescent, says Dr. Tyree “Tye” Winters, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Straftord, New Jersey. “I have many Latino, Spanish-speaking patients whose pet name for their children or a sibling is ‘Gordo’ (which means fat in Spanish) or ‘Gordito’ (which means chubby in Spanish),” Winters says. “We don’t call someone ‘asthma kid’ or ‘sickle-cell kid,’ but we do use language like ‘Big Man’ and ‘Little Fatty.’ If you’re a parent, put yourself in your child’s shoes.”

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