October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and a great opportunity to read up on what bullying is, why bullying is bad and what to do about it. Here’s what you need to know.
What is bullying?
Bullying is aggressive, harmful or demeaning behavior between two parties where there is an obvious power imbalance. The more vulnerable individual becomes the victim and may suffer from life-long consequences.
If you have a teen or child in your life, it’s important to remember that bullying is distinct from conflict. While all peers struggle to relate at some point, bullying is behavior directed towards someone with fewer physical or cognitive capabilities.
Some people will consider bullying to be a phase and may hesitate to intervene. While social skills and conflict resolution tends to mature as adolescents age, bullying can have severe immediate and life-long consequences for both the victims and the bullies.
Increased risk of anxiety disorders like agoraphobia, generalized anxiety, social anxiety and panic disorder
Increased likelihood of borderline personality disorder
Increased emotional and depression problems
Increased risk of psychotic experiences
Higher levels of somatic issues like headaches, stomachaches, sleeping difficulties and dizziness
Increased risk of self-harm or suicidal behaviors
Poor school adjustment and academic achievement
Lower earnings in adulthood
Effects of bullying for bullies (and bullies who were also victims)
Increased risk of depression and internalizing problems
Problems with physical health later on
Increased risk of self-harm or suicidal behavior
Poor school adjustment and discomfort in school settings
Higher likelihood of physical dating violence
Increased aggressiveness, psychopathy, impulsivity and criminal charges
Increased likelihood of antisocial personality disorder
More likely to struggle with anxiety as an adult
More likely to have lower education attainment
Poor social relationships
It’s clear that the consequences of bullying behavior are worth doing something about.
How to stop bullying
If you’ve seen bullying in action, you know it can be a scary thing to confront. Memorize these steps for how to stop bullying so you can spring into action and prevent lasting damage to a child or teen.
1. Approach the situation
When an adult approaches a bullying situation immediately and confidently, making his or her presence known, it’s often enough for the bullying to stop in it’s tracks.
2. Assess the situation
Take a moment to look around and assess your surroundings. Try to gauge who is involved in the situation and where the power imbalance lies. It may be important to solicit another adult for assistance depending on the age and severity of the bullying.
3. Address the adolescents
Express that the behavior you witness is unacceptable and there will be consequences upon further investigation. If there are other children or teens nearby, clearly stating expectations can help them to feel safe from future incidents of bullying.
4. Get both sides of the story
It’s important to hear both perspectives privately so the victim isn’t intimidated into complying with a version of the story that is untrue. It’s also important to talk to the bullies to discern their motives which can help you to eradicate the behavior.
5. Act according to your role.
As an adult you may have a specific role that helps you respond to bullying incidents. Inform appropriate adults and carry through with consequences that are in your control.
How to prevent bullying
It’s important to know the steps for how to stop bullying. It’s a whole different task knowing how to prevent bullying in the first place. The American Psychological Association offers several implementable tips for the prevention of bullying. Here’s how to nip the problem in the bud.
1. Be aware and observant
The first tool in preventing bullying is to know what bullying looks like in all it’s forms. The more easily you can recognize bullying, or the precursors to bullying, the more quickly you can stop it before it starts. Be aware the bullying can happen in-person or online.
2. Trust the victim
Children and adolescents aren’t always the most reliable source, but when it comes to bullying it’s important to err on the side of trust. It’s essential for the security of the victim that he or she feels heard and that problems are being addressed.
3. Have a plan in place
Teachers and school administrators should be prepared to act immediately, record incidents and inform the relevant school personnel and caregivers. Preparing and understanding the plan in advance will make it easier to implement it should a bullying incident occur.
4. Stay involved
Parents, school staff, coaches and others should remember that adult involvement can prevent incidents of bullying. When youth know that an adult is nearby or able to be sought out for help, kids are much less likely to partake in harmful behavior towards others.
5. Reach out
If you know a child or teen in your life who has been involved in bullying, reach out to Tapestry. Tapestry Recovery offers behavioral and mental health services through teletherapy or in-person treatment. Get help now.