WASHINGTON, D.C. — The start of school is a good time to talk to children about the complicated and heartbreaking problem of bullying. Fortunately, there are at least two good websites devoted to the cause.
The Federal Partners for Bullying Prevention website, http://stopbullying.challenge.gov/, created by the Health Resources and Services Administration and its eight partner departments, is offering a video challenge to help prevent and end bullying in schools and communities across the nation.
The contest invites ages 13-18, to create a 30- to 60-second video to inform and motivate youth to prevent bullying. The videos should promote an environment of kindness and respect for others, in addition, show how not to be a bystander to bullying, Education Secretary Arne Duncan says in a video on the site. Video entries must be submitted by Oct. 14.
The Department of Defense Education Activity has joined in the federal partnership and has its own web page on bullying prevention at http://www.dodea.edu/StopBullying, that gives advice to parents and kids about how to deal with bullies and prevent it.
For parents, the DODEA site advises:
- If your child is being bullied, talk to his or her teacher instead of confronting the bully’s parents. If no action is taken, talk to the principal.
- Teach your child nonviolent ways to deal with bullies, like walking away or talking it out.
- Role-play bullying scenarios with your child and help your child act with self-confidence.
- Practice walking upright, looking people in the eye, and speaking clearly.
- Don’t encourage your child to fight — he or she could get hurt, get in trouble or start more serious problems with the bully.
- Involve your children in activities outside of school so they know they can make friends in a different social circle.
The site offers these tips for children:
- If you are bullied at school, tell your teacher, school counselor, or principal. Telling is not tattling.
- Tell your parents or other trusted adults—they can help stop the bullying.
- Don’t fight back. Don’t try to bully those who bully you.
- Try not to show anger or fear. Students who bully like to see that they can upset you.
- Try not to be alone in places where bullying is likely to happen, such as bathrooms or locker rooms.
Most of our children will witness or be part of bullying in some form or another, according to the bullying prevention programs. I have never been more proud of my son than when his sixth-grade teacher told me he intervened against a bully, even as the rest of the class took the silent bystander approach. The teacher’s eyes welled with tears as she told me how my son had gone against the grain.
To my surprise, when I tried to commend my son for his good judgment and courage, he recoiled, saying he didn’t want to think of it again. The incident was painful not only to the child who was bullied, but also to everyone who witnessed it and then had to deal either with the guilt of not handling it right or the anxiety of how their role as bystander or intervener would affect them later at school.
Like all forms of harassment and abuse, bullying is hard to witness and even harder to deal with. Sometimes it is subtle and can leave kids confused about when someone has crossed the line, when something that may start as playful teasing isn’t funny any more. The bullying prevention programs seek to ease that burden by helping kids understand what bullying is and how they can prevent it.