Fight Bullying from the Homefront

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The results are in, and they are no surprise: kids bully. We all remember what it feels like to be teased, laughed at, embarrassed, hurt or betrayed by peers—friends, even. On the other hand, we also may remember the bullying we did as kids—any former bullies out there? Some things about bullying are the same generation-to-generation (thank goodness for all the parents who can identify!), and the most powerful tool kids have for thwarting bullies is simpler than we might think— standing up.

  • The CDC reports that almost 30 percent of teens in the United States (or over 5.7 million) are involved in school bullying. In a classroom of 25, that’s at least 7 students!

Formally known as upstanding (the clever nemesis of bystanding), the age old kids-sticking-up-for-kids method is one of the most effective forms of eliminating bullying.  Dr. Susan Lipkins, PhD of School Psychology, says, “If there is only one upstander who wants to make an impact, he or she can report the event as soon as possible to an adult or they can report it through other systems the schools may have created.

If there are a group of upstanders they can band together and help the target by encouraging the target to join them.

“If there are a group of upstanders they can band together and help the target by encouraging the target to join them. They can also show the bully that they do not agree with the behavior by saying something like ‘we don’t do those things here’ and by showing their contempt in non-verbal ways.”

While parents can’t fight bullying alongside kids in the cafeteria or bathroom (talk about a reason to be bullied), parents do play an important role in ‘upstanding’ by paying attention to their kids’ behavior and setting an example of upstanding. Dr. Lipkins says, “Parents are significant in terms of teaching children how to be upstanders. Parents need to model or demonstrate ways that they are upstanders.” Calling 911 when you see an accident or pulling over if it’s safe, offering to carry something heavy for a stranger, helping a person who has fallen in public—these are practical ways to model upstanding and open conversations about intervening in difficult situations.

Awesome Upstander! actually demonstrates these principles to children. By rewarding the upstander for gathering a group together, the game illustrates the concept that the group of upstanders has power as they stand together—as the group says NO to bullying.

To help kids be better upstanders, HealthTeacher is launching the first-of-its-kind online and mobile game, Awesome Upstander! Dr Lipkins says, “Awesome Upstander! actually demonstrates these principles to children. By rewarding the upstander for gathering a group together, the game illustrates the concept that the group of upstanders has power as they stand together—as the group says NO to bullying.”

  • Make standing up to bullies heroic by traveling through bathrooms and cafeterias, collecting friends along the way and getting in between the bully and the target!
    Play Awesome Upstander! for free at awesomeupstander.com or download it to a mobile device for $0.99.

Detecting bullying isn’t always as simple as setting an upstander example is, but it can be just as important. Dr. Natalie Abramson, pediatric psychologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, shares tips for parents who want to prevent their kids from being bullied as well as preventing kids from becoming bullies.

  1. Make sure your child knows he or she can talk to you about any issue whether significant or insignificant and that you will hear them out, listen and not necessarily talk back.

  2. Create a network of relationships not only among the child’s peers, but also among their parents so that there are lines of communication between other parents within the peer group to keep tabs on what might be going on in that circle of friends.

  3. Conduct regular communication with school personnel. Ask your child’s teachers, coaches, guidance counselors, etc. questions beyond academics to find out how your child is doing socially and emotionally at school and within their peer groups.

Hear more from Dr. AbramsonSigns of Bullying and Tips for Parents and Is Your Child a Bully? How Parents Can Pay Attention.