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Do Anti-Bullying Programs Really Work?

Do Anti-Bullying Programs Really Work?

With a whopping three quarters of all school-age children reporting they have witnessed or been a part of bullying at school, anti-bullying policies have quickly become an imperative part of school regulation. By now, nearly every educational institution across the country has a program in place to monitor and combat this behavior, but do anti-bullying programs really work?

Bullying Behavior

According to Psychology Today (PT), “Children and adolescents become bullying targets for a wide variety of reasons though race, ethnic background, appearance, or sexual orientation appear to be the most common.” The bullying behavior can come in all sorts of actions from physical intimidation to being ignored by a former close friend. Since there are so many different forms of bullying, it’s often difficult to spot. This is where anti-bullying policies come into play.

Anti-Bullying Programs

Anti-bullying programs range in tactics from informative assemblies and visual reminders (posters and signs, for example), to more hands-on approaches that utilize hall monitors and effectively trained staff to watch for signs of bullying throughout the school grounds. Generally speaking, the most effective policies combine a multitude of approaches and begin at the earliest of ages.

What These Policies Target

In addition to informing students of what behaviors are not acceptable, teachers and staff are usually trained in-depth on the various behaviors to watch for in order to gain the most efficient and safe anti-bullying experience for students. Educators are taught to watch for things such as a change in demeanor, isolation of a student, changes in performance, and many other behaviors which could indicate bullying.

Do Anti-Bullying Programs Really Work?

With so much training and effort going into anti-bullying programs today, many have asked the question: do they really work? As Psychology Today explains, the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs is usually reliant upon the vigilance of those implementing it. In other words, it’s not as simple as saying they work or they do not work, it’s more to do with the attention and determination of the staff and families of students.

“Ultimately, what really determines whether anti-bullying programs are effective is how well the anti-bullying guideline are followed in schools,” PT states. Since the level of participation and attentiveness varies from every location, it’s easy to understand why diligence is key to a successful anti-bullying program.

How to Improve Anti-Bullying Programs

In order to ensure anti-bullying programs have the highest possible rate of success, there are a few important factors to keep in mind. For starters, thwarting bully behavior is something that takes the utmost of attention and detail – it’s more about the action and less about the passivity.

Acting on bullying behavior means that educators and parents must both participate in a clear-cut set of consequences for anyone caught bullying. These consequences may need to be adjusted throughout the year in response to the effectiveness, so ultimately, the plan must be severe enough to make an impact but flexible enough to stay relevant.

The most important thing an anti-bullying policy must include is priority. The safety of students needs to be the number one priority, even above teaching duties, in order to have the largest impact on bullying behaviors. Students must know they are being taken seriously and that they are safe in their surroundings, as well as understanding bullying behavior is absolutely not tolerated.

What to do When Your Child Is Being Bullied

What to do When Your Child Is Being Bullied

With the majority of schools today participating in at least some form of anti-bullying policies, most parents have been made aware of the movement to stomp out the aggressive behavior. While we may be more actively approaching bully behavior today, many may still be uncertain of what to do when your child is being bullied.

Classic Bullying Behavior

When we think of classic bullying behavior, we usually envision things like stolen lunch money or toys, bruises or other signs of fighting, or clothing being ripped or destroyed. These things are considered aggressive bullying and usually fairly easy to spot. Unfortunately, bullying goes unnoticed often times because it rarely fits into this category.

Less Obvious Bullying Behavior

Bullying is usually thought of as mean-spirited behavior that is manifested through physical and verbal means. The truth is, however, bullying behavior can take on many different forms – it isn’t always taunting, teasing, or physically fighting.

While it’s certainly true that scenarios involving pushing, picking, yelling, and teasing are examples of classic bully behavior, there are other, less obvious forms of bullying as well. Often times, kids can experience the effects of bullying by way of being ignored by their peers, being left out of games and functions, and even things like whispering, and note passing.

“More often than not… bullying is difficult to spot. Most kids don’t come home from school saying, ‘I’m being bullied every day by these three kids and I’m really scared and unhappy,’” explains PBS.org.

Are There Signs Your Child Is Being Bullied?

Knowing that the signs of bullying aren’t always easy to identify, one of the best things a parent can do to help their child is to know what behavior warrants anti-bullying tactics. This may seem easier said than done, but by understanding warning signs in your child, you can help stop bullying in its tracks.

So, just what are these warning signs? Similar to the signs of bullying, there are more obvious signs your child is being bullied, as well as less obvious signs. Paying attention to your child’s behavior versus what they are verbally communicating is key to getting through a rough time.

Most Obvious Signs

The most obvious signs a child is dealing with a bully at school (or on the bus, playground, or even neighborhood after hours) are usually physical signs. Aggressive bullying is often the culprit of these type of signs and can include things like a disheveled appearance when they should otherwise be presentable, physical scars and bruises or bleeding, and complaints of aches and pains with no rational explanation for them.

Since kids don’t usually tell you when they’ve had an altercation with another child, it’s usually up to the parents to pay attention to their physical appearance. This can also include their attitude – a sudden change in attitude that involves crankiness or irritability can often point toward a bullying scenario as well.

Less Obvious Signs

If your child isn’t coming home with bruises or torn clothing, but you still feel like something is “off” with them, don’t discount bullying yet. As we mentioned earlier, there are many forms bullying can take and, as such, there are many forms their reactions can take.

Some of the less obvious signs your child is dealing with a bully can include being withdrawn, a loss of interest in things they previously loved to do, and seeming sad or depressed upon coming home. Other signs to watch out for include a change in their appetite – usually a loss of interest in eating altogether, trouble sleeping (night terrors and bad dreams included), and frequent ailments like headaches or stomach aches.

Major Red Flags

There are a wide range of signs and symptoms of bullying – all of which need addressed as soon as possible – but some may require much more immediate attention. Depending upon the individual situation, children will handle a bullying experience in their own way; however, certain behaviors should always be taken seriously as soon as they surface.

If your child’s school performance begins to change – this is a huge red flag that something is off with them, usually relating to a person or situation at school. Other major red flags that should be addressed immediately include visible signs of fear or panic when they are faced with a task (anxiety over riding the bus or fear for going to class, for example), or any form of discussion involving loss of life or suicide. Noticing any of these behaviors warrants direct and swift attention by parents and teachers.

What to do When Your Child Is Being Bullied

If you’ve noticed your child experiencing any of the above-mentioned signs of being bullied, you’re likely wondering what you can do to help them put a stop to the situation. For a parent, watching their child go through a bullying situation can be one of the most heartbreaking and difficult things to witness. Often times parents wind up feeling helpless or can end up taking steps that may make things worse for their child by accident. So how do you know what to do?

In many cases, schools and other childhood educational and care facilities will have their own form of anti-bullying policies already in place. A look through their school handbook or a discussion with their direct-care professionals can help lead you on the right path for helping your child. Outside of this, there are certain things parents can do to ensure they are taking the right steps to combat their child’s bullying experience.

Anti-Bullying Behavior at Home

There are several things parents can do at home, outside of an anti-bullying policy at school, that will help children get through being bullied. For starters, the most important thing is for parents to be vigilant about monitoring their children’s behaviors so they can quickly spot any of the signs of bullying.

Other steps parents can take to be proactive about bullying:

  • Talk to your child: ask them how things are going, share with them what you’ve noticed and gauge their response.
  • Ask, don’t assume: we may be tempted to ask them what they did to warrant a certain behavior, this can lead them to believe the bullying is warranted.
  • Talk with others in their lives: speak with others who are near your child during the bullying situations and have them help determine a “safe” person they can go to when they feel bullied.

Overall, the best thing you can do for your child if you suspect they are the victim of bullying, is to be their ally. Know what to watch for, make sure you reiterate with them that you are always there, and equip them with the tools to overcome the situation by giving them a safe space or a safe person to go to when needed.

Can Bullying Affect a Child's Development?

Can Bullying Affect a Child’s Development?

By: Jamie Kreps

Can Bullying Affect a Child's Development?

It probably comes as no surprise, but bullying has been linked to an enormous amount of developmental issues in children – both in those who have been bullied and those who have bullied others. In fact, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), bullying has a lifelong impact on the social and emotional development of children that puts them at risk for everything from severe mental health issues to stunted professional growth later in life.

According to the NICHD, children who are involved in bullying experiences (on either side of the situation) are at an increased risk of developing issues such as:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Low self-esteem and personal drive
  • Trouble focusing and falling grades
  • Behavioral problems
  • Social and relationship issues
  • Substance abuse later in life
  • Self-harming behaviors

Bullying can also affect other children who witness the acts – even if they aren’t directly involved – by leaving them feeling insecure in their environments and fearing they could be next. The long-term effects of bullying go well beyond the initial instances and the people at the center of it and can often stay with a person for the remainder of their life. Since bullying can essentially destroy a child’s self-esteem, it can manifest itself in ways that will jeopardize future opportunities for years to come.

How It Manifests

As explained by ViolencePreventionWorks.org, “Nearly one in five students in an average classroom is experiencing bullying in some way,” but the effects are not limited to those involved directly. While it may seem obvious that those who are bullied have a higher risk of developing developmental issues, what’s less obvious is that bullying also affects the on-lookers.

Bullying brings negative affects to everyone who witnesses the act by way of creating what feels like an unsafe environment. It can make children feel as though they are helpless, planting a deep seed of insecurity and disdain for their classroom (and classmates) as a whole. Bullying also makes kids feel as though they can’t be protected by those they trust (teachers, aides, parents, etc.) which can lead to withdrawal and a failure to thrive.

Often times it is this withdrawal that is the first and most obvious sign that bullying is taking place, apart from actually seeing the incident in person. Over time, if bullying continues, those who witness it will likely begin to show other signs such as attention issues, fear of participating in normal activities, and acting out or other behavioral problems such as vandalism or destroying toys or objects.

The Long-Term Effects of Bullying

The effects of bullying are so debilitating, in fact, that researchers have linked it to a lower rate of success and quality of life decades later. According to Psychology Today, the low self-esteem and attention issues of youths who had been bullied translated to lower incomes and a greater risk for becoming involved in criminal acts as adults.

Research showed that individuals who had been “involved in bullying had poorer educational attainment and less income than adults who had not been involved in bullying,” the Psychology Today report explained. Not only do children involved in bullying suffer from mental and behavioral issues throughout childhood, but the research shows it deeply affects their cognitive and emotional development in ways that long outlast the actual incident.

How to Stop It

Thankfully, bullying prevention has been put in the spotlight in recent years and has gained momentum in educational facilities across the country. Many schools and childcare providers now implement some variation of an anti-bullying policy, which has had a major impact on developing minds everywhere.

Most anti-bullying policies include tips such as keeping a watchful eye, utilizing activities that encourage kids to speak up about their experiences, and keeping an open line of communication with youngsters to ensure they are comfortable with sharing any unwanted behaviors by others. If you’re in need of some tips on implementing an anti-bullying policy in your facility, check out the US Department of Health and Human Services website, StopBullying.gov for more information.

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