How To Combat Bullying At School — Immediately
Tips to stop bullying in schools, for both parents and schools.
23 August 2017
A passing joke or a snide jab at a peer’s self-esteem and self-worth? For countless students, getting viciously bullied is part and parcel of going to school. But there are proven ways of combatting this seemingly age-old phenomenon, and everyone from the bullied, their peers, their parents, and the school can play a part.
“If it’s not happening to me, I want nothing to do with it”
To start with, it’s probably most effective to examine how peers — the immediate audience of an attempted act of bullying — can help combat bullying and even prevent it happening in the future. To understand how this can be done, we must first understand something called the bystander effect. This basically means that when an incident involving someone being harmed or otherwise in peril takes place, the people in the immediate vicinity tend to think that “someone else will probably do something about it.” The problem is, when everyone around thinks that, nobody does anything. The cycle is allowed to continue unperturbed, because the burden of reaction is shifted by everyone to somebody else — this is called “diffusion of responsibility.”
On the other end of this spectrum, however, is the scenario where peers stand up against the bully. There is no middle ground here, either, since not doing anything achieves the same effect as encouraging the bully: that is, the cycle of bullying continues.
According to a 2016 study reviewed in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, higher levels of bulling are reported at schools where peers fail to stand up against bullies. It follows that the opposite is true: at schools where peers stand against the bully, lower levels of bullying are observed. The behavior of children, as adults, is greatly influenced by peer resistance and, conversely, peer encouragement – probably even more so than in adulthood.
But the responsibility doesn’t fall to peers alone, and parents as well as teachers must get involved.
Are you a neglectful parent? You might be raising a bully
The aforementioned study also determined that students whose relationships with their parents are loving and warm were far less likely to become bullies or victims of bullying at school, compared to students with neglectful or less-than-engaged parents. Schools can have a role to play here: providing parents with competent training on how to build stronger relationships with their children, and therefore foster healthy communication that can lead to them reporting incidents of bullying to their parents. This way, the parents are involved early on, nipping the problem in the bud.
Creating a safe, wholesome space: the school’s share of the fight
Anti-bullying studies have shown that the longer a school’s anti-bullying program, the more effective it is. It helps to think of anti-bullying programs as antibiotics: without taking the full course, you can’t expect the desired effect. And just like wide-spectrum antibiotics that attack many different bacteria, anti-bullying programs are more effective when they’ve got more components – playground supervision, disciplinary action, and uniformly-enforced school rules, to name a few.