October is Anti-bullying Awareness month in the U.S. and this year, the conversation has clearly shifted from the victims and bullies to the bystanders of bullying. While the media and the rest of us have been shocked, saddened, and angered by the extreme cases that have been publicized, most kids will neither be the bully nor be bullied. They are more likely to be someone who witnesses it.
As a parent, I believe this represents one of the bigger challenges in raising kids. We guide our children through the maze of ethics, responsibility, interpersonal relationships, academics, and physical well-being. We tell them in words and show them in actions what is wrong and what is right, what will help and what will hurt. But the hardest moments are when the choices facing our kids are not so clear-cut. In the case of bullying, since most kids will more likely be observers to rather than directly participating in it, the difficulty is in helping them know what and when to do something about it. This is especially tricky when the circumstances of who did what to whom are not so clear, when the Internet enables bullying to happen in ways not previously possible, and more importantly, when the cost, social or otherwise, of taking action outweighs any perceived benefit to kids who are bystanders.
This is an important topic of parenting that we should all address with our kids at as young an age as possible. Below are helpful resources, tools, and tips from great, committed organizations, to help you and your kids through it:
- Conversation starters and tips, organized by age – from Common Sense Media:
- Two great books for tweens to illustrate the difference between tattling/snitching vs. standing up, from acclaimed author Trudy Ludwig:
- A pledge you can take online to Stand-up to bullying – from Facebook, CNN, Time-Warner, and the Cartoon Network:
- The Digital Rights Project which your tweens/teens can contribute to, to help stop digital abuse – from MTV’s A Thin Line campaign:
- Great research and tips on cyberbullying from the Cyberbullying Research Center
- Tips to stop bullying and cyberbullying – from Connectsafely.org
- Tips from Trend Micro on how to deal with Cyberbullying
And for all parents, anywhere, with kids of any age, here is some great advice on raising kids to be the kind of people who will do something about bullying if they see it happening – from the National Crime Prevention Council:
- Teach children to be assertive. Emphasize peaceful ways to solve problems and encourage kids to stand up for themselves verbally, not violently.
- Show kids safe ways to help others. Make it clear that you expect kids to take action if they see someone being hurt, or if they are hurt themselves.
- Hold kids accountable. If children stand by and watch someone being bullied, make it clear that their behavior hurts the victim too.
- Get to know their friends. Encourage your children to invite their friends to your home or accompany you on family outings.
- Be a good example. If you see someone being bullied or hurt, help them.
- Build empathy in your kids. If you see examples of people being bullied or hurt in movies, television, or books, talk with your children about how these people must feel. Ask your children how they would feel in that situation and what they would do to make it better. Point out ways characters helped out, or didn’t, and have your children think up different ways to help.
- Help them develop social skills. From a young age, encourage your children to play with others and to be friends with many different people. Have them spend time with people of different ages, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, religions, and mental and physical abilities.
There are also a lot of resources from these organizations and others in the case your kid is bullied or is a bully. This is where most of the energy on bullying has historically been. But for the majority of us, whose kids will more likely see it happening between others, it’s important that we guide our kids to do more than just watch it happen. They are the majority, and they have the greater power to stop bullying before it goes too far. And in an ideal world, before it even begins.
For more information on the safe and responsible use of the Internet, go to: www.trendmicro.com/internetsafety
Or follow Lynette on Twitter @lynettetowens