Bullying, also known as peer-to-peer abuse, is a common kind of abuse that children face. But did you know that one of the most effective ways to stop bullying and prevent it in the future happens when a fellow student intervenes? Talk to your children about becoming “upstanders” instead of bystanders and learn about ways that both your child and you can help prevent bullying.
Becoming an Upstander: Intervening in Bullying Situations
More than one out of every five students reports being bullied, and that number is likely even higher due to many children being afraid to report incidents of bullying. Fortunately, bullying can be prevented! According to research, when peers intervene in a bullying situation, the bullying stops nearly 60% of the time. You can help prevent bullying in the future by encouraging children who witness bullying to become allies!
Caring adults should explain to their students or children that if they witness a peer experiencing bullying, there are several actions they can take to reduce the harmful effects of the behavior and prevent it from happening again.
Their actions may vary depending on the particular situation, how well they know the people involved, and whether they are older or younger, etc. Adults can reinforce that although taking a stand might be the more difficult than doing nothing, it is the responsible decision to make.
Some actions that you can encourage your child to take include:
- Confront the instigator in action. If they feel safe, children can say something like “hey, that’s not cool, why are you doing that?” If children are friends with the instigator, they can talk to them later and ask why they were they were doing that. Saying something like “did you know that you were being hurtful?” can help prevent similar behavior in the future.
- Walk away from the incident and encourage others who are watching to walk away. If there is no audience for the bullying, the incident is likely to stop. Students can tell others who are watching to stop and encouraging everyone to walk away. If they feel safe, children can help the target themselves get away.
- Reach out and talk to the target in private. The impact of bullying won’t last as long if the target feels they have support from their peers. Encourage your child to talk to the target of bullying and let them know it wasn’t their fault. Being present and supportive can make a big difference.
- Get help from a trusted adult. If children don’t know what to do, they should talk to a trusted adult. Make sure your child knows they can talk to you about anything, and encourage them to tell you or a teacher or counselor if they see anything that makes them uncomfortable.
Be Proactive with the SitWithUs App
Children can also prevent bullying in the future by building relationships and friendships with other students they don’t know. A great way to help create these bonds is by using the SitWithUs app.
SitWithUs was created by Natalie Hampton, a 16 year old who had experienced bullying herself when she moved to a new school. Feeling alone and ostracized, Natalie made a choice. Rather than sit back, Natalie chose to do something to support others who would be in a similar situation.
“After I changed schools, whenever I saw someone eating lunch alone, I would always invite the person to join the group,” wrote Natalie. “Each time, the person’s face would light up, and the look of relief would wash over the person’s face.”
She created SitWithUs, an app that helps students who feel alone find someone else to sit with during lunch time. The app is an easy way for students to become “upstanders” instead of bystanders. If your child has their own device, show them how to download the app and create an account. Encourage them to use the app at least once a week at school and ask them how it went when they get home. The app is available for both iPhone and Android.
And most importantly, no matter what your child does, make sure they know you’re proud of them for taking action to prevent bullying in their school!