As summer comes to an end and children return to school the widespread issue of bullying starts taking its toll on the lives of a significant number of students. According to the American National Center for Education Statistics, in 2017, more than 20 percent of US students aged 12–18 fell victim to bullying at school. This form of abuse can manifest physically, psychologically, verbally, or through online platforms.
As children may experience bullying directly or as witnesses, they should be prepared for how to deal with it in any circumstances. With help from three experts, the global platform Mashable compiled a list of five ways children can safely support their peers who find themselves the victims of bullying.
1. Teach them safe, kind ways to intervene
Child rights experts suggest that the best way to intervene in bullying incidents is as part of a group rather than individually, and mostly through verbal support, in a safe and comfortable manner. Moreover, children should be careful not to bully back while trying to support their classmates. Reporting the incidents to a trusted adult is considered an effective way to handle bullying.
2. Have them comfort the child being bullied
Children can offer support to bullied students even after the abuse has happened by letting them know they are cared for and that the bullying is not justified. ‘It's important for parents to relay to their children that they may not be able to solve the problem, but they can help that child get through the hurt by comforting them [and] including them in a group game or activities. They start to think, “I deserve this”, or “Nobody cares”. Just that simple kind of response really shows that person that they're not alone, that somebody does care’, said Trudy Ludwig, a children's advocate.
3. Tell them to report the bullying incident
The next step after comforting a bullied child should be reporting the bullying to a trusted adult, maybe a teacher or other school staff member. Julie Hertzog, director of PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center, explained the importance of reporting as ‘so often, the adults in the school know the dynamics of the kids involved, and can be a little bit more direct with what they would encourage the child to do. But also, part of it is just making the adult aware of what's happening.’
4. Practice empathy at home
Child advocates propose parents promote empathy at home within families, with a focus on feelings and reactions in certain circumstances. Additionally, children’s books may represent a great way to build up empathy and tolerance. ‘Show stories that show different characters, different diverse cultures, ethnicities, races, and nationalities’, said Ludwig.
5. Let your child know that you support them unconditionally
Besides giving them advice on how to support their peers in bullying situations, children need to know that parents are their safety net and that they can share their thoughts and feelings in a protective environment. Moreover, ‘when they do step out for somebody, let them know that they did the right thing’, said Hertzog.