How to Prevent Bullying
Parents, school staff, and other adults in the community can help kids prevent bullying by talking about it, building a safe school environment, and creating a community-wide bullying prevention strategy. Find out what you can do.
How to Talk About Bullying
Parents, school staff, and other caring adults have a role to play in preventing bullying. They can:
- Help kids understand bullying. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bully is unacceptable. Make sure kids know how to get help.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Check in with kids often. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
- Encourage kids to do what they love. Special activities, interests, and hobbies can boost confidence, help kids make friends, and protect them from bullying behavior.
- Model how to treat others with kindness and respect.
Help Kids Understand Bullying
Kids who know what bullying is can better identify it. They can talk about bullying if it happens to them or others. Kids need to know ways to safely stand up to bullying and how to get help.
- Encourage kids to speak to a trusted adult if they are bullied or see others being bullied. The adult can give comfort, support, and advice, even if they can't solve the problem directly. Encourage the child to report bullying if it happens.
- Talk about how to stand up to kids who bully. Give tips, like using humor and saying "stop" directly and confidently. Talk about what to do if those actions don't work, like walking away
- Talk about strategies for staying safe, such as staying near adults or groups of other kids.
- Urge them to help kids who are bullied by showing kindness or getting help.
- Watch the short webisodes and discuss them with kids.
Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Research tells us that children really do look to parents and caregivers for advice and help on tough decisions. Sometimes spending 15 minutes a day talking can reassure kids that they can talk to their parents if they have a problem. Start conversations about daily life and feelings with questions like these:
- What was one good thing that happened today? Any bad things?
- What is lunch time like at your school? Who do you sit with? What do you talk about?
- What is it like to ride the school bus?
- What are you good at? What would do you like best about yourself?
Talking about bullying directly is an important step in understanding how the issue might be affecting kids. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but it is important to encourage kids to answer them honestly. Assure kids that they are not alone in addressing any problems that arise. Start conversations about bullying with questions like these:
- What does "bullying" mean to you?
- Describe what kids who bully are like. Why do you think people bully?
- Who are the adults you trust most when it comes to things like bullying?
- Have you ever felt scared to go to school because you were afraid of bullying? What ways have you tried to change it?
- What do you think parents can do to help stop bullying?
- Have you or your friends left other kids out on purpose? Do you think that was bullying? Why or why not?
- What do you usually do when you see bullying going on?
- Do you ever see kids at your school being bullied by other kids? How does it make you feel?
- Have you ever tried to help someone who is being bullied? What happened? What would you do if it happens again?
There are simple ways that parents and caregivers can keep up-to-date with kids' lives.
- Read class newsletters and school flyers. Talk about them at home.
- Check the school website
- Go to school events
- Greet the bus driver
- Meet teachers and counselors at "Back to School" night or reach out by email
- Share phone numbers with other kids' parents
Teachers and school staff also have a role to play.
Encourage Kids to Do What They Love
Help kids take part in activities, interests, and hobbies they like. Kids can volunteer, play sports, sing in a chorus, or join a youth group or school club. These activities give kids a chance to have fun and meet others with the same interests. They can build confidence and friendships that help protect kids from bullying.
Model How to Treat Others with Kindness and Respect
Kids learn from adults' actions. By treating others with kindness and respect, adults show the kids in their lives that there is no place for bullying. Even if it seems like they are not paying attention, kids are watching how adults manage stress and conflict, as well as how they treat their friends, colleagues, and families.
Prevention at School
Bullying can threaten students' physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn. The best way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts. There are a number of things school staff can do to make schools safer and prevent bullying.
Assess school prevention and intervention efforts around student behavior, including substance use and violence. You may be able to build upon them or integrate bullying prevention strategies. Many programs help address the same protective and risk factors that bullying programs do.
Conduct assessments in your school to determine how often bullying occurs, where it happens, how students and adults intervene, and whether your prevention efforts are working.
It is important for everyone in the community to work together to send a unified message against bullying. Launch an awareness campaign to make the objectives known to the school, parents, and community members. Establish a school safety committee or task force to plan, implement, and evaluate your school's bullying prevention program.
Create a mission statement, code of conduct, school-wide rules, and a bullying reporting system. These establish a climate in which bullying is not acceptable. Disseminate and communicate widely.
Establish a school culture of acceptance, tolerance and respect. Use staff meetings, assemblies, class and parent meetings, newsletters to families, the school website, and the student handbook to establish a positive climate at school. Reinforce positive social interactions and inclusiveness.
Build bullying prevention material into the curriculum and school activities. Train teachers and staff on the school's rules and policies. Give them the skills to intervene consistently and appropriately.
Working in the Community
Bullying can be prevented, especially when the power of a community is brought together. Community-wide strategies can help identify and support children who are bullied, redirect the behavior of children who bully, and change the attitudes of adults and youth who tolerate bullying behaviors in peer groups, schools, and communities.
The Benefits of Working Together
Bullying doesn't happen only at school. Community members can use their unique strengths and skills to prevent bullying wherever it occurs. For example, youth sports groups may train coaches to prevent bullying. Local businesses may make t-shirts with bullying prevention slogans for an event. After-care staff may read books about bullying to kids and discuss them. Hearing anti-bullying messages from the different adults in their lives can reinforce the message for kids that bullying is unacceptable.
Involve anyone who wants to learn about bullying and reduce its impact in the community. Consider involving businesses, local associations, adults who work directly with kids, parents, and youth.
- Identify partners such as mental health specialists, law enforcement officers, neighborhood associations, service groups, faith-based organizations, and businesses.
- Learn what types of bullying community members see and discuss developing targeted solutions.
- Involve youth. Teens can take leadership roles in bullying prevention among younger kids.
Study community strengths and needs:
- Ask: Who is most affected? Where? What kinds of bullying happen most? How do kids and adults react? What is already being done in our local area to help?
- Think about using opinion surveys, interviews, and focus groups to answer these questions. Learn how schools assess bullying.
- Consider open forums like group discussions with community leaders, businesses, parent groups, and churches.
Develop a comprehensive community strategy:
- Review what you learned from your community study to develop a common understanding of the problem.
- Establish a shared vision about bullying in the community, its impact, and how to stop it.
- Identify audiences to target and tailor messages as appropriate.
- Describe what each partner will do to help prevent and respond to bullying.
- Advocate for bullying prevention policies in schools and throughout the community.
- Raise awareness about your message. Develop and distribute print materials. Encourage local radio, TV, newspapers, and websites to give public service announcements prime space. Introduce bullying prevention to groups that work with kids.
- Track your progress over time. Evaluate to ensure you are refining your approach based on solid data, not anecdotes.
- Three Bold Steps for School Community Change: A Toolkit for Community Leaders (Safe Schools/Healthy Students). This kit shows how partnerships with people from different parts of a community can create positive, lasting change for students.
- Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere (STRYVE) is a national youth violence prevention effort. STRYVE Online helps communities with access to information and tools, effective strategies, training and technical assistance, and online community workspaces.