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Bullying and the Bystander Effect

Our kids are experiencing bullying differently than when we were their age. With technology, a bully can reach their victim anywhere at any time. 60% of middle schoolers and 20% of high schoolers report that they have been bullied, while only 16% of staff reported that they believe students are being bullied. There is a disconnect and we have to help bridge it. 

There is a social psychological theory called the Bystander Effect. This theory states that someone is less likely to call for help or help someone if there are other bystanders around because they assume someone else will help, therefore they do not have to. Our children are guilty of this but so are we as parents. We should encourage our children to inform a trusted adult when bullying is being witnessed and we need to remember that we are the trusted adult who should step in when bullying occurs. We, as parents, shouldn’t assume someone else will take care of it.

To combat bullying, we need to know what bullying is. Bullying can come in many forms and can occur in person or online. There are three types of bullying: verbal, social and physical. 

Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things.

  • Teasing
  • Name-calling
  • Inappropriate sexual comments
  • Taunting
  • Threatening to cause harm

Social bullying involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. 

  • Leaving someone out on purpose
  • Telling other children not to be friends with someone
  • Spreading rumors about someone
  • Embarrassing someone in public

Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions.

  • Hitting/kicking/pinching
  • Spitting
  • Tripping/pushing
  • Taking or breaking someone’s things
  • Making mean or rude hand gestures

A great first step would be to open the lines of communication with your children and with their school. Let your children know they can openly talk to you about their concerns. Connect with their school and find out who the contact person would be in a bully related situation. 

The unfortunate reality is that bullied children are two times more likely to attempt suicide and eight times more likely to have suicidal ideations. If someone is in immediate danger, call 911. Keep the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number available: 1-800-273-8255. 

Marion Collins