The waning days of summer and the start of a new school year can be an exciting time for kids, parents, and teachers. Back to school can also be an anxious time for kids who experience bullying at school and virtually or on social media. Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.*
In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include: an imbalance of power (such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity); and repetition: bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.* Being the subject of or witnessing bullying can threaten children’s and teen’s physical and emotional safety at school and negatively impact their ability to learn and self-worth. The New Hampshire (NH) Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) reports that 21% of NH high-schoolers reported being bullied online and 23% reported being bullied at school (NH YRBS, 2019).
The repercussions of bullying can be long term; youth who are bullied are at greater risk of developing mental health issues and substance use. According to an article in Psychological Science, those who were bullied were 11% more likely to have negative financial outcomes later in life than children not involved in bullying. More specifically, compared with children not involved in bullying, bullied individuals were 11.6% more likely to be in poverty, 13.2% more likely to get fired from a job, and 8.7% more likely to have problems with financial management. And certain youth are at greater risk for being bullied, like LGBTQ youth or youth who experience social anxiety, depression, or low self-worth. The good news is parents, teachers, and schools can help kids stop bullying before it begins.
Model How to Treat Others with Kindness and Respect
It’s important to remember that 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.
Ways Schools Can Help Prevent Bullying
Students should feel and be safe everywhere on their school property. Seeing or experiencing bullying counters that.
School staff should think about how schools can:
- Create a culture of inclusion and respect that welcomes all students.
- Reward students when they show thoughtfulness and respect for peers, adults, and the school.
- Monitor likely bullying spots in and around the building. Students may be at higher risk of bullying in settings where there is little or no adult monitoring or supervision, like hallways, lockers, bathrooms, athletic facilities, school playgrounds, lunchrooms, and bus stops.
- Get all school staff onboard. All staff can keep an eye out for bullying. They also help set the tone at school.
- Set an expectation of respect in the classroom. This means managing student behavior in the classroom. Well-managed classrooms are the least likely to have bullying.
Kids are more likely to listen to adults who are respectful and inclusive. It’s up to the school community to work together to send the message that bullying is wrong and to create a positive and nurturing environment throughout the school year.
For additional information resources for schools visit drugfreenh.org/for-schools/.
How Parents and Teachers Can Help Prevent Bullying
The best way parents and teachers can help kids prevent bullying at school is to talk to them about bullying and teach them how to safely stand up to bullying. Here’s how to get started:
- Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely. Tell kids bullying 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 make friends, and protect youth from bullying behavior.
When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior, they send the message that it is not acceptable. This can stop bullying behavior over time. When bystanders to bullying intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time. Parental involvement is a protective factor for youth who may bully or be bullied.
What Is New Hampshire Doing About Bullying?
In 2000, the NH State Legislature adopted the Public Safety & Violence Prevention Act, which was amended in 2010. It is intended to protect NH children from bullying and to prevent a hostile educational environment.
This statute (law):
- Defines what bullying is.
- Identifies that all students have the right to attend public schools, including chartered public schools, that are safe, secure, and peaceful environments.
- Requires all schools to have a formal bullying policy written and posted.
- Requires every school district and charter school to provide training on policies adopted annually for school employees, regular school volunteers or employees of a company under contract to a school, school district or charter school who have significant contact with pupils for the purpose of preventing, identifying, responding to and reporting incidences of bullying and cyber-bullying.
- Guarantees that schools provide educational programs for pupils and parents in preventing, identifying, and responding to incidents of bullying or cyberbullying. Programs for pupils must be written and presented in age-appropriate language.
- Requires all schools to report all substantiated incidences of bullying and cyberbullying to the NH Department of Education. The identities of those involved are protected. The latest data is from July 2018 to June 2019. During that time the DOE was contacted 62 times by constituents regarding alleged bullying and cyberbullying complaints.
- *U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: StopBullying.gov
- Learning for Justice
- Committee for Children Bullying Resources
- Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center
- NH Department of Education: Jesse Lewis ChooSELove Movement
- The Bureau of Student Wellness: Office of Social and Emotional Wellness
- It Gets Better Project
A Silver Lining of the COVID Pandemic
The pandemic radically changed the context of bullying. As schools were forced to close and shift to remote learning in March 2020, there was a sudden decrease in in-person interaction. (Koeze and Popper, 2020; De et al., 2020). There was also a significant drop in the incidence of both in-person and cyber- bullying. That drop remained through the subsequent 2020-21 school year, particularly in areas where more schools remained fully remote. (Volume 40, October 2021, 101121 STEM the bullying: An empirical investigation of abusive supervision in academic science)
Studies attribute this to decreased or no physical contact through virtual learning. Experts will be watching these figures closely to see if they increase as students are experiencing more in-school contact. (The School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey)