Here’s how to prevent bullying in school - and what to do if it happens.

To stop bullying behavior, educate yourselves and your children.

Prisma Staff
• 
October 13, 2022

All types of bullying — physical, relational, social bullying or cyberbullying  — impact student well-being, from mental health to academic performance. Beyond making the victim feel unsafe in their school environment, the effects of bullying extend to bystanders who also report negative psychological impacts, feeling more helpless and less connected to the adults around them than those who haven’t witnessed such aggression.

A peer dynamic caused by an imbalance of power, as we discuss, bullying can be a problem across elementary school, middle school and high school, with early adolescents (11-13) reportedly the most likely victims of bullying.  Although cyberbullying receives a lot of media attention, experts report that more students experience in-school bullying than social media aggression (approximately 50% versus 15%).

Bullying hurts marginalized students disproportionately, including LGBTQ students. Students with disabilities also experience bullying at a significantly higher rate, studies suggest, and face severe impacts in terms of their learning outcomes. Twice-exceptional learners, who may have challenges reading social cues, are particularly effected by bullying; the consequences are even more dramatic for these students because they thrive in the kind of controlled learning environment that a bully destroys.

One of the biggest challenges of bullying is that not all kids will report it, either to a parent or a trusted adult. They might not be aware of what bullying is, or they might be worried about what will happen when they speak up.

On the other hand, research suggests that kids often are able to develop their own strategies when confronting bullying: for example, blocking a cyberbully, telling a parent, or reporting the behavior through formal channels.

What are the signs of bullying?

Common signs of bullying include unexplained changes in mood or behavior. Your child might lose interest in certain activities they once loved or complain of physical pains that don’t seem to have any medical explanation. They might have trouble sleeping or appear more distracted than normal. Another more subtle sign is if they seem less interested in talking about their daily routine or their friends — there might be a reason they are keeping to themselves.

If you think bullying might be the root cause of this behavior, here are some ways to approach the situation.

How to support your child if they are experiencing bullying in school — and how to help them afterwards.

1. Get them talking

It’s overwhelming to hear from your child that they’ve been a victim of bullying, but it can be even harder if you suspect something is wrong and your child isn’t communicating it to you. So start with education, to give them the language to discuss these kinds of things. (We like these conversation starter tips from the Pacer National Bullying Prevention Center.)

2. Connect with your child’s school

Your child’s teachers, coaches, and other members of the school staff (including the bus driver, if bullying situations are taking place on the school bus) are there to help, but you may have to reach out to get the conversation started. Even if your child is open about giving you details about the dynamic, you can only benefit from more perspectives. Ask what actions are being taken to stop the negative behavior and don’t be afraid to follow up. If you don’t know the school’s policies, learn them and ensure they’re being followed.

3. Talk to other parents

While you’re handling the specific incident of bullying, it can be helpful to reach out to other parents to get a sense of whether there is generally a positive school climate or whether this is part of a pattern that might point to more serious problems and cause you to consider other options. Every parent has to decide for themselves whether they think their child is in a safe environment, but getting additional insight can provide a deeper perspective.

4. Advocate for in-school education

When you’re in the middle of a crisis, it can be hard to zoom out and think big picture, but when the crisis subsides, take the opportunity to connect with your school administrators and see what can be done to prevent it the next time. Bystander intervention is incredibly effective in stopping bullying within the first few seconds. However, kids report that they don’t intervene when they witness bullying because they are unsure of what to say or do. If your school doesn’t offer a conflict resolution or bullying prevention program, start a dialogue with administrators about introducing one.

5. Consider an online school.

When kids learn remotely, many of the factors that trigger bullying are simply taken out of the equation. No one can see what bathroom a child chooses to use, or knows what they eat for lunch. When students have control of how much they appear on camera, their peers might not even know how tall they are or how fancy their sneakers are.

Of course, if a child is experiencing bullying and you choose to try an online school,  make sure you aren’t throwing out the good with the bad by erasing all opportunities to socialize. A cohort-based online school like Prisma ensures that kids have positive peer interactions, whether it’s in their daily meetings or in their group chats (which are always closely monitored by an adult.)

6. Provide an emotional support network

In addition to being a resource, advocate and sounding board for your child, look to professionals who can offer different perspectives than a parent (and make sure you don’t have to shoulder it all yourself). A close one-on-one mentorship, like our Prisma coaches provide, can also go a long way in helping a child who has come out of a troubling school experience — whether it’s name calling or aggressive behavior — to reconnect to their love of learning. After a child has been a victim of bullying, they’re likely to have experienced a dip in their self-esteem. A one-on-one coach who gets to know your child will be well-equipped to build them back up.


If you need more support around how to prevent bullying in school and what to do if it’s happening to your child, we recommend these resources:

  • Stopbullying.gov - a government website that provides extensive information on bullying and cyberbullying, including prevention, evidence-based research and resources.
  • The Committee for Children - a Seattle-based, global non-profit organization that advocates for child safety, including bullying prevention and social-emotional learning.
  • Pacer.org - a bullying prevention center that provides free resources for kids, parents, educators, community members, students with disabilities and Spanish speakers.
  • Cyberbullying research center - a center that offers guides, resources and national bullying laws by state, including an extensive list of recommended reading.

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