Bullying is something that can affect the bully, the bullied and the witnesses. October was Bullying Prevention Month and we’d like to share information about how to work with kids to identify and stop bullying.
So just how commonly reported is bullying? In a 2019 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey, youth were asked if they had been bullied in the previous 12 months. Nationally, youth that said yes was 19.5%; girls 23.6%; boys 15.4%
In Tennessee, youth 21.5% (12th nationally); girls 27.1% (5th nationally); boys 16.1 (23rd nationally). More than 600 bullying cases were reported in Davidson County and Williamson County Schools during the last reported year, 2018-2019 school year. The numbers show how prevalent bullying is, and this is just the students who self-reported.
Quick tips for bullying and children:
We know bullying is prevalent among our kids. Like discussions about abuse, the adult often needs to be the conversation starter. If you suspect your child is involved in bullying or being bullied, ask the questions and listen. Conversational ice-breakers vary by age and child, but can include asking about team sports or clubs and their leadership; who is captain or who is the class president? You can share stories of your own encounters or witnessing of bullying. Bullying is not just regaled to the school yard; bullies exist in the workplace and even at the grocery store parking lot, so share a story of what you’ve witnessed and how it made you feel. Kids sometimes feel like they need permission to share stories so listening without judgement and reaction can help reveal the whole story.
Bullying isn’t isolated to in-person counters. Nationwide, 16% of students in grades 9–12 experienced cyberbullying, according to the 2019 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice). We hear about cyberbullying all the time; it can occur in texting groups, social media platforms and anonymous blogs. You know your kids best, so it’s up to you how to monitor their technology usage. You can have a rule that phones are only used when parents or adults are around so you can witness changes in attitude or behavior, even subtle changes, to open discussions about friendships.
What do I do? Make sure the child is safe, whether they are the bully or bullied. Talk to the kids, their teachers, coaches, club directors, etc. to get the whole story on what is happening and work out a plan to prevent future bullying. Oftentimes, bullied kids are scared to go to school or practice, to avoid potential harassment. We also know that bullies are usually bullied or abused by a parent or other guardian figure or witness it at home. Talk to that child’s teacher or ‘safe place person’ to ensure their safety and to help.
Youth Villages’ Intercept is a program that can help youth cope with the trauma from a bullying incident. Intercept provides intensive in-home treatment for the youth and family to work on the trauma from bullying, and thus prevents the youth from being taken out of the home and placed in residential or foster care. For more information or to make a referral, visit Youth Villages.
Youth Villages offers a 24/7 crisis support line staffed by master’s-level clinicians who can assess the situation efficiently and effectively, make sure everyone is safe and provide next steps for a care plan, whether that involves in-patient care or a therapy plan. The crisis services staff provides assessment and evaluation of children and youth, up to age 18, who are experiencing a psychiatric emergency. Our support system state-wide is connected so you and your loved one can benefit from that alignment. Parents or guardians need to be a part of the treatment plan for it to work.
Anyone in crisis or searching for help for someone in crisis can call the Tennessee Statewide Crisis Hotline:
Crisis TextLine – Text “TN” to 741741
If you are located in another state outside of Tennessee, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Youth Villages is one of the largest providers of services to children in Tennessee and a national leader in children’s mental and behavioral health. The organization has been recognized by the Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report and was identified by The White House as one of the nation’s most promising results-oriented nonprofit organizations. Learn more at www.youthvillages.org. If you have thoughts of suicide, contact 988 to be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Child Mind Institute has additional resources on children and bullying available online.