By Summer Stephan
As your district attorney, I’m committed to increasing communication and accessibility between the DA’s office and you, the community. One way I have been doing that is through this monthly column, where I provide consumer tips on public safety matters.
It’s nearly impossible to go through school without being exposed to bullying. As a victim, a perpetrator or a bystander, bullying has short-term and long-term effects on all of us. Studies show that one in five students report being bullied in school. Although it’s a common phenomenon, its effects are serious. At its most severe, it causes depression, anxiety, isolation, poor performance in school and suicidal thoughts.
One of my priorities as district attorney is making sure our youth have opportunities to thrive and stay out of the juvenile justice system. That’s why we spend so much time on preventative programs and outreach in our juvenile division.
Here, I’d like to leave tips for what to do if you are bullied, if your child is bullying or if you see bullying happen. But first, it’s important to know what bullying is. It’s when you are repeatedly exposed to harassment or attacks by one or more students. It comes in direct or indirect forms. This isn’t friendly banter; it’s an imbalance of power where the subject finds it hard to defend him or herself.
If you’re bullied:
- Walk away. If possible, remove yourself from the situation immediately
- Say “stop” in a calm but firm voice if it feels safe to do so
- Stay calm
- Do not fight or bully back
If you see bullying:
- Tell an adult that you trust (parent, teacher, school counselor, or a family friend)
- Tell a friend and ask for support
- If your friend tells you they were bullied, listen to them. Tell them you care about them and help them find an adult they can talk to
- Speak up. Do not stand by and watch someone get bullied
If your child is a bully, you can:
- Enforce family rules
- Encourage, reinforce and reward empathy and kind behavior
- Spend time with your child at their school and in extra-curricular activities
- Partner with the school to develop an intervention plan
- Seek professional help if necessary
Cyberbullying tips for parents:
- Monitor your child’s cell phone and social media accounts
- If you allow your child to have a cell phone or participate in social media websites, ensure you have the password to their phone as well as their password for every social media app
- Have privacy settings, but remember even friends can share your child’s private posts by taking a screenshot
- It is common for kids to have more than one account on a social media site
- Online bullying through social media hurts and harms a child as much as if it were done in person
Finally, bullying can lead to criminal conduct. Consider this: 60 percent of boys who were aggressors in middle school had at least one criminal conviction by age 24. In addition, adolescents who bully others tend to exhibit other defiant and delinquent behaviors, have poor school performance, are more likely to drop-out of school, and are more likely to bring weapons to school. Parents who notice these characteristics in their children should address it.
–– District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated nearly 30 years to serving justice and victims of crime as prosecutor. She is a national leader in fighting sex crimes and human trafficking and in creating smart and fair criminal justice solutions and restorative justice practices that treat the underlying causes of addiction and mental illness and that keep young people from being incarcerated.