Plan B – A Blueprint to Better Protect Children
This October schools will be decorating bulletin boards, hanging posters, and having assemblies, but not for Fall and Halloween. Many schools will be preparing for National Bullying Prevention Month!
“Why do we need a month devoted to preventing bullying?” Many adults still believe that bullying is a normal childhood phenomenon, a rite of passage. But it is so much more than that. According to national surveys, 1 in 4 children will be bullied and 1 in 5 will be cyberbullied. Therefore, in an average classroom of 25 students, 11, or almost half of them, will suffer at the hands of their peers. What’s worse, some of them will end their own lives to escape the relentless torment.
By definition, bullying is any repeated act of hostility or aggression where there is a real or perceived imbalance of power, and the victim cannot defend himself or herself.
Sadly, bullying is now recognized as a significant contributor to youth violence, including homicide, suicide, and “bullycide,” the label now applied to children who commit suicide to escape being bullied. While there is no formal system for tracking suicides related to bullying, suicide is the 4th leading cause of death in adolescents.
There are many other consequences of bullying that make adult intervention essential:
• Depression and anxiety
• Low self-esteem
• Social isolation
• Physical illness such as headaches, stomach aches
• School absenteeism and subsequently poor academic performance
Intervention is important, but prevention is essential. We are a reactive society, usually waiting until something negative occurs to try to fix it. By that time, the damage is done. We need to be proactive, we need a Plan B, a blueprint for protecting children.
We need to teach children and adults about Behavior, Balance, and Boundaries, not to stop bullying once it happens, but to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Behavior – Teaching children to manage their behavior is key. Children need to follow rules, treat others with respect and empathy, and be kind and accepting of others. And adults need to be good role models. Many believe bullying is a learned behavior and starts at home. Adults need to model empathy, acceptance, and kindness, or we will never see these things in children.
Boundaries – Personal, organizational, and societal boundaries are also key. Children need to understand and respect personal boundaries, and organizations need policies in place to enforce boundaries.
Balance – We need a balance between adults and children being responsible for preventing bullying. Children need to be taught safety and prevention strategies, but adults also need to be responsible for creating and enforcing rules to protect children, and for teaching children how to prevent bullying and other types of peer abuse.
MBF Child Safety Matters is a comprehensive, research-based program that teaches children and adults to prevent, recognize, and respond to bullying and cyberbullying, and also to child abuse, digital abuse, and other digital dangers. Learn more at www.mbfchildsafetymatters.org.