(WKBN) – October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Teachers, parents and caregivers are using it as a time to focus and raise awareness on bullying.
Bullying is something that can affect anyone. During their time in school, one in five kids are likely to be bullied. But what exactly is the definition of bullying?
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Education released the first federal definition of bullying. It’s described as an unwanted aggressive behavior, observed or perceived power imbalance, or repetition or a high likelihood of repetition of bullying behaviors.
Even though some kids aren’t going to school, they can still be victims of bullying, especially online. According to StopBullying.gov, 15% of students ages 12 to 18 said they were bullied online in the past year.
Professionals who specialize in bullying prevention said change can happen with just a simple conversation.
“I think it’s really important to teach kids empathy, teach them kindness, teach them we all have differences, and that’s OK and that’s what makes us unique, and if the world had all the same people looking the same, acting the same, it really wouldn’t be interesting,” said Lauren Mechling, a guidance counselor at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.
As parents, there are some things you can be on the lookout for to tell if your child is being bullied. These include changes in habits, withdrawing from normal situations, sudden loss of friends or avoiding social situations, and feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem.
However, there is a difference between bullying and conflict, something people who deal with bullying say is often misinterpreted.
Conflict is a disagreement or argument in which both sides express their views. Bullying is negative behavior directed by someone exerting power and control over another person.
It is important to note bullying does involve the intent to harm someone.
Mechling said the key for bullying prevention is for parents to — along with teaching empathy and kindness — build a relationship with their child, create a safe and comfortable environment, be open and communicate with their child, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
“We don’t have to be friends, we don’t have to like each other but we’re going to respect each other, and I think that’s a really important thing for not only kids, but adults. Especially right now, I think that we need to realize that we can have different options.”
There are plenty of resources for you and your child through their school district. For example, MCCTC has a full-time mental health counselor for any and all students.
You can also check out these resources:
- National Bullying Prevention Center
- Teaching Tolerance
- Sandy Hook Promise: Say Something (Teaching students to be upstanders, not bystanders)
- Sandy Hook Promise: Start With Hello (Aims to build a community of inclusion and connectedness)
- Help Network of Northeast Ohio