Bullying is a growing concern in schools across Palm Beach County and far beyond. It has a negative impact on everyone involved — victims, bullies and bystanders.

This month (February), BRIDGES is taking a close look at the impacts of bullying and what can be done to stop it.

Let’s start with what bullying does, based on data from government, research, news and other sources.

Students who are bullied are more likely to:

  • Feel disconnected from school and not like school
  • Have lower academic outcomes, including lower attendance and completion rates
  • Lack quality friendships
  • Be less accepted by peers, avoid conflict and be socially withdrawn
  • Have low self-esteem
  • Suffer from depression, anxiety, feelings of loneliness and isolation

Students who frequently bully others are more likely to:

  • Feel disconnected from school and dislike school
  • Get into fights, vandalize property and leave school early

And students who witness bullying may:

  • Be reluctant to attend school
  • Feel fearful or powerless to act and guilty for not acting
  • Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety
  • Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs

What can we as parents, educators, and community supporters do? A lot.

Take a look at this video. It’s got insights and advice from students as they think through how to

respond to real-life bullying situations.

A clear way to stop bullying is to know the warning signs. Here’s a few of the signs, as explained on Stopbullying.gov:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.

Click here to read more.

In our digital world, a lot of bullying happens online.

Cyberbullying takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. It’s most common on social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, and on text and instant messaging.

Over the platforms and devices, bullies will:

  • Post comments or rumors about someone online that are mean, hurtful, or embarrassing.
  • Threaten to hurt someone or tell them to kill themselves.
  • Post a mean or hurtful picture or video.

Read more about cyberbullying tactics here.

Parents can take steps to prevent cyberbullying. Here’s a few measures:

  • Talk to your child– Ask questions to learn what is happening, how it started, and who is involved.
  • Document – Keep a record of what is happening and where. Take screenshots of harmful posts or content if possible.
  • Report – Most social media platforms and schools have clear policies and reporting processes. If a classmate is cyberbullying, report it the school.

It’s scary, but here’s the good news about bullying. When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior, they send the message that it is not acceptable. And over time, research shows us that this can stop bullying behavior — for good.

(Photo credit: www.teachertoolkit.co.uk)