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Students are often in the best position to both prevent and stop bullying incidents, including cyberbullying and other types of mistreatment. Why? Because students see, hear and know things adults don’t and they can intervene in ways that adults can’t. They are aware of incidents often before adults are informed.

These factors put them on the “front lines” of bullying behavior and in the best position to effectively prevent and stop bullying and mistreatment. The tremendous power students have in setting social norms of kindness and connectivity contributes greatly to having a bully-free and safer school with a positive climate.

Here are five specific actions students can take to prevent and stop bullying:

1. Notice and identify what is happening and think about the harmful effects it may have. When students have increased awareness of the overt and more covert ways bullying occurs, they are more able and willing to take action. Bullying involves an imbalance or perceived imbalance of power. The four types of bullying are:

  • Physical: when a student uses physical force to hurt or intimidate another student. This includes hitting, pushing, shoving, holding a student down, pantsing/wedgies, taking a student’s belongings or money;
  • Verbal: taunting/teasing, name calling/putdowns, shouting and threats, hostile gestures e.g. making faces, giving the evil eye, eye rolling, spitting;
  • Relational: leaving out another student, silent treatment, ostracizing, spreading gossip or rumors, defaming.
  • Cyber (one time or repeated): texting threats, putdowns, posting humiliating comments/pictures/videos, sharing a student’s private pictures or words; impersonation/identity theft

2. Determine the type of mistreatment, the severity, who the “players” are, and the environment in which the incident is happening. Assessing and discerning the situation helps to determine whether it is safe to take action and which action is likely to be most effective.

3. Reach out and befriend those students who are often isolated and excluded. These students are most vulnerable and likely to be subjected to bullying and mistreatment. By creating connections with those who need it, students show their support and model positive behavior to their peers that demonstrates “in our school we look out for each other.”

4. Be an upstander, not a bystander. By speaking up and taking action, students model positive peer pressure and their actions say that bullying in all forms is not okay on this campus. It’s an “each one, teach one” ripple effect that over time creates social norms that make it more socially acceptable to be kind than to be cruel.

5. Reach out to a trusted adult and report potentially dangerous situations such as; threats against the campus, or fellow students at risk for self-harm or dangers at home. Helping a student who is at risk and might otherwise not seek help can go a long way to ensuring that the student gets the support they need before the situation worsens.

Young people are in a unique and vital position to make a positive impact in preventing and stopping bullying. We believe that students at all levels are ready to serve as change agents and peacemakers in their schools and communities. They are concerned about the increases in tension and trauma experienced by many of their peers and they want to do the right thing. What the evidence tells us, is when we engage, equip and empower young people, they are eager and willing to “be the change we need them to be”.

Bullying is a national epidemic and requires a multitude of approaches and collaboration to galvanize real change. Community Matters and No Bully work in tandem to address and create programs, initiatives and best practices that are effective and proven to reduce bullying and mistreatment, with the combined goal of putting an end to bullying. Reach out. Let us help you.

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