If you are like most people, you remember a time when you were teased, humiliated, or shut out of a group. You might recall being forced to do something by a schoolmate who was seen as more popular or powerful. Or you might remember a time when a friend was harassed and you felt helpless to intervene.
A staggering number of children are involved in bullying. In one national study, almost 30 percent of students in grades 6–10—more than 5.7 million children nationwide—experienced moderate or frequent bullying during the current school term, as victim, bully, or both.
While parents and teachers have come to understand bullying more clearly in recent years, they still lack practical tools and resources to address it head on. A new project, Eyes on Bullying, uses Web technology to teach adults and children how to prevent and respond to bullying. EDC developed Eyes on Bullying for the IBM Corporation for use by IBM employees and the caregivers of their children, and it is now available online for wider use as well.
Using such resources as a toolkit, a Web site, and teleconferences, Eyes on Bullying helps adults develop new knowledge, skills, and strategies to prevent and address bullying. EDC’s Ron Slaby explains, “It’s unique in how it prepares adults to use proven and effective methods for preventing bullying in children’s lives.” Co-author Kim Storey adds, “The program uses innovative learning technologies to reach large audiences.”
According to the program developers, bullying is not simply “kids being mean.” Bullying damages the physical, social, and emotional well-being of its victims, with 160,000 children staying home each day for fear of bullying. At its worst, bullying leads to suicide and school violence. In almost three-quarters of school shootings between 1974 and 2000, the shooters had histories of being bullied, attacked, or injured.
Standing up to bullying
As the program’s centerpiece, the Eyes on Bullying toolkit includes six activities that engage parents and caregivers in conversations with children, either individually or in groups, to uncover what bullying is and how adults and children can address it.
“The activities are carefully designed to build on one another, getting people to see bullying with new eyes, and building assertiveness, empathy, and social problem-solving skills—‘life skills’ that are valuable throughout life,” says Slaby. “Ultimately, these activities provide adults and children with motivation and specific steps to effectively stop bullying from happening to themselves and others.”
Bullying can start as early as preschool and continue through high school. It can involve physical or verbal attacks, as well as more indirect means of excluding, spreading rumors about, and hurting others. Reports of “cyber- bullying”—sending embarrassing or threatening text and images over the Internet, cell phones, and other devices—are on the rise, with sometimes devastating effects. More than one-third of all teenagers and 44 percent of teen girls are targets of this form of bullying, which is especially difficult to track.
One troubling dimension of bullying is the culture of silence that pervades it. Eyes on Bullying points to hidden warning signs, including damage to or loss of a young person’s belongings, signs of physical abuse, or a sudden loss of or change in friends. It demonstrates appropriate intervention steps for adults, including such tips as “Don’t ask children to simply work things out for themselves” and “Give support to helpful bystanders.”
Eyes on Bullying is funded by the IBM Global Work/Life Fund and developed in partnership with WFD Consulting.
Originally published on May 1, 2008