Keeping Kids Safe: Opportunities and Challenges in Bullying Prevention
The August 15, 2014 Annual Federal Bullying Prevention Summit held at the Barnard Auditorium in Washington, DC tried to provide an answer to the issues related to bullying in schools. The summit focused on the challenges and opportunities of preventing and managing bullying in schools and how different members of the community, organizations, concerned groups, states, and the federal government can work together to help keep children safe.
Bullying is a social phenomenon that is seen not only in Western societies but pervades in almost every other part of the world. Adults who condone bullying behaviors are sending the message to children that it is right to ridicule and bully other children especially if they are considered different or odd. While the concept is not necessarily new, with ideas of social alienation and isolation at the heart of many civil rights movements, bullying has never received such a concerted effort from different sectors of society than it does today.
With the US Department of Education spearheading a 9-agency Federal Bullying Prevention program, the prospect of ensuring safer school environments for children who are members of an ethnic minority or even a social class is much brighter and clearer, indeed.
The message is clear: every child deserves a healthy and safe learning environment. Unfortunately, schools cannot do it alone. The involvement of the family, communities, education leaders, political leaders, and the different federal agencies is very important if children’s safety is to be ensured in their respective schools. Families and communities, for the most part, must be equipped with the right knowledge and understanding about bullying and what they can do to help prevent and manage its occurrence.
Bullying almost always involves three things: imbalance of power, intention to cause harm, and repetition. Bullies use their power to exert control or even harm the other individual. Unfortunately, in school bullying, the child being bullied is oftentimes singled out and the incidents of bullying can occur many times to the same child or person. While it is not necessary that harm is of the physical kind, it is often the mental, emotional, and social harm that is most damaging to the fragile personality of children. Kids that have become victims of bullying eventually end up with issues in self-confidence, self-esteem, and overall sense of self-worth.
One does not need to be physically harmed to be considered a victim of bullying. It can be in the form of teasing, name-calling, spreading rumors, breaking up friendships, using digital technologies such as mobile phones and the internet to bring harm to others, and even purposely leaving other people out.
Four of the speakers in the 2014 Federal Bullying Prevention Summit were from the youth sector. They provided the government and other stakeholders with the much-needed feedback in terms of how the youth of today understand and look at bullying and what they can do to make their respective schools and communities more bully-proof. This provided the future direction of this multi-sectoral approach to managing and preventing bullying.
With the help of everyone in American society, the hope of ensuring safe and healthy learning environments for all children may still be realized.