The final bell of the school year might seem to signal a reprieve from schoolyard bullying. But harassing behavior doesn’t keep a calendar and, sadly, it doesn’t stop where campus borders end.
It seeps into summer. Into parks, malls, community pools, camps and, of course, online – into social networks and e-mail.
How pervasive is summertime bullying? Consider that the American Camp Association devotes an entire section of its website to bullying prevention.
“Children at camp can be at-risk for suffering from the devastating effects of bullying,” Kim Storey, author of “Eyes on Bullying,” writes on the ACA site. “Some children may leave camp midway, while others may not return the following season because of their experiences with bullying.”
In a 2011 survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 20 percent of high school students had experienced bullying in the past year. A 2008-09 study by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, meanwhile, found 28 percent of students in grades six through 12 had experienced bullying.
That’s why parents need to keep a watchful eye – even in these so-called carefree days of summer – for the tell-tale signs of bullying (unexplained injuries, lost or destroyed possessions, headaches, appetite loss or binge-eating, etc.)
Here are some steps parents can take to ensure their kids enjoy a bully-free break:
Keep talking. Check in with your children daily about how their day went and who their friends are (including online friends). Make sure they know they can come to you if they experience a problem.
Make good choices. Choose summertime activities where your children will be supervised by responsible, trained adults. Also, try to pair your children with activities they enjoy and are good at, to help bolster their self-esteem.
Monitor a child’s time online. Make a point of knowing what websites your children visit and why. Set ground rules. For example, let them know you might review their online communications and activities. Also, consider limiting their amount of screen time, i.e. on cell phones, computer, etc.
Talk to your kids about bullying. Explain what it is. Encourage them to speak to an adult they trust if they are bullied or witness someone else being bullied.
To read more on this topic, check out:
StopBullying.gov, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Understanding Bullying, a 2012 fact sheet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Summer Bullying Prevention Tips for Your Family by Marlo Thomas on the Huffington Post.