With summer approaching, PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center (NBPC) reminds parents that bullying - defined as an intentional behavior that hurts or harms someone, either physically or emotionally - doesn’t just happen in school. “Bullying behavior can happen anywhere in camps, neighborhoods, online or in phone conversations,” says Julie Hertzog, director of PACER’S NBPC.
Over the past year, PACER has teamed with HopeLine® from Verizon and the Minnesota Vikings on a community awareness program for bullying prevention in Minnesota to teach adults and kids more about bullying. “We believe bullying is a community-wide issue and is best addressed with a community-wide response,” says Hertzog.
“Viktor’s Quest to S.T.O.P Bullying” included interactive school assembly programs starring the Vikings mascot “Viktor” for Pre-K-6th grade elementary schools. The age-appropriate message used a sign with the acronym S.T.O.P. which stands for “Stand up. Take action. Open up. Protect yourself.” Each action was explained in video scenarios for the students. More than 9,000 students participated in 14 assemblies, and students rated the program as 8.7 out of 10 in school surveys.
To involve parents, educators and community members, PACER and Verizon offered 17 one-hour educational training sessions, including two in Spanish and one in Hmong. The training covered what to do if a child is in a bullying situation, has witnessed a bullying situation or has exhibited bullying behavior.
“There are three action steps we recommend for helping your child if they have been bullied,” says Hertzog. “It’s important to first talk to your child, open up the conversation, let them know they are supported and that they are not alone, and then work with your child to develop an action plan on how you can work together to address the bullying.”
Because bullying has moved into cyberspace, tips for online safety and options for parental controls on mobile devices, such as FamilyBase, were presented. After the workshops, 97 percent of the attendees said they learned ideas to help their child/student in a bullying situation.
“Often parents will [first] think about bullying when they hear about it from their child and are already experiencing a situation,” says Hertzog. “We recommend parents be pro-active in learning about this issue and talking with their kids, both to educate them about what to do if they are being bullied, and how to be advocates against bullying.”
For more resources and information for kids or teens on bullying, visit PACER.org/bullying.