The only way to truly put an end to bullying behavior is to mobilize with other parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators to take an active role in dealing with the issue at hand. But what does it take to actually ensure this intentional abuse of power among peers doesn’t occur in the first place?
It takes a village to protect our kids from being bullied or becoming bullies. Besides adult intervention, our children also have a role to play, and the numbers don’t lie as studies have revealed.
There’s safety in numbers when it comes to protection from bullying
Having a group of friends to rely on appears to buffer children from the emotional hurt bullying causes better than a single “best” friend, a new study of more than 1,200 primary school children and their parents suggests.
The findings suggest that actively promoting large friendship groups may be an effective strategy for anti-bullying programs. The new study involved children self-reporting on their mental health, bullying experience, and friendship situation, matched with a survey of their parents.
Not surprisingly, the surveys found that children with groups of friends were less likely to be bullied than those with no groups of friends. Among the 356 children experiencing frequent bullying, 15% had no groups of friends. Among those not being frequently bullied, only 5% had no groups of friends.
But having a best friend made little difference. Among bullied kids some 93.5% had a best friend compared with 92.4% among kids not experiencing frequent bullying.
Further, bullied children with groups of friends were less affected in their emotional well-being than bullied children with no friends or just a best friend. That is, they and their parents reported less sadness and anxiety. Just having a best friend made little difference. The results only suggest an association between friendship group and the incidence of bullying and its mental impact.
While it may be that not having a group of friends facilitates bullying and worsens the mental impact of bullying, it may also be that bullying and poorer mental health leads children to have less friends.
The results suggest that when it comes to anti-bullying interventions it may be worth it for parents to facilitate group activities that promote friendship groups, such as more focus on group play and tasks, as opposed to paired activities.
A sense of community stops kids from becoming bullies
Environmental and psychological factors might play an important role in minimizing bullying behaviors. Students who feel a greater sense of belonging with their peers, family, and school community are less likely to participate in bullying, according to another study. The new findings suggest that parents and teachers should consider ways to create a supportive and accepting environment both at home and at school.
Researchers analyzed survey responses from more than 900 middle school students from rural schools throughout the US. The survey addressed their sense of belonging among peers, family, and school community as well as bullying behavior. For example, researchers asked participants if they upset others for the fun of it or if they spread rumors.
The results indicate that the more a student feels like they belong among their peers and family, the more likely they will feel like they belong at school. In addition, the more they feel like they belong within their school community, the less likely they were to report bullying behaviors.
This indicates that parents might be able to play a proactive role in increasing their child’s sense of belonging at school by focusing on improving a sense of belonging in the family.
One of the ways you can increase your child’s sense of family belonging is to organize activities that cater to every child’s interests. If you have children with varying interests, it might be beneficial to suggest the whole family get together to attend each other’s events and activities, even if it doesn’t please the whole crowd every time. By encouraging siblings to support each other, you can help your children feel like their interests are accepted and that they fit within the family unit.
When it comes to bullying prevention, a group of supportive friends is better than one best friend. We should actively encourage kids to make more friends outside their circle as studies show that having a large friendship group shields them from acts of bullying.
Furthermore, a child’s greater feeling of belonging among peers, family, and school have been associated with being less likely to develop bullying behaviors. It takes a village, and we are all villagers.
This article is derived from “Friend groups shield kids from bullying better than 1 bestie” (University of Melbourne), “Sense of belonging makes kids less likely to bully” (University of Missouri) and is used under CC BY 4.0.