COLUMBUS, Miss. – Bullying goes beyond the victim and the aggressor. Parents, school staff and others can help prevent the problem by talking about it and building a safe learning environment, according to a health education instructor at The W.
Among children, every problem is not considered bullying, according to Irene Pintado, associate professor of health education. There are visible signs when a child is being bullied.
“It has to be deliberate and intentional, and the person has to try to hurt the victim whether it is emotional, physical or verbal,” she explained.
Parents will be able to tell when a child is being bullied because children leave hints. They may begin to make excuses for staying home, such as having a stomach ache or headache. Teachers and parents have to be aware if students are showing signs of depression or anxiety.
“Also, the actions have to be persistent and there has to be an imbalance of power,” said Pintado. “Someone one has to be bigger, smarter or more powerful than the victim.”
Bullying rarely happens in front of teachers, it happens in the bathrooms, hallways and playgrounds, which is why it is important for adults to be aware.
In middle school, children pick on kids who are different. Students want to establish themselves as fitting in with the crowd.
High school is more directed toward getting approval from friends and maintaining a level of superiority and status.
And while the focus tends to be on elementary, junior high and high school students, studies show that bullying and cyberbullying do occur with college students.
In a college setting, students are on a quest to find themselves, and they are introduced to people who do not share the same beliefs.
The pressure of finding a group they can fit in with can be challenging, along with getting along with roommates.
“Students may shown signs of depression, and have the tendency to stay in their rooms.” said Pintado.
While some would say being picked on is a rite of passage in school because all kids have to go through it in their youth, Pintado said that is not the case.
“Bullying is not normal because it becomes a psychological problem later,” she said. “When someone snitches on an individual about bullying, it is no longer called snitching, it is called helping.”
In these cases, silence is not golden because if students remain silent it hurts everybody.
“It has to become part of the school culture, from the cafeteria staff to the principal that it is okay to talk and soon those repeated messages from faculty and staff become normal and students will begin to speak up,” said Pintado.
Also, parents need to be aware of what’s happening online. There is a fine line between snooping and invading some one’s privacy, but if a defined line of trust and communication is already established children will feel more comfortable about talking.
“I believe everyone has the right to feel safe in their environment, and parents need to make their homes a safe and loving place as well.” said Pintado.
For college students, The W offers free counseling services and students have the right to talk to someone about their situation.
“The faculty and staff here are amazing, and many students have at least one faculty member they feel the most comfortable with and trust, and they will walk them to the counseling center if they don’t want to walk alone,” said Pintado.
The W’s Counseling Center may be reached at (662) 329-7748.
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