In her article, Making A Difference in Bullying: Understanding and Strategies for Practitioners, Debra Pepler asserts that adults have the crucial role of “social architect” in young people’s lives to ensure that their social life is structured to encourage the development of healthy and egalitarian social relationships. Without the consistent involvement of adults, bullying cannot be prevented in a school. In order to send a message to children and teens that bullying is not acceptable, and that adults are resource people to turn to for help when needed, we can:
- listen to children and teens, and encourage them to share their feelings and experiences with respect to their social relationships and to their life at school;
- adjust our response so that it mirrors the child’s or teen’s assessment of the situation’s gravity when a young person confides in us. For example, we may be tempted to minimize certain situations involving social humiliation, and to take very seriously situations involving physical danger. For young people, the former type of situation is often the most dreaded;
- be aware of the power dynamics at play in students’ social interactions;
- get involved in students’ social life in order to promote pro-social behaviours; for example, initiate and participate in games and discussions with children and teens;
- make sure we understand and that we help children and teens understand the difference between “tattling” and “telling”, or between “snitching” or “ratting” and getting adult help;
- put our school’s or our classroom’s bullying prevention policies and procedures into practice regularly and consistently.
The solutions to end bullying do not rest solely with the student who is bullied. Students who witness bullying also have a crucial role to play. Adults can be a catalyst for the kind of change in school culture that is necessary to mobilize bystanders and witnesses. Their continued intervention, ongoing involvement and support of all students are an indispensable facet of bullying prevention.