Bullying Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about bullying.  The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Bullying. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

Bullying is the act of intentionally harming someone physically, verbally, or psychologically. Bullying is often repeated over time and involves an imbalance of power. Acts of bullying include hitting, pushing, or other unwelcome touching; teasing and name-calling; repeated exclusion of an individual from games and activities; sending threatening or mean-spirited messages (such as texts, chats, voicemails, or e-mails); or spreading of hurtful rumors. Bullying and cyberbullying, or bullying that occurs online, are sensitive issues for many children, educators, and families. We recommend plenty of discussion before and after viewing this movie and the related features, so that children can express their feelings or share their experiences. Some children may be embarrassed that they have been bullied or have bullied others, so it’s important to create a safe environment, where they feel they can share their thoughts. Schools and districts have clear guidelines about bullying, and many state boards of education are establishing bullying curricula. We encourage caregivers and educators to research how bullying is being addressed in their area and help children understand how to prevent and stop bullying and what to do when they witness it.

Studies show that about 15-25% of U.S. students are bullied with some frequency and 15-20% report that they bully others with some frequency (Melton et al, 1998; Nansel et al, 2001) and there are many incidences of bullying that go unreported. It is likely that a child has witnessed bullying in his or her school or neighborhood. But, what is bullying? Have your children come up with examples. Help your students realize that bullying can come in different forms. Bullying can include name-calling and teasing, or it can include physical acts such as hitting, tripping, shoving, or kicking. A bully might steal or break someone else’s belongings or repeatedly exclude someone from joining games and activities. Sending a scary or mean-spirited chat, text-message, voicemail, video, picture, or e-mail is also a form of bullying. Remind your children that a rumor is information that might not be true. Bullies might spread hurtful rumors about someone. How might a target of bullying feel? Lead discussions to help your class understand that it is never O.K. for a bully to make someone feel hurt or scared. Everyone deserves to be in a safe environment.

Children who are targets of bullying might feel scared or embarrassed. It is crucial that they understand that they are not alone. They should not feel embarrassed! When a child is being bullied, he or she should tell a trusted adult, such as an aide, counselor, teacher, or caregiver. Help children understand that they are not a “tattler” if they report a bully who is hurting them or other kids. If it feels safe, children can stand up to a bully. It is imperative that they do not fight, but use their words. They should tell the bully clearly that he or she should stop and then walk away and ignore them. Remind your children that a bully wants to see people get angry or upset. Thus, they should act calm and confident when telling a bully to stay away. If the bully continues, children should continue to ignore and report the bully to a trusted adult again. Children can avoid a bully by taking a different route home or changing where they play on the school grounds. This does not mean hiding from the bully, but avoiding a confrontation while still having fun during free time or after school. Targets of bullying can also stick with friends since a bully is less likely to cause trouble with a group of people.

Some children may not be targets of bullying, but may witness friends or classmates being bullied. They can help their classmates by reporting bullies to trusted adults. Remind them to explain exactly what happened, who was involved, and where and when it happened. Let your students know that the adults will be glad that they reported a bully because they want everyone to be safe. If it feels safe, a child may want to stick up for his or her classmate and stand up to a bully. Again, remind your children that they should not physically fight, but use words. Sometimes it helps to get a group of friends together and tell a bully to stop. Bullies who realize that it is not cool to bully or figure out that they are outnumbered may leave everyone alone. Encourage your children to be good friends: invite others to play with them and comfort them when they are feeling scared or sad. Bullies often single out kids who are alone or weak in some way. Help your children become better friends to everyone. To encourage your children to be inclusive, may want to institute a policy where “You can’t say, ‘You can’t play.’”

Some bullies may not know they are being bullies. Remind your children they should respect one another. People are different and have different interests and no one deserves to feel bad about being unique. Remind your children of the Golden Rule: they should treat people the way they would like to be treated. Of course, arguments will arise in any relationship. Your children should understand that it is O.K. to disagree with people, but it is not acceptable to mistreat people because they are angry. They should calm down before talking to someone and working on problems. Brainstorm different ways to calm down, such as taking a walk, breathing deeply, thinking of a happy memory, or exercising. Then they are ready to discuss their problems and find a solution together.

A cyberbully is someone who bullies on the Internet. A cyberbully might send mean messages, spread hurtful rumors, share secrets, or forward embarrassing or inappropriate pictures. With increased social networking websites and modes of communication online, cyberbullying is on the rise. According to studies, about 7% of 6-11 year-olds and 36% of 12-17-year-olds reported that someone said threatening or embarrassing things about them through e-mail, instant messages, web sites, chat rooms, or text messages (Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2006). Your children should understand that harassment on the Internet is a form of bullying. They should ignore messages from cyberbullies and report them to a trusted adult. Most e-mail and chat programs have ways to block addresses. Children should never give out personal information or send pictures of themselves to strangers. We recommend screening the Internet Safety movie with your children to review proper and safe ways to act online.

Your children do not have to be targets of bullying. Empower your children to be confident and strong individuals who treat everyone with respect. A bully is no match to someone who has a good support network and a clear view of what is right and wrong. Finally, you can help your children become good friends and classmates who accept and help each other by creating an environment where differences are celebrated and bullying is not tolerated.