bullying, antibullying, students,

With back-to-school around the corner, bullying concerns are on the minds of parents of minority children. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, cyberbullying has increased, and offline bullying continues to be an issue in schools, especially for minority students. It’s up to parents, teachers, and administrators to pay attention and brainstorm ways to curb this problem in school and online. 

Minority students often experience a level of bullying that differs from their white peers. According to studies, racial and ethnic minorities are more likely to experience alienation and loneliness,” says Leah Kyaio. a Professional Development Trainer, specializing in the area of diversity and inclusion. 

“As the diversity of schools continues to expand, inclusion takes more and more of a front seat in conversations. This raises the stakes of managing issues like cyberbullying.” 

Minority students are more likely to experience racial microaggressions in school and online by their white peers. Racial microaggressions are described as “racial indignities” and are  incessant, subtle forms of racism that can be verbal, behavioral or environmental. 

In an article by The Conversation, social and personality psychology scholar, Iloradanon Efimoff, writes, “Microaggressions may seem small or “micro,” but as incessant forms of racism, they can have big impacts on mental health, physical health and social life. The cumulative impact of daily hassles is linked to chronic health conditions like digestive problems, mental health conditions like depression and anxiety and even death. Some researchers have even found that daily hassles have a larger impact on health than major life events given their relentless nature.”

The Internet is Forever 

Bullying online is harder to control, and in most cases the things posted online are out there forever. 

Emerging science suggests people’s brains are not done developing until age 25. Kids and teens often show a lack of understanding of the permanency of posts online. As a result, they often have little connection to the idea that what they type today may come back in not-so-good ways later. 

Leah Kyaio, personal development trainer and CEO of With Respect, LLC. (Photo courtesy Leah Kyaio)

As the CEO of With Respect, an organization which provides unique expertise, experience, and tools for engaging resistance within the workforce and in schools, Leah Kyaio shares her expertise on the issue of cyberbullying and what parents and teachers can do to address this issue with children. 

“As adults, it is important to remember the trauma that bullying and prejudice can cause and recognize how much more vulnerable minority students become in the virtual world. This can be one of our primary motivations to teach all students how to be respectful,” says Leah.

“It’s integral for quelling bullying to open conversations regarding equity, acceptance, and understanding various minority experiences. The more students understand one another and listen to the stories of their peers, the more compassion and empathy they learn and demonstrate.” 

Parents and teachers should include how to ask questions and stay curious as well as learning the antidote to the language of shame, blame, and judgment, Leah advises. Emphasizing how words, online and off, can hurt and how to state opinions without making enemies is a crucial skill to teach children effective communication and reduce bullying.

“Educational institutions are becoming increasingly more diverse related to sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, immigration status, gender identity, and creed. Institutions need to have a secure plan that includes compassion and education to decrease instances of bullying online and off and to support students in learning to manage their virtual experience with respect and dignity,” Leah adds.  

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bullying, antibullying, students,
Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Preventative and restorative activities to promote emotionally safe environments 

In an article about school mental health by The Conversation, psychologists Amy Briesch and Sandra M. Chafouleas share four key activities schools can implement to reduce bullying and violence in schools. 

  1. Promoting connected communities: Research has found that when students feel more comfortable at school, and feel like they belong there, they are less likely to engage in aggressive behavior at school – even when they have experienced violence at home. Key activities such as group decision-making, teamwork-building and conflict resolution – often led by teachers with support from school mental health personnel – can help build this type of community.
  2. Teaching social-emotional skills: School mental health professionals can help to ensure all students are taught strategies to identify their feelings, calm themselves and connect with others. Students with these skills not only have fewer conduct problems and less emotional distress at school but get better grades as well
  3. Intervening early: Schools are in a unique position to provide proactive support when data suggests widespread need. For example, rates of anxiety and depression in youth have doubled since the onset of the pandemic, such that as many as 20% of students in a classroom may be affected. Targeted therapeutic supports delivered in small group formats by school mental health personnel can help prevent the development of future disorders.
  4. Providing accessible mental health support: Schools can be a primary source for mental health support for young people in crisis. This includes both providing direct services in school and coordinating care with community providers. For many students, especially students of color and those with fewer financial resources, school may be the only accessible way to receive mental health treatment.

Parents of minority students can advocate for their children by bringing up these issues with school administrators and working together to implement the preventative and restorative activities in schools. At home, parents can continue to talk to their children about bullying and racial microaggressions, provide emotional support and continue to educate on the power of words, teaching compassion and empathy.

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Author

  • Victoria Arena is a writer and student, passionate about writing, literature, and women's studies. She is bilingual, fluent in both English and Spanish. She holds an Associates in Fine Arts for Creative Writing, and a Bachelor's in English Literature from Montclair State University.

By Victoria Arena

Victoria Arena is a writer and student, passionate about writing, literature, and women's studies. She is bilingual, fluent in both English and Spanish. She holds an Associates in Fine Arts for Creative Writing, and a Bachelor's in English Literature from Montclair State University.

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