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The basics of bullying today

Bullying is increasingly common online via social media.

Bullying is increasingly common online via social media. Photo Credit: iStock

Despite the prevalence of campaigns to stop or stomp it out, bullying is still very much a reality.

As a clinical psychologist with the Child Mind Institute, Jamie Howard treats both victims of bullying and the perpetrators. She also works in schools across the city to help students affected by bullying through the institute's trauma service.

We spoke with Howard before her discussion on bullying at the 92nd Street Y on Sept. 29.


What does bullying look like today?

I see bullying via social media quite a lot; that tends to be the forum where teenagers spend most of their time. I also hear it in school settings. Some difficulties with friends and other kids is normal. When it becomes repeated and starts to have a really negative effect on a child, that's when we call it bullying.

How can you tell if your child is being bullied?

If a child is suddenly less interested in going to school and really prefers to stay at home, I would consider what's going on at school that's making them want to stay at home. If they're not spending time with the same friends that they used to, I would find out why. Sadness or anxiety, seeming really on edge ... could indicate a social problem.

With all the focus on bullying, why do you think it still happens?

I think it's always happened, and it always will. Some meanness is to be expected. That's how kids learn how to function socially -- they make mistakes. I think that this is getting a lot of attention lately because bullying is happening over the Internet and over social media, and we don't have much experience with that and preparing kids to cope with that.

Do you work with bullies too?

I have. Friendship skills are a good indicator of a child's health and development. If your child is being bullied or is a bully, there's something that warrants intervention. So even if they're being a bully, that shows that they're having some significant difficulties with their friendship skills.

What is typically recommended to stop bullying?

Usually we use some cognitive behavioral strategies. Part of that is to practice effective communication and assertiveness skills. We'll have kids role play and practice throwing their shoulders back, keeping their heads high and saying in a loud voice, "Stop it," or, "I don't like the way you're talking to me. You can't talk to me that way." And then for kids who are doing the bullying, giving them more explicit guidelines on what's acceptable and what's not is important.

What are effective measures schools can take to prevent bullying?

There are a few curricula that are evidence-based -- the Bully Busters approach is one of them -- that are designed to be implemented by schools. There's also some new research showing that mindfulness can be really helpful as an antidote to bullying.

What might that look like? 

With little ones, mindfulness is one thing at a time in the moment. As you develop that mindfulness muscle as you get older, it can help prevent you from saying something flippantly without realizing the effect it's going to have on someone because you're present and aware of what you're doing.

"Recognizing Bullying" is Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. at the 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave., 212-415-5500. Tickets starting at $38.


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