On February 23rd, Pink Shirt Day shines a spotlight on bullying and what parents, schools and communities can do about it.
The statistics are disturbing:
- At least 1 in 3 adolescent students has reported being bullied.
- Almost 50% of Canadian parents believe their child has been a victim of bullying.
- Bullying occurs once every 7 minutes on the playground and once every 25 minutes in the classroom.
- 1 in 10 Canadian children experiences online harassment, with girls more likely to be victims.
But, there is at least one encouraging statistic:
- In most cases, bullying stops within 10 seconds when peers intervene or do not support the bullying behaviour.
Whether bullying is verbal, social, physical or cyber, it can have a devastating effect on a child. So every year since 2007, on the last Wednesday in February, Pink Shirt Day shines a light on the issue of bullying by aiming to create a kinder, more inclusive world.
The day was inspired by an act of kindness in a small Nova Scotia town when two Grade 12 students took a stand after a younger student was bullied for wearing a pink shirt to school. They bought 50 pink shirts and handed them out to their classmates as a show of support for the student. But news got around, and in addition to those 50 shirts, hundreds more students showed up wearing pink. The bullying stopped.
Since then, Pink Shirt Day has been celebrated around the world in some 180 countries. In addition, a 2012 declaration by the United Nations named May 4th as U.N. Anti-Bullying Day and UNESCO declared the first Thursday in November as the International Day Against Violence and Bullying at School including Cyberbullying.
So what can parents do if their child is being bullied, has witnessed someone being bullied - or their child is the bully? The Red Cross offers some practical approaches:
- Build your child’s self-esteem. Value their contributions and achievements.
- If your child is socially isolated at school, get them involved in community activities.
- Teach your children that if they see someone being bullied, they should not watch, laugh or join in.
- Help kids see the value of offering empathy and support to those who are bullied.
- Work with your school to educate others about the problem of bullying.
- Pay attention to the relationships in your children’s peer groups. Ensure all children are included and address inappropriate behaviours.
- Model respectful behaviours at home and in your daily interactions.
For children who are online and/or have a cell phone:
- Familiarize yourself with your child’s online activities. Learn about the websites, blogs, chat rooms and cyber lingo they are using.
- Keep the computer in a common area so you can monitor activities. Talk to your children about what is acceptable behaviour online and offline.
- Recognize that online communication is an important social aspect in your child’s life. Do not automatically remove their online privileges if you find out about a cyberbullying experience.
- Report incidents of online harassment, physical threats and bullying that occur over your child’s cell phone to your local police.
The Red Cross has helpful tip sheets for parents about how to deal with bullying, which can be found here.
We here at Thinkamajigs believe in, support, and encourage a kind and inclusive environment for all children. Lift each other up!