Teaching 21st Century Kids How To Respond To Bullying

Kids can’t learn Algebra or learn to read in one day, so why would they learn how to handle bullying in one day?

Practice makes perfect!

Kids can’t learn Algebra or learn to read in one day, so why would they learn how to handle bullying in one day?

Are you a teacher? Are you a parent?

I bet most of you have heard one child say this to another, “You are so annoying!”

Those words are mean, negative and hurtful.

  • Teaching kids what to do in a bullying situation is not an easy task.
  • Teaching kids what to do in age-appropriate conflict is not an easy task.

The goal in my daily work is to teach kids and teens what to do and say in a situation that is mean, negative or bullying.  In order to do that, we must provide the opportunity to allow kids to role play and act out situations they are continuously exposed to.  In my experience, a successful way to teach kids how to have good character is to use real life situations that kids are exposed to on a daily basis.

So how do schools tackle this idea of teaching kids how to have good character?  How do you do it with your students or your own children?

How do schools typically teach character education? In my travels around the U.S. and Canada, it seems that school districts address character and behavior at the elementary school level and sometimes in 6th or 7th grade. Typically, once students reach the upper grades of middle school and high school, academic requirements leave little or no time to practice character education. So, I am asking for your help!

Many middle schools and high schools reach out to speakers who will present to students in large groups, in the auditorium. Does this work? Does it solve the problem?  Does it create a school with a friendly atmosphere and open arms to newcomers? Does it create a safe school or a positive school climate?

In my experience, exposing students to a presentation in an auditorium or showing them a movie is not a solution. I believe a presentation, assembly or movie can be an introduction to the problem…see, most kids don’t even see their negative words and actions as a problem.  Most teens see nothing wrong with calling someone annoying, especially if in fact THEY ARE ANNOYING!

One-time presentations or speakers who tell sad stories of suicides do not teach kids how to solve the problems of mean, negative and bullying behavior they may be exposed to on a daily basis.  This single form of anti-bullying education, will not teach your students how to create a positive school climate, however, in combination with a curriculum and small group instruction, a presentation can be good for:

  • building awareness of mean, negative, hurtful behaviors in their surroundings-both online and off line
  • communicating our expectations of their behavior
  • laying out the consequences.

If your school district is searching for 21st Century Character Education, you must move away from the theory that kids learn by being lectured to.  These methods of education do not give your students a “solution” for ending bullying or mean, negative hurtful behavior in your school environment.

If our schools and society want teens to be able to handle conflict and stand up for what they know is right, we have to teach them exact words and actions they can use when they find themselves in a sticky situation.  In my experience, kids are able “do the right thing” when they have had plenty of practice saying it and hearing it. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition …

Generation Text Online’s posters are a tool you can give your students.  These posters help students to envision themselves in a real life, age appropriate situation and help them to respond in a way that is nice, supportive and positive.  Our posters, hung in multiple places in your school are just one tool for your students’ tool box!

But we need your help!!  Generation Text Online would like your feedback!

One answer or one response is not going to be right for every student. Different kids feel comfortable with different words.  Some words or actions may be more natural than others.  A student’s response may differ depending on “who” they are saying it to.

Please comment on this blog to let me know what you would teach a student to say when hearing these words.  Before you collaborate with us, remember two things about the mission of Generation Text Online.

  1. No response should be mean, negative or hurtful.
  2. Our curriculum teaches kids to stand up for the victim, not the bully.  We want to teach the friend or bystander what to say to the victim, or person who is the recipient of these words.

The goal of this blog post is to continue to offer parents and educators the opportunity to understand what goes on in the on-line lives of children in this generation. It allows you to consider alternate viewpoints and reflect upon your own approach to raising your child. By no means are my thoughts and reflections the ONLY way to address these concerns.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Jerri Karel August 13, 2012 at 06:59 PM
I am involved with Prevent Bullying Now which is a not for profit program that provides a curriculum that through active participation empowers students to learn about who, why and what to do about bullying. You can view the program at preventbullyingnow.org or give me a call at 914 275-1236. Jerri Karel, LMSW
Jerri Karel August 13, 2012 at 06:59 PM


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