Kids are looking forward to a long summer filled with fun and adventure. Most parents, however, still have to work, which means their children will have a lot more free time on their hands. Whether kids are at summer camps, with babysitters, or at home with siblings, there tends to be less supervision which, can be concerning in regard to the potential for bully behavior. It’s never a fun subject, but one that needs to be addressed at least a few times a year.
First, we need to know what bullying is. It’s not always clearly defined. Dan Olweus, Professor of Psychology and leading world authority on problems of bullying and victimization, defines bullying in the following way: “A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself.”
Direct bullying is the easiest to detect. It includes hitting, kicking, shoving, name-calling, and using threatening or obscene gestures. Indirect bullying is much more surreptitious. Often bullies will get someone else to do the bullying for them. Rumor spreading, ostracizing, and Cyber-bullying (using email, social media sites and text messaging) can be particularly difficult for adults to detect. It helps to become “friends” with your children on their social media sites and peruse their phones for unwanted or inappropriate communications. It’s also a good idea to retrieve all electronic devices before bedtime. It may thwart a cyber-bully’s attempts and will undeniably lead to a better night’s sleep.
Like most things in life, signs of bullying and the roles people play are rarely clear-cut and when kids are involved in bullying, they often play more than one role. Kids can bully others, they can be bullied, or they may witness bullying. However, a child is involved, it’s imperative that they speak to a supervising adult. If that adult doesn’t intervene, the child should find another grownup and keep reporting the incidents until the bullying stops. Ideally, adults at camps or at home will give comfort, support and advice even if they can’t solve the problem directly or immediately.
You may not be with your children during the day, but you can still help prevent bullying. Checking in often with camp counselors or other adult supervisors is a good place to start. Also, talking with your kids and asking about friends or any concerns are proactive and preventative measures. If your child seems reluctant to open up to you, ask another responsible person that you, as a parent, trust to start the dialogue.
Most bullying happens when adults aren’t around; therefore, children need to know how to stand up for themselves. Advise your kids to look at the kid bullying and tell him or her assertively to stop in a calm, clear voice. If speaking up seems too hard or not safe, the best thing for anyone being victimized to do is to walk away and stay away.
There is no silver bullet to eradicate bullying but we can reduce existing bullying problems, prevent the development of new bullying and foster better relationships at school, at home and in summer camps by being well informed and involved.
For more information on the Olweus Bullying Prevention Programs, visit,