A significant amount of research has been conducted on bullying; however, there exists a dearth of research on parents and bullying. Parents play a paramount role in a child’s development. Since bullying has become increasingly prevalent over the last decade, it is extremely important that parent be well prepared to help their children who may be affected by bullying as either bullies, victims, or witnesses. The purpose of this study was to examine parents’ views and knowledge of bullying, including cyberbullying and social media usage. Participants completed questionnaires assessing their views and knowledge about bullying and its impact on children. The results demonstrate that most parents are aware bullying is a prevalent issue in today’s society. Additionally, the findings suggest that parents need to be more aware of the specific ways that bullying may be affecting their children. Furthermore, results demonstrate that parents who are knowledgeable about the prevalence of cyberbullying are more likely to talk to their children about internet safety and are more familiar with the social media sites their children use. The results provide some preliminary findings that are helpful in beginning to understand more about parents and how knowledgeable they are about bullying, its prevalence in society, and its impact on children.
Keywords: bullying, parents, social media
How Much Do Parents Know About Bullying?
A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself (Olweus, 1993). The goal of bullying is to gain power over and dominate other individuals. There are four forms of bullying: physical (including hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing, stealing, and destruction of property), verbal (such as taunting, malicious teasing, name calling, and making threats), psychological/relational (including spreading rumors, manipulating social relationships, exclusion from a peer group, extortion, and intimidation) and cyber-bullying ( using the Internet, cell phones, social media or other technology to spread rumors, intimidate, threaten or humiliate) (Cohn and Canter, 2003). An imbalance of power, whether real or imagined, is a key component of bullying. Bullies engage in hurtful behavior against those who cannot defend themselves because of size, strength, psychological resilience, physical or mental limitation, or social status (Olweus, 1993).
Bullying is an issue of great concern for today’s youth, parents, and educators. According to the Department of Education, 1 out of 3 students is bullied at school daily; 160,000 students are absent from school daily due to the fear of being bullied. It is estimated that 13 million American children are teased, taunted and physically assaulted by their peers, making bullying the most common form of violence our nation’s youth experienced in 2012. Schools are no longer the safe haven that they used to be.
Parents play a key role in bully prevention. In order for parents to be effective in this capacity, they must be knowledgeable and well informed about bullying. If parents are not well informed they may not correctly identify certain behaviors as bullying, falsely thinking that what they are witnessing is just “kids being kids’. Despite research such as that conducted by Wolke, Copeland, Angold & Costello, (2013) which suggests that bullies as well as the victims of bullying are at risk for psychiatric problems in childhood that persist into adulthood, some parents may still underestimate the impact of bullying believing that bullying is just a part of normal childhood or that it will make their child tougher in the long run. Furthermore, Tfofi & Farrington’s (2011) report on bullying notes that only about 20 to 30% of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying making it very probable that parents may not be aware of their child’s involvement in bullying, either as a witness, victim, or bully.
Even when parents are aware that their child has experienced bullying, they may not be well prepared to effectively help. A survey conducted by Sherer and Nickerson (2010) revealed that practicing school psychologists perceived parental involvement in bullying prevention and intervention to be relatively ineffective. The authors further noted that increasing the efficacy of parent involvement was listed as an area in need of improvement by school psychologists who participated in the study.
A significant amount of research has been conducted on bullying; however, there exists a dearth of research on parents and bullying. Parents play a paramount role in a child’s development. Since bullying has become increasingly prevalent over the last decade, it is extremely important that parent be well prepared to help their children who may be affected by bullying as either bullies, victims, or witnesses. The purpose of this study was to examine parents’ views and knowledge of bullying, including how they would help a child who was being bullied. In addition, cultural differences between parents of Korean, Hispanic, and American ethnicity were examined.
The study included 58 participants (16 Male & 42 Female) with a mean age of 39.7 years (SD= 7.1). All participants were elementary school parents recruited from the Lindbergh Elementary School in Palisades Park, New Jersey where the median children per household was 2.0. The majority of participants (20) were Hispanic, (18) White, (3) African American, and (17) were Other. The survey was distributed to parents of children in 3rd through 7th grade. Only 19 parents had ever participated in a bully prevention program. ‘
A survey, Parents’ Attitudes About Bullying, created for this study by the primary author, an applied developmental psychologist who has over 20 years working with children and adolescents, along with an advanced Psychology student was used for the study. The survey consisting of 15 questions answered on a Likert Scale (1=Strongly Disagree 4=Strongly Agree) and three open-ended questions relating to social media and impacts of bullying were used in the study. Sample Likert Scale questions included “I am familiar with the social media sites my child(ren) use.”, and ” I think cyber-bullying is easy to stop, just have kids turn off their social media “, “I think cyber- bullying may have a more negative impact than physical bullying” and
“I am aware that bullying may lead to suicide “. Open ended questions included: “How do you think bullying affects children?”. “What do you consider to be bullying?” and “What would you do if your child(ren) told you he/she was being bullied?”
A socio-biographic form was also used to obtain information regarding participants’ ethnicity, age, and number of children. The socio-biographic form along with the survey were translated to Spanish and Korean for participants who were more comfortable in those languages.
IRB approval was obtained for this study. Prior to completion of the survey, all participants signed a consent form in either English, Spanish, or Korean. Surveys were distributed to the participants in the same language as their consent form. The majority of the participants completed the survey at the end of a parent meeting at the school; participants took about 15 minutes to complete the survey. Some parents chose to complete the survey at home and returned it to the school on the following day. Upon completion of the surveys, participants were given debriefing forms and their names were entered into a raffle for a $25-dollar gift card.
58.6 % of the parents agreed or strongly agreed that parents should monitor their children’s social media activity. 79.4% agreed or strongly agreed that they have spoken to their children about internet safety; and 74.2% agreed or strongly agreed that they are familiar with the social media sites their children use.
Awareness of Bullying and its Impact
A large percentage of the parents (81%) think cyberbullying is a prevalent issue in today’s society. A smaller percentage (41.4%) do not think their children worry about bullying and 65.5% do not think their child has witnessed bullying. In addition, 46.5% disagree or strongly disagree that cyberbullying may have a more negative impact than physical bullying. 69.0% agreed or strongly agreed that bullying may lead to suicide.
Bullying Intervention with their Children
A small percentage (32.8%) of the parents have attended a bullying prevention program and 72.4 % of the parents reported that they have spoken to their children about bullying. In addition, 82.2% believe that their child would feel comfortable talking to them if they were being bullied and 69.0 % strongly agree or agree that they would know if their child was being bullied.
Awareness of Bullying and its Impact
The results provide some preliminary findings that are helpful in beginning to understand more about parents and how knowledgeable they are about bullying, its prevalence in society, and its impact on children. The results demonstrate that most parents are aware bullying is a prevalent issue in today’s society. Nonetheless, only 41% believe their children worry about bullying and 66% do not think their child has witnessed bullying in school. These findings suggest that parents needed to be more aware of the specific ways that bullying may be affecting their children. Only 33% of the participants have attended a bully prevention or education program which suggests that schools and community centers should make such programs more available to parents.
The results also demonstrate that parents are taking an active role in teaching their children internet safety, becoming familiar with the social media sites their children use, and monitoring their children’s social media activity. These findings suggest that parents are taking a proactive role in what may be an essential bully prevention approach.
The results also demonstrate that parents who are knowledgeable about the prevalence of cyberbullying are more likely to talk to their children about internet safety. In addition, they are more familiar with the social media sites their children use. This further demonstrates the need for more parent education programs focusing on bullying. The more informed parents are, the more likely they are to engage in proactive efforts toward protecting their children against bullying.
Due most likely to the limited sample size, cultural differences were not obtained. This deserves further research attention.
Parents play a key role in bully prevention. It is imperative that parents be knowledgeable about bullying and its impact on children as this will put them in a better position to help their children deal with this prevalent issue. This study suggests that while parents are somewhat knowledgeable about bullying they may not have a realistic impression of how bulling may specifically be impacting their children.
Cohn, A., & Canter, A. (2003). Bullying: Facts for Schools and Parents. National Association of Schools and Psychologists.
Sherer, Y. C., & Nickerson, A. B. (2010). Anti-bullying practices in American schools: Perspectives of school psychologists. Psychology in the Schools, 47, 217–229. doi:10.1002/pits.20466
Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Cambridge, MA:
Ttofi, M.M. & Farrington, D.P. (2011). Effectiveness of school-based programs to reduce bullying: a systematic and meta-analytic review. Journal of Experimental Criminology,7(1), 27-5.
Wolke D.1., Copeland, W.E., Angold A. & Costello, E.J. (2013). Impact of bullying in childhood on adult health, wealth, crime, and social outcomes. Psychological Science, 24(10), 1958-1970.