Bullying Prevention and Social Emotional Learning in Childhood and Adolescence

Childhood bullying — or peer victimization — is unwanted, repeated behavior directed at a child or group of children causing physical, mental, psychological, emotional and/or spiritual harm. Peer victimization can result in many short- and long-term consequences that affect health, learning and development. To understand and effectively respond to bullying, contextual factors such as peer group dynamics, modern technology and changing societal norms must be considered.

Social and emotional learning is an integral part of education and child development, and is one mechanism that schools use to prevent bullying. Through mindfulness techniques, social and emotional learning programs teach children competencies in self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision-making. When schools incorporate social and emotional learning into their curriculum, it has been shown to decrease bullying.

In this month’s Voices of Child Health in Chicago Parent Panel Survey Report, we asked Chicago parents from all 77 community areas whether they were concerned their children were bullied or bullied others, along with other questions about bullying such as whether they talk to their children about bullying and whether their child’s school engages in bullying prevention strategies.

Report Highlights

Read Full Report: Bullying Prevention and Social Emotional Learning in Childhood and Adolescence

  • Forty-six percent of Chicago parents were concerned that their child was a victim of bullying and 12% were concerned that their child bullied others.
  • Parents were most likely to seek help from teachers (53%) for help related to bullying.
  • Only 55% of parents said that their child’s school engaged in activities to build social skills.

Chicago Parents’ Concern about Bullying

In our sample, almost half (46%) of Chicago parents were concerned that their child was a victim of bullying. About one in eight parents (12%) were concerned that their child bullied others (Figure 1). This aligns with our previously released reports where bullying was a top concern for Chicago parents. Additionally, in a 2018 survey of Chicago public school students, 47% of Chicago 8th graders, 23% of Chicago 10th graders and 14% of Chicago 12th graders reported having ever been bullied at school during the past 12 months.

The vast majority of parents in our sample (87%) reported they have talked with their children about bullying and/or cyberbullying (Figure 1). Having an open dialogue with kids about bullying can help youth understand what bullying is, why it is harmful and how to respond. Additionally, when parents communicate with their children, meet their friends and are academically encouraging, bullying is less likely.

Nearly three quarters (72%) of parent respondents agreed that parents should monitor their child’s use of social media platforms frequently (Figure 1). In a national survey of U.S. parents, 60% said they had personally monitored their teens’ social media profile. Parents can play an effective role in preventing cyberbullying by monitoring behaviors, while still allowing their children to independently and age-appropriately use social media.

School Engagement in Bullying Prevention

In addition to parents, teachers play a valuable role in preventing, identifying and responding to bullying behavior within the classroom. Teachers were the most common individuals parents said they went to for help if they were concerned about bullying for their child. Among parents who were concerned about bullying for their child, 53% sought help from a teacher, 36% from a school administrator, 33% from a school social worker, 20% from a mental health provider, and 16% from their child’s doctor or clinician (Figure 2). Overall, among parents who were concerned their child was bullied or bullied others, 81% of parents sought help in some way.

When parents were asked which bullying prevention activities they would like their child’s school to engage in, about one-half of parents wish their child’s school would teach parents about the warning signs of bullying (52%) and provide teachers with training about bullying prevention (51%). Our findings suggest that parents are eager to learn and be part of prevention efforts when it comes to their children’s health, safety and well-being with communication, coordination and support from their child’s school.

Social and Emotional Learning

Schoolwide social and emotional learning programs help to prevent bullying by promoting and enhancing students’ connection to school, positive behavior and attitudes, and academic achievement. In our survey, only 55% of parents said that their child’s school engaged in activities to build social skills that can help prevent bullying, whereas 11% said their child’s school did not engage in social skills, and 34% said they were not sure.

Effective school-family partnerships promote two-way communication between parents and teachers to better incorporate classroom curriculum, instruction and practices into school, family and community activities. By consistently teaching and modeling social and emotional learning, parents and teachers can help foster the social and emotional competencies that help to prevent bullying among children and adolescents, as well as combat its negative effects.