Five Activities to Reduce Bullying in Your School

October is National Bullying Prevention Month and a time to bring awareness to bullying and its harmful effects.

Everyone is affected by bullying.

Students who bully others are more likely to demonstrate violent or criminal behavior and abuse drugs and alcohol. Victims of bullying can experience depression, loneliness, and anxiety — all of which can last into adulthood. Even students who witness bullying have been shown to suffer higher rates of drug and alcohol use, mental health problems, and school absences. Additionally, bullying negatively affects the academic performance of all students involved.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) can prevent and reduce the effects of bullying. For students who bully others, SEL can decrease aggressive and controlling behavior and increase their ability to be respectful and kind. For victims of bullying, SEL can improve confidence and self-worth and reduce social withdrawal. SEL can also positively transform a school’s climate and culture and help all students learn the skills needed to cooperate, empathize, and form healthy relationships with others.

Here are five ways SEL can reduce bullying. Explore these lessons, activities, and resources with your students this month — and all year — to act against bullying.

Build Strong Teacher-Student Relationships

It should come as no surprise that school safety and incidents of bullying can be reduced when educators foster caring and supportive relationships with students. Poor or unhealthy relationships are a major risk factor for poor academic performance and increase the likelihood a student will engage in negative behaviors such as bullying. Strong student-teacher relationships have been shown to positively impact students’ behavior and academic achievement. These benefits are long-lasting and can help students become healthy, productive members of society.

Take Action: Prioritize strengthening relationships with your students. Show them that you care about them and create consistent structure, rules, and disciplinary practices.

Build Peer-to-Peer Friendships

Both students who bully and victims of bullying typically have fewer friends than their peers, so they can benefit from learning how to create healthy relationships. SEL teaches students how to respect, empathize, and cooperate with others. It can also increase students’ confidence, social engagement, and relationship skills. Teaching these skills to all students can improve social relationships and reduce negative social hierarchies that promote exclusion, fear, and resentment.

Take Action: There are many resources to help foster healthy relationships among students. We’ve listed a few of our favorites to get you started.

Create Safe Spaces for Your Students

Some of your students likely come from difficult backgrounds. Poverty, poor relationships at home, and domestic violence can contribute to bullying behavior. By involving students in creating a safe, caring environment in your classroom or afterschool program, you can teach them that they have the power to spread kindness — even if it is lacking in other parts of their lives.

Teach Empathy

Incidents of bullying are reduced when students demonstrate empathy toward others. Students need to learn how to identify and understand the feelings of others. Strengthening their perspective-taking skills can lead to an increased ability to show kindness and compassion. Increased empathy can also lead to decreased aggressive behavior, both verbal and physical.

Take Action: Try these 27 activities to teach empathy to pre-K through 12th grade students.

Teach Student Bystanders How They Can Help

Students witness acts of bullying every day. Many feel powerless against it. They may not know how to stop bullying or fear that if they act against it, the bully will target them or they will lose social status. To effectively stop bullying, schools need to create a school culture and climate that actively stands against bullying. An important part of this is giving bystanders the skills they need to stand up to bullying.

Take Action: Here are some resources to teach students how they can speak out and act against bullying. Use these lessons to improve students’ social and emotional skills and help them identify and act on bullying when they see it.

Bullying is far too widespread, with a negative impact on all who are involved. Schools can reduce bullying with SEL. Building students’ social and emotional skills can give students the tools to end bullying and promote a positive school culture where everyone feels valued and safe.

Looking for more resources on how SEL can reduce bullying? Watch our webinar, Using Near-Peer Mentors to Progress Monitor & Foster Social and Emotional Skills, and contact our SEL advisors to chat about ways you can reduce bullying incidents with SEL.