How do you talk with kids about bullying?

Photo by Izzy

As someone who keeps a pulse on adolescent issues, it’s always interesting to see what catches media and research attention in particular seasons. While we haven’t heard a lot recently about cutting or other forms of self-injury (though I doubt they’ve gone away), bullying has captured more attention over the past year.

I think this is a good thing, as bullying is an old problem that doesn’t seem to be going away. While media attention will likely move on shortly to a new issue, it’s important in the mean time to consider how this attention can help shape our responses in youth ministry.

According to a recent online survey of young women ages 16-21, nearly two-thirds of young women say they have been bullied. What’s more, 78 percent say bullying is worse than parents realize.

Among other findings from the 2012 Harlequin Teen Love is Louder Foundation survey (an online survey of 1,504 young women):

  • Three-quarters of respondents say they are bullied about their looks or clothing
  • Over one third of those who have been bullied contribute to the cycle by bullying others
  • The most common forms of bullying among females are name-calling and gossiping
  • Only half of those surveyed have talked with their parents about bullying (and this self-report may be much higher than reality)

If you haven’t had a conversation with teenagers recently about bullying, run these findings past them and see what rings true. In particular, you might explore why they think teenagers are hesitant to tell their parents about bullying, and ask what might help young people speak up more often. Whether bullying continues to capture the popular spotlight or not, chances are it isn’t going away any time soon.

How do you talk with girls (or boys) about bullying? What have you learned?