October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital CEO Lidia Soto-Harmon discusses the issue and shares advice for parents and girls.
Nation-wide, one third of girls ages 12-18 say that they have been bullied at school.
Bullying is not a new phenomenon, but technology has made the issue increasingly prevalent, particularly among girls. While boys tend to engage in physically aggressive behavior, bullying among girls manifests as gossip, exclusion, teasing, and cyberbullying.
In fact, 85 percent of middle school students say they’ve been cyberbullied at least once, according to Girl Scouts of the USA. This harassment via text messaging and social media starts early, and becomes worse for girls during the middle school years.
These numbers become personal, when I think about the intelligent, kind and hard-working girls we serve at Girl Scouts. It’s alarming to know that more than 160,000 students miss school each day because they are fearful of being targeted by bullies.
So what can we do in this fight against bullying?
Developing girls’ social and emotional skills reduces aggression, and leads to higher academic achievement. When girls feel safe and secure, they can better focus on their academic success. We also know that peer intervention works: more than half of the time, when peers intervene, the bullying stops within ten seconds.
Bullying prevention programs needs to start in our schools and communities, but it has to work at the individual level too. That’s where Girl Scouts comes in.
The Girl Scout Journey Amaze for girls in grades 6-8 is designed to help girls maneuvering through complex world of relationships and find true friendships and plenty of confidence. When combined with the BFF (or Be a Friend First) Bully Prevention program, girls gain the tools and confidence they need to safely resolve conflicts. Girl Scout Cadettes and their leaders have access to this program, and I am happy to announce that this year, through our Young Leaders Program (college and young professionals), we are making the program available in schools in Washington DC, Prince George’s County, Montgomery County and Frederick County.
In fact, many of our Gold Award Girl Scouts have created take-action projects that address and reduce bullying in their schools. Their projects continue to build an atmosphere in their schools and communities where bullying is not tolerated.
As parents and troop leaders, I also urge you to learn the signs of bullying.
- Children who are being harassed often become quiet and withdrawn, and may try to come up with reasons to avoid going to school.
- Some children may exhibit changes in eating habits and declining grades.
In many cases, children hesitate to tell adults they are being bullied. It is so important to keep lines of communications open, and make sure your daughter knows she can come to you with any problems she experiences with her peers.
I am proud of the work of our volunteer adults at Girl Scouts, who take the time to mentor and listen to girls. They are often the go-to adult for many girls.
You can help change the life of a girl by volunteering with Girl Scouts.
The solution starts with you. We owe it to our girls to do everything in our power to provide a safe and supportive environment for them to learn, thrive and become the leaders I know they can be.
Lidia Soto-Harmon is the CEO of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital. To learn more, visit the Girl Scouts website. For more information on the Young Leaders Program and BFF, contact Jinny Jang at firstname.lastname@example.org.