Macaroni Kid Talks to the Founder of Act Like You Matter

By Courtney Daly-Pavone April 26, 2018

“160,000 kids per day do not attend school for fear of being bullied.”-U.S. Dept. of Justice

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, "More than one out of every five students report being bullied."  I spoke to Amy Jones Anichini Founder and President of Act Like You Matter a California non-profit that promotes the well-being of children so every child feels accepted and free to be themselves without being bullied. 

COURTNEY DALY-PAVONE: There is a lot of talk about bullying these days. Has bullying gotten worse in your opinion?

AMY JONES ANICHINI: It sure seems like it’s become worse in the past decade or so, doesn’t it? I’ve researched this very question, and the short answer is, “Yes,” but there’s much more to it than a simple yes. Let’s discuss this in parts: (1) Cyber-bullying: It’s no secret that with the increased use of mobile devices and the introduction of social media sites in the past 10-20 years, a new form of bullying appeared: cyber-bullying. Kids and teens who used to be able to escape face-to-face bullying behaviors by going home, no longer have that safe zone; aggressors continue the abuse via text or on social media sites. Then, when the target of bullying returns to school the next day, they are bullied about what was said to or about them on social media. So, yes, bullying has increased due to cyber-bullying.

(2) Face-to-face bullying: The numbers show that face-to-face bullying has increased over the past decade, but those statistics are based on students’ reporting of incidents of bullying. So, has face-to-face bullying actually increased, or does it just appear to have increased because more students are feeling comfortable reporting bullying incidents? It’s clear, as I described above, that because of cyber-bullying, face-to-face bullying has increased somewhat. But, if you remove cyber-bullying from the equation, it’s not abundantly clear that in-person bullying has increased. What has increased, for sure, is students’ awareness of bullying, and that’s extremely important, in my opinion. Due to media coverage, bullying research, and anti-bullying programs/education, more students have come to understand what bullying is and the devastating, long-term consequences it can have. Students now realize that this behavior isn’t “just kids being kids.” They now understand that they don’t have to accept this form of abuse as part of growing up; they can and should do something about it.

How can a school prevent bullying?

1. Include character education as part of their curriculum to help students understand and
develop positive characteristics such as empathy, respect, compassion, fairness, caring,
integrity, honesty, self-discipline, and resilience. These personality characteristics are at
the heart of positive and healthy communication.

2. Establish a protocol for reporting incidents of bullying to the administration that clearly
communicates to students which adults they should report bullying too. Students need to
know who they can turn to for help.

3. Have a section in Student Handbook defining bullying behavior, stating the school’s
position on bullying, expectations for students’ behavior, and course of action for how
to report incidents of bullying.

4. Have each student and a parent or guardian sign an annual anti-bullying statement,
which should include a definition of bullying and expectations about acceptable student
behavior, including positive and respectful communication (verbal, written, and electronic.)

5. Set up lunch clubs for students with various interests or other ways for students to find
new friends and connect with people who have similar interests.

6. Set the tone that your teachers and staff are resources for your students: let your
students know that you are there for them, and they can tell you anything.

How can a student prevent bullying?

1. If you’ve witnessed bullying or have been the target of bullying, confide in an adult who
you trust. Many students who we’ve worked with have said that the moment they
confided in an adult about what was happening, things started to get better. When you
confide in an adult, you’re reporting, not tattling; that’s an important distinction. And if
the first adult you tell doesn’t do anything about the bullying behavior, tell another
adult who you trust and, if needed, another. You will eventually find someone who will
listen and help you problem-solve – don’t give up!

2. Notice what’s happening around you. If you see someone being mistreated, there are
lots of things you can besides (or in addition to) reporting it. Research has shown that
when an observer intervenes during bullying, the bullying stops within 10 seconds 57%
of the time. Think about that! It’s pretty empowering.

3. What if you’re not comfortable intervening when you see a student bullying another
student? That’s OK. Just wait until the aggressive student leaves, approach the targeted
student, and tell them you saw what happened. Let them know that you don’t approve
of what that student did and ask how you can help them.

4. What if your friends are bullying other people? If you don’t like the way your friends are
treating other people, do something about it! Report their behavior to an adult. You
could also tell your friends that you don’t think it’s cool to be mean to other people.
Consider that it might be time to make new friends; the easiest way to do that is by
getting involved in doing things you like to do such as sports, art, music, etc.

Sometimes bullying is hard to identify, ex. children pretend they don't like you. Is that bullying?

With all of the talk in recent years about bullying, the term is sometimes over-used.  defines bullying as, “Unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” So, what does “real or perceived power imbalance” mean? It means that the aggressive child is in some way more powerful than the targeted child, or the targeted child views them as being more powerful. That power can be anything at all such as physical size, strength, popularity, or knowing something private or potentially embarrassing about the target. You’ve heard me use the term “target” to refer to a child who is being bullied. I never use the word “victim” when I refer to the target of bullying. This distinction is at the heart of the message I communicate to children and teens through Act Like You Matter. A victim is defined as an injured person: a sufferer; a casualty; someone who was harmed by someone else. On the other hand, a target is defined as a person who was selected as the object of an aggressive action. There’s nothing in the definition of a target that suggests the person actually ends up being harmed – that is yet to be determined and depends on many factors. The perpetrator of verbal or social bullying can select a target and aim at them as much as they like; however, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the target will be harmed. A target realizes that they have some power!

Bullying Is a Power Imbalance Cruel Behavior is Repeated- Research On The Effects of Bullying

-Students who are bullied are at increased risk for poor school adjustment, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression (Center for Disease Control, 2015).

-Students who are both targets of bullying and engage in bullying behavior are at risk for both mental health and behavior problems (Center for Disease Control, 2015).

-Students who experience bullying are twice as likely as non-bullied peers to experience health effects such as headaches and stomachaches (Gini & Pozzoli, 2013). 

Theatre of Peace, a division of Act Like You Matter, runs anti-bullying programs for K-12 in San Diego County 

Contact: Amy Jones Anichini Email: 

Tel. 760-208-4505

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