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How an Involved Parent Can Help Prevent Bullying

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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Today we have the last of three reports on bullying. Last week we shared some of your comments on this issue. Now, we talk to a researcher who presented a study this week at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Vancouver, Canada.

Rashmi Shetgiri is a pediatrician at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Children's Medical Center Dallas.

RASHMI SHETGIRI: "There's about thirty percent of U.S. children are involved in bullying, and the latest numbers we have is about thirteen percent of them are bullies, eleven percent as victims and then six percent as both bullies and victims."

The new study led by Doctor Shetgiri shows that parents could help prevent bullying by improving communication and involvement with their children. The study identified factors that seem to increase or decrease the risk that a child will be a bully.

RASHMI SHETGIRI: "Children who have emotional or developmental problems or who have mothers who have poor mental health are more likely to be bullies. And older children and children who live in homes where their primary language is not English, and also children who complete all their homework, are less likely to be bullies."

Another difference: The study found that African-American and Latino children were more likely to be bullies compared to white children.

For the study, the researchers used the two thousand seven National Survey of Children's Health. Parents of children age ten to seventeen were asked whether their child bullies or is cruel or mean to others.

Not surprisingly, how a parent acts may also influence whether or not a child becomes a bully.

RASHMI SHETGIRI:"We found that parents who frequently get angry with their children and feel that the children often do things that bother them a lot are much more likely to have a child who becomes a bully. And that parents who share ideas with their children and talk with them and who've met most of their child's friends are much less likely to have children who become bullies."

University of Nebraska psychologist Susan Swearer says communication between students and teachers can also reduce bullying. She says studies have shown improvement when students are taught about bullying and respectful behavior. Some programs also try to get people to intervene to stop bullying.

SUSAN SWEARER: "And a lot of these bullying prevention and intervention programs that focus on bystanders have been shown to be the effective programs because they focus on changing that bystander behavior. So instead of watching bullying take place or joining in with the bullying, these programs teach bystanders how to stand up and be supportive of the kids who are being victimized and to say 'You know we don't do that here, we don't engage in those behaviors.'"

Professor Swearer advises parents and teachers to try to get children to talk to them about being bullied. Otherwise a child could feel hopeless and helpless to do anything about it.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. You can find our reports and add your own comments at or on Facebook at VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember.