Become informed: Be proactive in learning about the camp’s bully-prevention policy. Request to see any literature the camp may have produced, and then go beyond that. Ask about staff training — in detail. Do counselors know how to spot vulnerable kids? Do they know how to identify the bullies? Are they trained to recognize exclusive and abusive behavior (whether physical, verbal or indirect)? Has the camp trained its counselors to build “inclusive bunks” and to model positive behavior? And most important, does the staff know how to stop a bullying problem immediately, before it gets any worse? Get all the facts!
Is your child a likely target?: Has your child been bullied before? If so, call the camp and tell them that. Let them know — confidentially — that your son or daughter is vulnerable to being targeted; and ask them to watch for signs that your child is being excluded or teased. Pick a point-person on the camp staff to discus this with, and always do follow-up!
Talk to your child: Kids get picked on for a variety of reasons (maybe he or she is the “new kid in the bunk”; or short, or shy, or not into sports, or even of a different race); and your child needs to know that if any of this leads to bullying, getting angry or showing emotion (crying, for example) only fuels the bullies, and can increase the degree and frequency of the abuse. Role-play with your child. Teach him the skills to maintain his composure and self-esteem. Make sure she feels confident about being assertive before she leaves for camp. A little bit of self-assurance goes a long way.
Make a plan together: Tell your child that if he or she feels unsafe at any time during the summer, to tell a counselor about it immediately. And if that doesn’t get results, the child must go to another adult, team leader or even the camp director — and keep going back until the problem is addressed. Explain to your child that it’s okay to be persistent until the problem is resolved.
Cyberbullying: Most camps have a no-cell phone policy (blocking the Internet in their computer areas for example), but many parents want to keep in contact with their kids over the summer — so sometimes, a handheld device slips through. But this sends all the wrong messages. Parents should understand that, in many instances, a cell phone opens the door for cyberbullying, and that they must adhere to the camp’s no-cell policy. Just like during the off-seasons, parents and kids need to forge an ongoing partnership to prevent cyberbullying.