Camp is a place for kids to have the time of their lives, to relax and not have to worry about the pressures of home and school. Sadly, this is not always a reality. Whenever there is more than one child in the same place, bullying is always a possibility. Bullying likely has happened in your own camp, even if the staff didn’t realize it. Fortunately, you and the rest of the staff can take simple steps to prevent it.
Use The Buddy System
Bullying often happens to a camper who is not around any of his or her own friends. Putting the “pair-or-more” policy in place will not only prevent young campers from getting lost, but will reduce opportunities for other kids to bully. Another benefit of the buddy system is that even if someone does decide to bully another child, a buddy is likely to stick up for the one being bullied.
Let Them Tattle
Before you start cringing at the thought of hundreds of campers complaining about every little annoyance, think about how “No Tattling” policies can prevent campers from reporting bully incidents. When setting the ground rules, list a few things that campers are allowed to tattle about. (It is OK to inform a leader of bullying and other serious infractions.) Let campers know that counselors and staff are always available to listen to them about important issues, but constant tattling about minor things may result in consequences for the tattler.
Only Adults Should Be In Charge
Camp is a great opportunity for kids to develop leadership skills. Encourage them to become leaders in cleaning the cabins or leaders in games, but don’t put them in charge of their peers. A counselor is in charge of campers for many reasons. If a counselor needs to take a break, another staff member should oversee campers. Even the best-mannered camper can turn into a bully when he or she has authority over cabin mates.
Have Staff Supervision Everywhere
Free time is the perfect chance for counselors to take a breather. However, encourage them to relax in a place where they can also supervise. Bullying is a possibility anywhere an adult is not present. Lakes, pools, rock walls and snack shacks already have staff supervision, but there are plenty of other places where campers congregate. Do campers frequent the mess hall during free time? Ask a few staff members to hang out there. Can campers be found in the cabins, by the campfire pit or in the woods? Have staff check in on these places, or make them off-limits during free time.
Put Up An Anti-Bullying Poster
If you visit an educational store, you’ll find a variety of anti-bullying posters available. These posters are great because not only do they give tips on what kids can do if they’re bullied, but many of them also offer pointers on what to do to prevent becoming or encouraging a bully. If you can’t find a satisfactory poster, and you have some spare time at the beginning of the camp session, allow the staff and campers to make their own. Each time a camper sees his or her own poster hanging on the wall, there is a reminder to prevent bullying.
With these policies in place, you can greatly decrease the risk of bullying. Hopefully this summer, all of your campers will have the chance to experience the time of their lives!
Jessica Lippe is a freelance writer from Southern Oregon. She can be reached at JesFrogLlama@hotmail.com
How To Respond To Bullying
You may have a staff member on every square foot of the premises, plaster the walls with anti-bully posters, and require 10 buddies to be with each camper at all times, but bullying can still occur. Here are a few appropriate consequences for a kid who bullies other campers:
• Have two counselors speak to the bully in private.
• Take away the bully’s privileges–no games, swim time, crafts, etc.
• Prohibit the bully from going anywhere without an adult.
• Schedule a conference for the bully to meet with the camp director.
• Call the parents. (Not only is this a consequence, but parents may also have some insight on how to encourage their child to stop bullying.)
• If all else fails, or if a child’s bullying becomes dangerous, send him or her home. In extreme circumstances, you will also need to contact the parents of the children who were bullied to see if they need medical attention.