Bullying and Harassment at School

  • Bullying is a reality for younger teens today.  Adolescents and teenagers take bullying words very, very personally.   It is a favored tool of adolescents and teens looking to dictate a social pecking order, according to experts. 
  • There are 3 main kinds of bullying, according to the government-run Stop Bullying website: 
    1. Verbal (teasing and taunting)
    2. Social (spreading false and harmful rumors about another person)
    3. Physical (hitting, kicking, biting, pinching...)   http://www.stopbullying.gov/    
  • Bullying extends far beyond teenagers.  Victims can also be siblings, co-workers, teachers, parents, the elderly, and others. 

  • Harassment occurs in-person and on the internet affecting youths and teens in a variety of situations. http://www.onlineschools.org/student-bullying-guide/ is a guide to bring awareness to issues surrounding bullying and cyberbullying, and to help students, parents, and teachers prevent instances of bullying in the future.

  • Punishment alone will not deter offenders.  Aggressively disciplining bullies can actually exacerbate the bad behavior.  Punishment confirms what bullies believe to be true:  That it's good to have power, and it's OK to use it to hurt others.  Punishing the bully often has the effect of ramping up the bullying while sending it further underground so that it is even more difficult to monitor. (Katy Allen, University of Rochester bullying-expert)  http://www.warner.rochester.edu/newsevents/story/926/
  • Schools have not been able to eradicate bullying by saying it will not be tolerated, or by outlining specific punishments.  Simply banning bullying is not the most effective way to counter the hurt that occurs when children pick on each other.  Parenting experts point out that praising good behavior is a more effective way of reinforcing how small children should act than is punishing bad behavior. 

  • Children must be protected from psychological abuse.  Parents, caregivers, teachers and peers who demean, bully or humiliate children or youth can inflict harm more permanent than physical injury. Making a child or youth feel worthless, unloved, or unwanted can inflict serious and long-lasting injury on his/her emotional well-being and development.  (see Kim Painter, “Parents Can Inflict Deep Emotional Harm,” USA Today, July 30, 2012, B8, Rachel Lowry, “Mental Abuse as Injurious as Other Forms of Child Abuse, Study Shows,” Deseret News, Aug. 5, 2012, A3) 
Statistics
  • 13 million American kids will be bullied in the U.S. this year - making it the most common form of violence young people face in this country.  
  • During every day of 2012, more than 35,000 children will join the ranks of the bullied by being dissed (shown disrespect), defamed or assaulted.   (U.S. Dept. of Education) 
  • 28% of students in grades 6-12, and 9% experienced bullying. 

  • Being bullied in the last month was reported by 26% of Spokane County adolescents in 2014. This rate has significantly increased since 2008. Being bullied decreased as the adolescent’s age and mother’s education increased, and was more likely among females and American Indian/Alaska Natives. (Spokane Counts 2015 report, Spokane Regional Health District) 
What You Can Do
  • If you are being bullied or harassed...Tell someone.   Report bullying to a teacher or school counselor, as well as your parents.  Bystander intervention can also make bystanders the next victims. 

    Don't be silent.  Tell someone.  Let people know what is going on.  Don't let bullying destroy your confidence.  Tell someone.  You don't have to suffer through the bullying.  Tell someone.   (Allie Phillips, Miss Utah, a victim of bullying who works to educate kids about school bullying and harassment, Park City Record, 2008)

  • Is your child a bully?  Parents, pay close attention to what your kids do online.  Bullying can literally be a matter of life and death, so take it seriously.  Teach your children about the life-altering consequences of bullying others.  If your child is harassing another child on the internet, you should know about it.  You can also put an end to it, whether by revoking your child's devices, or closely monitoring usage.  Kids should have no expectation of privacy on phones and computers.

  • ReThink is a mobile app that makes kids pause before posting mean thoughts online.  The app is in the background, looking through every keystroke to determine whether what you are posting might be offensive.  "You get a message, and you get the chance to reconsider," said 13-yr old Trisha Prabhu who created the app that recognizes and points out offensive messages; so kids can stop and reconsider before they hit "Send."  At age 13,  Trisha was shocked by the news of 11-year old Rebecca Sedwich of Florida who was taunted so mercilessly that she committed suicide in 2013, because she had been pushed to take her own life.  Prabhu, who had been coding since age 10, developed the mobile app. 

    ReThink encourages kids to change their minds 93% of the time.   (source:  "The Prodigy, Trisha Prabhu," WebMD,  http://www.webmd.com/, Nov/Dec 2016)

  • School Tipline.  Students can help prevent bullying, drugs and violence from occurring in their school.   A new web and text message base called SchoolTipline allows students, parents and teachers to anonymously report incidents to school administration.  Administrators are then able to find out about things early on--things that they would probably never have been aware of.
Justin Bergener first came up with the idea for the site a couple of years ago when his younger sister had some friends who were being picked on, but they were too afraid to tell anyone because of all the negative peer pressure.  There's a code of silence, so students typically don't want to talk about these things.  They always know what's going on in their school, but are either too fearful or don't have an outlet to report it.

Help students make their school safer. 
Visit http://schooltipline.com to learn how to register your school and request to join School Tipline, and then share this with your school administrators. 
  • Kids crave attention, and some experts believe that bullies act out because even bad attention is better than no attention.  Parents and teachers can look for examples of good behavior in those kids who are more apt to hassle others, and remark on it.
  • Parents can help curb bully behavior.
    • Teaching children not to be bullies begins well before they go to school, with lessons in sharing and sibling cooperation.  Praise children for positive behavior, like kindness and sharing, and including kids who might feel left out. 

    • Don’t tell children to ignore bullying. If your child comes to you and says, ‘I’m being bullied’—whether it’s really bullying or it’s just conflict that’s escalated beyond their ability to control and manage it—don’t tell them to ignore it because they’ve already tried and this has failed.
    • Be a good listener and ask sensitive and thoughtful questions.  Don’t be over reactive.  As soon as parents overreact, kids shut down and stop telling us what’s going on in their lives.
    • Take a breather from the cell phone and computer.  If bullying involves social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, or text messaging, encourage your child to shut off the cell phone for a day or take a break from the Internet.  This is not meant to be a punishment, but rather a way to give your child a break, let the dust settle, get his/her emotions under control, and think about what’s next.  
    • Ask to see evidence of cyber bullying.  If the hurtful interactions are taking place over the Internet, or through cell phone text messages, e-mail, or Instant Messages (IM), ask to see it and then make copies of the evidence.
    • Use the same Internet tools that your child uses.  There are a lot of great web resources for parents to learn how to use and navigate through various social media sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.
    • Give your kid a chance for amnesty.  If your child is having problems give him/her a chance to talk about it without fear of any kind of punishment or consequence. When you establish a relationship with your child—one that assures them that you are their ally and advocate and, within a certain range of boundaries, you’re not going to punish them—they will come and admit to you that they’ve made some bad choices that may have produced some egregiously bad behaviors from other kids. Communication with your child is key!

    • Go to the school if your child is not safe or is afraid to attend to school.    (Katy Allen, University of Rochester bullying-expert.)   http://www.warner.rochester.edu/newsevents/story/926/

  • Cyber bullying.  The main trouble spots for cyber bullying are between people who are current or former friends and dating partners.  Parents can do the following -

    • Monitor your children's social media accounts, across all platforms.  See who is posting what.

    • Pay attention to changes in behavior - are your children more sad or despondent?  Are their eating habits changing?

    • Pay attention as to whether or not they are still hanging out with their friends, or avoiding activities where their friends would normally be at.

    • Apps to be on-guard for are the anonymous messaging apps, like YikYak or After School, or Whisper, that allow people to post without revealing their identity.  That can be a breeding ground for bullying. 

    • There are many apps available for parents, such as My Local Watchdog, Due Diligence, and Social Shield.  Programs and apps like that allow parents to monitor their children's social media activity.  You can also have these apps flag certain words that indicate bullying, violence or words of a sexual nature.  ("Taking Aim at Cyberbullying," Prevention advice in school and online, Ericka Souter, parenting expert and editor of Mom.me, GMA, October 1, 2016, http://erickasouter.com/tv-appearances/)
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