How to Identify Bullying and Cyber Bullying
As a mother of two school aged daughters, the concept of bullying comes up in my mind a lot. Recently, I have been hearing about different kinds of bullying, specifically prior to the Super Bowl, living in Seattle, I heard on more than one occasion that a child wearing Broncos gear in a Washington school didn’t get treated as nicely as those with Seahawks gear. This may not be serious bullying, but sitting at another table for lunch and getting left out on the playground still hurts. I also came across a very disturbing article about an 11-year-old boy being bullied about his passion for My Little Ponies, and attempting suicide.
It is easy to see how bullying can happen on the playground and at school, leaving one of the kids out, picking on how they are dressed, etc. One comment here or there or not getting picked in the game of four square might hurt, but as it becomes a persistent and regular occurrence, that is when you might ask the question: “Is my child being bullied?” Dr. Mary L. Pulido, Ph.D., currently serves as the Executive Director of The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which is the first child protective agency in the world, and she has been researching bullying and how it effects children and has identified the warning signs to look for to determine if your child is being bullied.
This article by Dr. Pulido outlines how to identify what bullying is and how to determine if your child is being bullied. Although the occasional comment might hurt your child’s feelings, bullying is behavior that crosses the line and, as we've recently seen in tragic cases, can drive (some) children to commit suicide.
Parents also need be aware that there are various types of bullying and it can happen anywhere. Your child might be physically or verbally abused by kids at school, at afterschool programs or even online. Cyberbullying is another type of bullying that can happen to kids, tweens or teens that are online via social media networks or via cellphones and text messages. Cyberbullying can consist of spreading lies and rumors about a person, insulting and targeting a student's sexuality, physical appearance, deceiving students into revealing personal information and then publishing it, and/or posting personally identifiable information or photos without the victim's consent. This type of bullying might be easier for bullies, as they can hide behind a computer screen or cell phone to attack their victim. In 2011, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle popped up on Facebook to deliver a message about cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying has been of growing concern to both the White House and Facebook. Facebook has put renewed resources into stopping online bullying, including creating a Safety Page and Safety Center, while the White House has created its own portal, StopBullying.gov.
An organization called CyberAngels was established in 1997 and is one of the oldest and most respected online safety education programs in the world. This non-profit organization has a variety of tools and resources for parents and children to help them reach a comfortable agreement about the proper use of the Internet and computers in general.
There a number of resources out there to explain what bullying is and how to make sure your child is not being bullied, but what happens if you think your child IS the bully? How do we raise children to be kind and empathetic and not bullies? Dr. Pulido has some ideas on that as well. This article is a helpful guide for parents raising children, the main concepts to focus on to help your child avoid being the bully is to teach empathy, compassion and reduce the amount of exposure your child has to violence. As with most aspects of raising children, it seems to me that by modeling the behavior you want your child to learn is generally the best way for them to remember. As Dr. Pulido discusses, it is important for parents to model positive, caring behavior. Acts of kindness or concern are a good way to teach your child empathy. Have your child come with you when you bring a meal to your friend who is ill or visit someone in the hospital. Additionally, to these acts of kindness, being kind and compassionate to your partner, your children and strangers your meet during the day, will show your children how to interact with others in a positive and kind way.