Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bullying Prevention

October is National bullying Prevention Month and a time to focus on an issue that is identified as having become a very big problem in a national survey. Teens, who are the brunt of this behavior, reported that bullying was a problem for them more often than racism, HIV/AIDS, or the pressure to have sex, use drugs or alcohol. Both teens and adults need to be aware that they can fight back through educating themselves on what they are up against, rather than doing something harmful to themselves.

Bullying is when one or more kids or adults intentionally hurt others to increase their power and status either physically or verbally.

Increasingly, schools, communities, parents and adolescents are acknowledging that bullying is not a rite of passage, but rather a practice that can be extremely damaging to children and teens.

Cyberbullying, the most common type of bullying in the past two years because of the growing use of internet and social media, ranges from repeatedly making fun of another person through email or text messaging to posting something online about them that they don’t like or is not true. Some recent statistics: one in five adolescents said they had been cyberbullied at some point in their lives and about the same number admit to having been a cyberbully. One in ten adolescents had been both a cyberbully and a victim. Victims of cyberbullying were more likely to get into a physical fight at school or to be the victim of a crime than were students who were not cyberbullied. Generally, boys are more at risk of being bullied physically while girls are more frequently the victims of internet harassment and emotional bullying, such as social exclusion. This can lead and has led to suicide of the victim unless something is done.

Who is targeted? Gay and lesbian students seem to get a big brunt of the bullying, particularly in school. Rutger’s student Tyler Clementi committed suicide after being targeted by online bullying for kissing another man in his dorm. His death was one among a rash of suicides by gay teens during that particular month. Disabled kids are bullied at two to three times the rate of others. New students who don’t seem to fit in as well as students who are not outgoing or popular also are victims, among others.

But even adults, such as the recent bullying of TV reporter, Jennifer Livingston of WKBT-TV in La Cross, WI, saying she was fat and not a good community role model on the airways, can be a target.
She, like many teens, though, are fighting back…the best advice that can be given. Teens and small children should always tell an adult, no matter how hard it is, and listen to advice from parents, teachers or psychologists. And the adult needs to give good advice for handling harassment situations in a “non-escalating” manner. Trying to deal with bullying alone can have disastrous results as it did with Tyler Clementi and thousands of others.

Not only should those being bullied get help, but so should parents who are at a loss for how to help. Victims need to take away the psychological reward associated with harassment for the bully.

There is a target reaction that the bully wants, and they will continue to return to the victim as long as the victim continues to supply that reaction. Teaching children and even adults that the power to overcome the torments of a bully is in controlling one’s reaction is important. Deflecting a bully’s comments, such as the news reporter was able to, can be done with simple non-emotional responses that question the integrity of the comment. The object is to diffuse the power of the harassment and not to attack the bully or to engage in physical violence. This can serve adults as well as teens.

Bullying is a serious problem in the U.S., particularly for teens. Let’s try to stop the bullying and stop losing both children and adults to senseless violence or suicides.

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