How to Combat Bullying

By Valerie Foster @ greenwichtime.com:

Bullying isn’t new. But thankfully, it’s no longer viewed as a rite of passage and kids just being kids.

Julie Hertzog, director of the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights’ National Bullying Prevention Center, puts bullying into perspective: “We know how destructive it is, and the research is telling us that bullies are skewing younger. ¦ Add cyber bullying and the evolution of social media to the mix and everyone began to understand that how we were handling bullying was not working and that we had to take action with new approaches.”

Hertzog says today’s emphasis is on prevention, working with kids as young as preschool to teach ways to build healthy relationships. It is equally important to engage communities to work together, taking a more collaborative approach to eradicating the issue, which is the goal of National Bullying Prevention Month in October.

Bullying affects kids in three ways: Their feelings about school, their health and their safety.

— 6 out of 10 American young people witness bullying at least once a day.

— 1 out of 10 students drop out or change schools because of repeated bullying.

— More than half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.

— More than 1 in 3 kids of middle and high school age has experienced cyber threats online.

— A recent Yale School of Medicine study reports a strong connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide, called bullycide. The same study says suicide rates among adolescents have grown more than 50 percent in the past 30 years.

— Approximately 25 percent of school bullies will be convicted of a criminal offense in their adult years.

— Adult bullies were often bullies — or bullied — as children.

“School is an environment where every child should feel safe and protected,” Hertzog says. “When a child is bullied, there are repercussions that often follow, such as depression, anxiety, kids cutting themselves or having eating disorders. Too many people never make that connection. And 95 percent of school shooters were kids who were bullied.”

What is bullying?

Bullying is a term often used incorrectly: it’s unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. It has to be repetitive and make someone feel unsafe or uncomfortable. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, bullying includes making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

And one more misconception: Boys do not bully more than girls. “There is a lot of research that shows boys and girls bully differently,” says Stephanie Stacy, coordinator of community education and prevention for The Center for Women and Families of Eastern Fairfield County. “Boys tend to be more physical, so it gets noticed more often. Girls engage in relational bullying, including emotional isolation.”

Signs a child is being bullied:

— Unexplainable injuries

— Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics or jewelry

— Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness

— Changes in eating habits — suddenly skipping meals or binge eating (kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch)

— Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares

— Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork or not wanting to go to school

— Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations

— Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem

— Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves or talking about suicide

Signs a child is bullying others:

— Gets into physical or verbal fights

— Has friends who bully others

— Is increasingly aggressive

— Gets sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently

— Has unexplained extra money or new belongings

— Blames others for problems

— Doesn’t accept responsibility for actions

— Is competitive and worries about reputation or popularity

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has three steps for parents to take if their child is the target of bullying.

“The End of Bullying Begins with Me” is the theme of National Bullying Prevention Month in October.

Get Involved to Prevent Bullying

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