Bullying Then and Now
Guest Post by Sandra McLeod Humphrey
School bullying is nothing new and was once considered a character-building rite of passage for our children, but now it is seen for what it is–a form of victimization and abuse which can leave lasting psychological scars.
Unfortunately, school bullying is on the rise everywhere, and schools need to have anti-bullying policies in place and operational. The stories in my book Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs are all based on actual bullying experiences students shared with me during my school visits and is dedicated to a 12-year-old Minnesota boy who took his own life as a result of being bullied. Unfortunately, bullycides are becoming all too common these days.
During my school visits, we role-played different bullying scenarios, so that the students could “feel” the same situation from the perspective of the bully, the bully’s victim, and the bystander and I always emphasized the importance of the role of the bystander who can inadvertently (or sometimes purposely) facilitate the bullying situation.
The difference between bullying then and now is that, in the past, a student was able to get away from the bullies and find at least temporary refuge in his or her own home. There is no such refuge for today’s victims with the advent of cyberbullying. Bullying that begins at school can continue via cell phone and the social networking sites. Victims can feel overwhelmed and powerless, sometimes leaving them to believe that suicide is their only option.
The good news is that public awareness about the serious ramifications of bullying is increasing, thanks to anti-bullying campaigns and new legislation; TV coverage by people such as Anderson Cooper, Dr Phil, and Oprah Winfrey; the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention; and even students themselves (see http://youtu.be/5IJA-uxretY)
Like any other kind of abuse, school bullying is intolerable and it’s time for all of us to dispel the old adage that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Words do hurt!
Some Parental Tips:
1. Listen: Encourage your children to talk about school,
friends, activities, etc.
2. Take your children’s complaints of bullying seriously:
Remember that children are often afraid or ashamed to
tell parents that they have been bullied and a simple
bullying incident may turn out to be quite significant.
3) Watch for symptoms of victimization: social withdrawal,
drop in grades, personality changes, etc.
4) Use children’s books to initiate a discussion about
Judy Blume’s Blubber is a classic novel about classroom dynamics, shifting alliances, and the bullying that can go on unseen by adults. Trudy Ludwig’s Just Kidding emphasizes the distinction between tattling (trying to get someone in trouble) and reporting (trying to help someone in trouble). And my book Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs offers specific bullying scenarios which encourage readers to talk about the choices they would make in those situations.
Some Student Tips (Remember, bullying is all about power, so try not to give the bully that power):
1) Ignore the bully when possible: the bully is waiting for
you to react, so stay calm and don’t react when
2) There’s strength in numbers: bullies generally don’t
pick on groups, so hang with your friends.
3) Don’t retaliate in kind: this usually will just escalate
the situation. Violence usually leads to more violence.
4) Tell an adult you trust: If the bullying continues, tell
a parent or teacher or some other adult you trust.
5) Don’t underestimate your role as bystander: bystanders
can unintentionally (or sometimes intentionally) have
the power to facilitate or stop the bullying situation.
Remember, No one deserves to be bullied, so don’t suffer in silence. Do something or tell someone!
Some Suggested Internet Resources:
International Bullying Prevention Association: http://www.stopbullyingworld.org/
Olweus Bullying Prevention Program: http://www.olweus.org
Rachel’s Challenge: http://www.rachelschallenge.org/
Stop Bullying Now: http://www.stopbullyingnow.com/
Sandra McLeod Humphrey is a retired clinical psychologist, a character education consultant, and an award-winning author of eight middle-grade and young adult books. She’s also the recipient of the National Character Education Center’s Award for Exemplary Leadership in Ethics Education (2000) and the 2005 Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children’s Literature. You can learn more about her books by visiting her Web site at http://www.kidscandoit.com.