By Aimee Serafin
October is national anti-bullying month. To encourage students to be part of the solution— and not part of the problem— stompoutbullying.org has created differently themed weeks throughout October to bring awareness to this problem. The week of October 14th is STAND UP for Others Week. Kids are encouraged to make friends and be active about including others in school activities. Schools can help by designating hallways and classrooms as kindness and thoughtfulness zones where students treat each other with respect all year long. Teachers can be mindful of seating assignments, and continue to make a habit of rearranging seating regularly throughout the year.
Bullying assumes different forms such as verbal, social, cyber and physical imbalances of power. Below are some indications of bullying (stopbullying.gov):
- An imbalance of power: bullies use physical strength, access to embarrassing information or popularity to gain power over their victims.
- Repetition: incidents happen frequently with the same people.
- Bullies tend to use threats, spread rumors, physically/verbally attack or intentionally exclude someone from a group.
Some examples of social, verbal and physical bullying:
- Inappropriate sexual comments
- Spreading rumors
- Leaving someone out on purpose
- Belittling or embarrassing in public
- Pushing, pinching, tripping
- Making mean or rude hand gestures
- Spitting, kicking
- Breaking someone’s things on purpose
59% of U.S. teens have been bullied or harassed online, and over 90% believe it’s a major problem for people their age (Pew Research Center, 2018)
Cyberbullying is bullying that uses electronic devices, apps, or platforms as vehicles to embarrass and be intentionally mean to others. Examples of cyberbullying include threatening texts or messages on social media, and exploitation of embarrassing pictures, videos, posts or comments. Cyberbullying is dangerous since it can be relentlessly and anonymously distributed at high volumes. It can also be hard or impossible to trace sources. Once messages or photos are posted it is near impossible to reverse the damage. Therefore, cyberbullying has become a very serious and unusual threat to our young people. The victims of cyberbullying experience depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and suicide ideation.
KNOW the signs of bullying and make a habit of asking your child if he/she or someone he/she knows is being mistreated. Be aware of any unusual behavior in your child like isolation, depression, sudden changes in school attendance, avoidance of recess, complaining of headaches or stomachs while at school, withdrawn or overly sensitive and talks about running away or suicide. SEEK ways to allow your child to be heard and acknowledged. FIND advocates for your children like teachers, principals, therapists or authorities if you find evidence of bullying. BE ACTIVE in pursuing ways to stop the problem. LISTEN to your child, and be PATIENT.
Some helpful websites:
Aimee Serafin, editor of the Augusta Family Magazine.