When I was a kid, the biggest bullies in my life were my three brothers.
It's a typical memory, I suppose, older brothers tormenting their younger, somewhat (OK, very) emotional sister. I was an easy target - quick to yell, cry and throw a hissy fit.
In school, an easy nickname was Olive Oyl, Popeye's girl. By the seventh grade, my long limbs and thin frame made the name a pretty apt one.
I survived my brothers' taunts, laughed at the Olive Oyl comments and grew up unscathed.
Today, bullying is in the spotlight, thrust there after the suicides of teenagers pushed to the brink by nonstop tormenting.
October is National Anti-Bullying Awareness Month. On Friday, Anderson Cooper hosted a one-hour town hall special: Bullying: No Escape; an AC 360 Special Report. Magazines and newspapers have been filled with stories of bullying.
It's obviously become an epidemic, young people being tormented for one reason or another - different, looking different, acting different. And, with today's constant contact lifestyle, they're being bullied 24 hours a day. There's facebook, Twitter, texting, all ways to reach out and bug somebody. It's no longer just having books knocked out of your arms or being shoved in your locker, it's intruding on the lives of these kids all the time, at home and at school.
The following information, from the Education.com website, gives some good tips for those who want to become part of the solution.
The latest research shows that more than half of all children are, at least on occasion, directly involved in bullying as a perpetrator, victim or both. And many of those who are not directly involved witness others being bullied on a regular basis. No child is immune - kids of every race, gender, grade and socio-economic sector are impacted. But it doesn't have to be this way. As parents we have the power to help reduce bullying. Here are Education.com's top ten actions you can take to help address bullying:
|1.||Talk with and listen to your kids - everyday. Research shows that parents are often the last to know when their child has bullied or been bullied.|
|2.||Spend time at school and recess. Research shows that 67% of bullying happens when adults are not present. Schools don't have the resources to do it all and need parents' help in reducing bullying.|
|3.||Be a good example of kindness and leadership. Your kids learn a lot about power relationships from watching you. When you get angry at a waiter, a sales clerk, another driver on the road or even your child, you have a great opportunity to model effective communication techniques.|
|4.||Learn the signs. Most children don't tell anyone (especially adults) that they've been bullied. It is, therefore, important for parents and teachers to learn to recognize possible signs of being victimized such as: frequent loss of personal belongings, complaints of headaches or stomachaches, avoiding recess or school activities, getting to school very late or very early.|
|5.||Create healthy anti-bullying habits early. Help develop anti-bullying and anti-victimization habits early in your children, as early as kindergarten. Coach your children what not to do - hitting, pushing, teasing, "saying na-na-na-na-na," being mean to others.|
|6.||Help your child's school address bullying effectively. Whether your children have been bullied or not, you should know what their school is doing to address bullying. Research shows that "zero-tolerance" policies aren't effective. What works better are ongoing educational programs that help create a healthy social climate in the school.|
|7.||Establish household rules about bullying. Your children need to hear from you explicitly that it's not normal, OK or tolerable for them to bully, to be bullied or to stand by and just watch other kids be bullied.|
|8.||Teach your child how to be a good witness. Research shows that kids who witness bullying feel powerless and seldom intervene. However, kids who take action can have a powerful and positive effect on the situation.|
|9.||Teach your child about cyberbullying. Children often do not realize what cyberbullying is. Cyberbullying includes sending mean, rude, vulgar or threatening messages or images; posting sensitive, private information about another person; pretending to be someone else in order to make that person look bad; and intentionally excluding someone from an online group.|
|10.||Spread the word that bullying should not be a normal part of childhood. Some adults hesitate to act when they observe or hear about bullying because they think of bullying as a typical phase of childhood that must be endured or that it can help children "toughen up." It is important for all adults to understand that bullying does not have to be a normal part of childhood.|