Remember back to school days, when some a$$hole kid came up with a nickname to describe your less than perfect feature? Maybe it was your lack of physical development, or something you did that became your unfortunate calling card. Kids can be brutal, and I’ve witnessed this first hand.
Well, this piece is to all the parents, whether your kid is the recipient, dealer, or neutral third party to bullying; we all need to bring our awareness to a very real problem.
Kids these days have it hard. If someone wants to make their life a living hell – they can do it; in person and online. The worst of which is the latter. I mean, think of all the times you were upset, and said something about someone behind their back – maybe you meant it, maybe you didn’t. Could you have said the same thing straight to their face? If you answered yes to that, well then good for you. I’d say your integrity (whether good or bad) is top notch.
Well, that’s exactly what cyberbullying is; it’s slurring someone’s name with the protection of anonymity, or not having to face the victim. This often makes the bullying much, much worse. Some examples of Internet, or ‘cyberbullying’ include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles.
I recently received a message from a Dr. Tania reader and concerned mother asking what to do about her daughter, who has fallen victim to Internet bullying. Her daughter is active in school sports, is on the honor roll, and seems to have a lot of friends – and yet has been brought to her knees, sobbing by the harassment she’s received from some teenage girls, online.
Of course as adults, our first reaction is to block the perpetrators, but from experience with my girls, they’ve preferred to not do this. It’s a “know thine enemy,” thing, and I can’t blame them for that. Here are some things that we as parents can do to help stop the bullying in its tracks:
Consult all adults involved. Where do your kids interact with the bullies at school? Is it in a class, on a team, at lunch hour, or solely online? Talk with all teachers, coaches, and supervisors involved making them aware of what’s going on. Most important of all; talk with the parents of the bullying children/teens. Make them aware of the situation they’re putting your child in, but be careful not to make them wrong. What I mean by this is, it’s pretty easy to get emotional about the mistreatment of your child, but it’s more important to have them on your side, rather than against you.
Confront the bully. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some ‘mean girls’ indirectly, if they’ve ended up in my car for a carpool or something similar. When I get the chance, I’ll share a story about ‘someone I know’ who didn’t realize some of the things she was Tweeting, FBing, etc., were so hurtful until someone pointed it out. I asked the girl to put herself in the recipients position, posing the question, “how would that make you feel?”
Love and support your child! A lot of us have been there, whether it was us being bullied, or a friend – we know how much it can hurt. We also know that eventually bullies let up, and people will move on. It’s important that your son or daughter know that you love them, support them, and are proud of all they have done. Be there for them if they need to talk, and if something seems amiss, ask them. In my experience, having my girls involved in school sports and activities keeps their minds off of more trivial things. They are surrounded by positive messages and teamwork, while keeping their bodies healthy and strong, so I absolutely support extracurricular activities.
I’m going to end with a message that I received from the same concerned mother I mentioned above. She posted this on her wall as a message to all kids and parents involved in her daughter’s bullying, and I commend her for her words.
May we all work towards living peacefully, together. Our kids included. Pass along the word!
Sticks & Stones,