Weird. Nerd. Fat. Ugly. Just words? Maybe. But when used to hurt someone else, words become devastating and painful. Words become objects thrown at a child, transforming his or her life forever. Bullying. It’s something that happens on the playground. It’s something that happens on the bus. It happens on the playing field and in the classroom. It happens through email, text messaging and social networks. It can even happen in a child’s home.
Bullying has been around for as long as we can remember. It is recorded as far back as biblical times. Remember Goliath? He was a bully. Joseph was certainly bullied by his brothers.
And while David and Joseph were victims of bullying, the youth of today are also suffering the negative and devastating effects of verbal and physical harassment.
So when is the right time to stand up to bullying? Today is the day. It’s time to educate parents, teachers and schools about bullying. Today is the day to eradicate the behavior of our Goliaths and to protect the lives and well-beings of our Davids.
So what is bullying?
According to the website, stopbullying.gov, the definition of bullying is “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”
The three types of bullying include: verbal, physical and social bullying, which involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships.
Many children do not tell others if they are being bullied for fear of appearing weak or being called a tattle-tale. They may fear rejection from friends or further taunting from the bully. So if parents or other adults are unaware of bullying, what should they do?
Stopbullying.gov shares some signs that may help an adult decide if there is a bullying problem.
A child might be the victim of bullying if they have:
• Unexplainable injuries
• Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
• Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
• Changes in eating habits, like 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
Kids may be bullying others if they:
• Get into physical or verbal fights
• Have friends who bully others
• Are increasingly aggressive
• Get sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
• Have unexplained extra money or new belongings
• Blame others for their problems
• Don’t accept responsibility for their actions
• Are competitive and worry about their reputation or popularity The effects of bullying
If warning signs point to an issue of bullying, actions should be taken by an adult.
Bullying causes issues such as depression and anxiety. It can also cause health problems, alcohol and drug abuse and a decrease in academic achievement.
In more extreme cases of bullying, victims retaliate through violent measures.
Stopbullying.gov states that in the 1990s, 12 of 15 school shootings were caused by children who had a history of being bullied.
Role of schools
With so many reports of bullying in the news lately, some wonder if schools are taking the appropriate measures to prevent these actions.
A 2012 report states that only about 3 percent of all public school students in the state were documented as bullied.
However, the National Center for Education Statistics in 2012 states that 31 percent of students claim they were bullied.
Thanks to organizations, like NVEEE (National Voices for Equality Education and Enlightenment), schools are learning first-hand how to identify and prevent bullying on campus.
NVEEE, a community-based nonprofit organization, leads school-wide training sessions and workshops, educating everyone involved with the school. Their mission is to prevent bullying, violence and suicide among youth, families and communities through direct service, mentoring and prevention education.
“Our goal is to not only make the schools aware of bullying through education but to actually prevent it before it even starts,” says Founder and Executive director of NVEEE, Jowhara Sanders.
Role of the state
On May 30, Governor Rick Scott signed a bill targeting bullying, HB 609, into law.
The law makes three big changes: Students can now report being bullied both publicly and privately; it defines cyberbullying as harassment using electronic means, such as email or impersonating someone online; and it allows schools to get involved if off-campus bullying affects the targeted student’s on-campus education.”
The bill is a great first step, Sanders believes. She says it’s important, however, that parents are aware that cyberbullying “doesn’t only happen in computers, but that it happens through cell phones, video games and any way you can communicate to another person.”
What parents can do at home
Our schools are doing what they can to prevent bullying. And our state is making positive steps toward change as well. So what should parents be doing at home to make sure their child does not become a bully?
Sanders says that it is important that parents never accuse their child of being a bully.
“Talk about what’s going on with them internally,” she says. “They could be lashing out for multiple reasons.”
She goes on to say that parents should speak to their children about standing up for others and being upstanders, instead of bystanders
Discussing bullying with your child at home is one important thing to do. But she says that parents should also constantly be aware of their own actions, especially when in the presence of their child.
“Bullying is a learned behavior,” Sanders states. “Even if they, themselves, aren’t bullying at home, they watch their parents and how they interact with each other and their friends. And they listen to the names they call the referees and players on T.V. during sporting games.”
The Bible is another great resource for parents to use at home when discussing bullying.
With younger children, in particular, stories from the Bible teach excellent lessons. Read 1 Samuel 17 to discuss the story of David and Goliath. Or read about Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 37. Discuss the characters, how they interact with each other and what they could have done differently in the story.
Another great idea is to create one motto a week with your child. Biblewise.com suggests posting one relatable Bible verse weekly throughout the house so that the child can learn and recite it.
Some examples might include, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Or you might post, “Do to others as you would like them to do to you” (Luke 6:31).
In need of more help?
If you think your child is a bully or the victim of bullying, call 954-561-2626, or visit NVEEE.org.
Nowhere to turn? Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or at 1-800-273-TALK.
Want to volunteer or contribute monetary donations to help fund NVEEE’s school-wide workshops? Contact the organization at the phone number listed above.
Today is the day to eradicate bullying from our children’s lives forever. It’s time to stand up to Goliath. Are you ready?
Chrissie Ferguson is a freelance writer and can be reached at [email protected]