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Have you heard about the Sayreville, New Jersey high school football team? The school superintendent suspended their entire season after learning of hazing incidents in the team locker room. Seven teens were arrested and charged with participating in hazing rituals that allegedly included raping freshman players.

What is at stake here? 

Considering each teen’s future, what’s the potential lasting impact of this type of behavior? Some will say, “Boys will be boys, what’s the big deal?” Others will say this isn’t just hazing, but outright abuse.

After the season’s cancellation, many parents complained that this was hurting their child’s potential scholarship opportunities, that it was unfair to punish the entire team for the actions of a few, and that perhaps the superintendent’s reaction was too harsh.

What About Accountability?

The alleged assault took place in the locker room with the entire team present. If this is the case, who should we hold accountable – actual participants, silent witnesses, or both?

You might remember a 2012 incident in Steubenville, Ohio involving two stellar athletes on the high school football team. Both were convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl and sentenced to time behind bars. As in the Sayreville incident, witnesses did nothing to stop the rape.

When the victim’s parents pressed charges, her family received threats and statements were made such as, “She was asking for it.” One of the boys pleaded with the victim not to press charges because it would ruin his football career.

People literally spend millions of dollars on anti-bullying and abuse prevention campaigns targeting teens. They even tell young people this behavior is unacceptable and if you see something, say something.

Unfortunately, Sayreville and Steubenville are not the only two places in the country where incidents like this have taken place, and the parents’ response to these situations is troubling. They seemed more concerned about the football season than the potential lifelong impact of this situation for everyone involved. Some might argue that there has been a cultural departure from having an ethical sense of right and wrong.

Choices Have Consequences

One could understand teens complaining about the punishment being too harsh because the judgment/decision-making part of their brain doesn’t fully develop until the mid-20s. It’s more difficult to understand, however, parents who don’t see the need to hold their children accountable. If your teen had held down and raped someone as part of a football team initiation, what would you want to happen?

Kudos to the teens brave enough to say something! Clearly, we can talk with and help teens understand that stopping someone from taking advantage of another person is not “ratting them out.” It is the right thing to do.

Teaching teens about sexual assault and what to do if they witness someone taking advantage of another person is absolutely vital. Lives are much different as a result of the Sayreville and Steubenville situations, and others. Parents cannot sit back and believe that this is all just part of growing up. There’s just too much at stake for our young people.

True or False?

  • Cyberbullying victims are at increased risk for traditional bullying victimization, substance use and school problems.
  • Victims of cyberbullying suffer from anger, frustration and sadness.
  • Most victims of cyberbullying tell an adult about their experience.
  • Victims report that they are primarily cyberbullied by strangers.

If you answered “true” for the first two statements and “false” for the last two, you are correct.

News stories abound about young people and bullying. One of the most widely-known incidents is about Megan Meier, a then 13-year-old from Missouri. She became online friends with a person she thought was a new boy in town. The “friend” was actually a group of young people and adults who plotted to humiliate Megan because of a broken friendship with another girl. When Megan discovered the truth, she became distraught and later committed suicide.

Cyberbullying is defined as using the computer or other electronic devices to intimidate, threaten or humiliate another. It most commonly takes place on the Internet among students from a given school or neighborhood.

Researchers and co-directors of the Cyberbullying Research Center, Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja, collected data from more than 15,000 youth regarding their personal cyberbullying experiences. They found that:

  • Five percent of the youth they interviewed claimed to be scared for their own safety.
  • On average, 25 percent of youth have been a victim of cyberbullying.
  • Among this percentage, mean or hurtful comments, and spreading rumors were the most common forms of cyberbullying.
  • More than half of study participants feel that cyberbullying is as bad as, or worse than bullying in real life.
  • 41 percent of victims do not tell anyone in their off-screen lives about their abuse, but 38 percent told an online friend.
  • 16 percent admitted to bullying another individual online.
  • Most of the bullying offenders said they consider bullying to be fun or instructive; such as a way to strengthen their victims.

Your child uses cell phones, emails, instant messaging, websites, blogs, text messages and other methods to communicate electronically. All of them present a potential cyberbullying risk to your child.

What Do Parents Need to Know?

The impact of cyberbullying can be devastating. Cyber victimization can cause poor grades, emotional spirals, poor self-esteem, repeated school absences, depression and in some cases, suicide. These outcomes are similar to those of real-life bullying, except with cyberbullying there is often no escape.

Young people used to be able to avoid the “bully” once school was out. Today’s technology now makes it almost impossible to escape. Since few parents closely monitor their child’s digital use, it is far easier for bullies to get away with bullying online than in person. And as the quiz pointed out, kids rarely tell their parents about the bullying.

What Can Parents Do?

  • Establish that all rules for interacting appropriately with people in real life apply online.
  • Explain what cyberbullying is and why it is unacceptable to bully or to allow bullying to continue.
  • Talk with your teen about the nature of REAL friendships.
  • Encourage your child to talk with you any time they believe they or someone they know is dealing with a bully.
  • Model appropriate technology use.
  • Write a technology contract that includes any form of technology used in your home.

Cyberbullying can be a serious threat to the well-being of your child, but the best plan of attack is to be proactive. Being ignorant about technology in this day and age won’t cut it, so you’ll want to educate yourself as well as your children. As the saying goes, information is power.

For tips on parenting get our E-book “How to be a Guide for your Teen” Download Here.

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV for more on this topic!

In 2012, social media erupted over the email sent to news anchor Jennifer Livingston about being overweight. The email’s sender contended that he was trying to bring to her attention that she was not a good role model for young girls in their community because she was overweight. Her on-air response to his email created quite a buzz.

Someone also bullied a young girl named Kaelynn. She tells of physical and sexual abuse and about the death of her mother. Suffering from PTSD, she began stuttering. Classmates called her meth-head, orphan, worthless, a mistake, faker, retard.

“I was hated for being myself and I began to hate myself,” she said. None of Kaelynn’s classmates had any idea what she had experienced. She attempted suicide in fifth grade. Fortunately, her attempt failed and today, she speaks out against bullies.

While October is Bully Prevention Month, this topic is worthy of ongoing discussion. Bullying is nothing new, but it seems to exist at a whole new level.

Has our culture become a place where anything goes? The mean acts aren’t only happening with young people; adults participate as well. What became of human decency and treating each other with respect, even when we disagree?

Webster’s Dictionary defines a bully as someone who is quarrelsome and overbearing; one who habitually badgers and intimidates.

Could your child be the bully? Is your child a victim? And, how would you know?

If you don’t talk with your children about bullying, now is a good time to start. Here are some questions to get things going.

  • Is conflict different than bullying? All relationships have conflict. Just because someone doesn’t share your opinion about something or agree with your perspective does not mean they are a bully. Bullying is when a person treats you disrespectfully, is mean to you over and over again, or intentionally seeks to embarrass or harass you because you have a different viewpoint.

  • What do you do if you see someone being bullied? Don’t assume that your child will automatically stand up for the victim. Talk with them about how they would handle this situation. The research shows that if just one person stands up for the person being bullied it can change the entire situation, BUT it is hard even for adults to step out and go against the crowd. If it doesn’t feel safe to say something, go get help.

  • If someone bullies you, what will you do? Parents assume that their child will say something, but studies show that is not the case. Most bullying victims do not tell their parents because they are afraid the situation will worsen. Talk through the steps your child can take if they believe they are being bullied. Assure them that they can come to you for help in working through the situation.

A parent’s job is to pay attention. So, keep the lines of communication open by talking often and honestly about this topic. That way, your child is ready if something happens.

Here’s a guide to help you understand, prevent and counteract bullying: Guide to Bullying and Cyberbullying *provided by OnlineSchools.org

For tips on parenting get our E-book “How to be a Guide for your Teen” Download Here

Paul Coughlin’s passion to prevent bullying comes from his own bullying experience while in elementary school. He understands how a campaign of cruelty can damage a person’s emotional and psychological well-being, not just in childhood, but often for life.

This knowledge, along with his passion, led him to start an anti-bullying effort called The Protectors, whose primary focus is on the potential strength, heroic desire and rescuing capacity of bystanders. Studies show that bystanders possess the most potential to transform an environment of bullying into one of character, freedom and justice. One study revealed that if only one bystander, whether popular or not, uses his or her assertive but nonviolent words in defense of a target, the incident of bullying can end 58 percent of the time within six to eight seconds.

How prevalent is bullying in schools?

  • One out of every four students report being victims of bullying during the school year. (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2015)

  • Of children who are bullied, 64 percent did not report it. (Petrosino, Guckenburg, DeVoe, and Hanson, 2010)

  • School-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25 percent. (McCallion and Feder, 2013)

  • The reasons for being bullied reported most often by students were looks (55 percent), body shape (37 percent) and race (16 percent). (Davis and Nixon, 2010)

According to Coughlin, an expert witness regarding bullying and the law, bullying is not about conflict and miscommunication. It is about standing in contempt of another human being.

“It is a myth that the bully has anger management problems,” says Coughlin. “Bullies are highly predatory people. Bullies tend to come from homes with coercive parenting styles where parents express disdain and contempt of people who are different from them. Young people learn through modeling, this is how you treat people.”

What can you do?

  • Speak Up. If someone is bullying you, tell them to stop.

  • Bystanders are the best front line of defense. Stand up for the victim when you see bullying happen. Phrases such as, “Stop it, that’s wrong,” “Let’s do something else,” “I am going to report you” are powerful and can stop the bullying.

  • Schools can adopt anonymous reporting. One of the top five apps changing the world for good, as reported by CNN, is an anonymous reporting app called STOPit.

  • Take the incident seriously. Act sooner rather than later.

  • Don’t look the other way. When you know something is happening, report it.

“What’s really going to change bullying is when we change parenting,” Coughlin says. “As parents, we need to expect our kids to help someone in need. It needs to be part of your family mission and purpose. I have actually had this conversation with all three of my kids. I expect you to do something life-affirming. We don’t stand by and watch someone’s psychological flesh get seared from their body and do nothing.

“Research actually shows that when we see someone being targeted and you have the power to act yet you do nothing, our capacity for courage, sympathy and empathy decrease. We become small-souled. If we want strong kids, this is a pivotal moment. This is a tremendous opportunity for character development.”

Although it is not possible to prevent bullying altogether, there is no excuse for allowing it to continue if you know it is going on. Speaking up for yourself or another victim can make a huge difference both now and in the future.

For tips on parenting get our E-book “How to be a Guide for your Teen” Download Here