Tag Archive for: bullying

What to Do if Your Child is Being Cyberbullied

Here's what to look for and steps to take.

Cyberbullying has been on the rise for a while, but it has escalated during the pandemic. And it’s no wonder, due to virtual school, increased technology, and the flexibility parents have been giving to digital boundaries.

Our kids are highly active online. They’re digital natives. This is the world they are growing up in. Safety is always a concern, just like it was for us. I want my kids to be safe when they are online, so I want them to be aware of cyberbullying. 

Cyberbullying is using an electronic device to intimidate, threaten or humiliate another. It’s bullying in a digital world, and it can be done 24/7.

According to a recent Pew Research survey, 59% of U.S. teens have experienced some form of online harassment. Teens reported six common types of abusive behavior: 

  • Offensive name-calling
  • Spreading of false rumors
  • Receiving explicit images they didn’t ask for
  • Frequently being asked where they are, what they’re doing, or who they’re with by others
  • Physical threats
  • Having explicit photos of them shared without their consent

As parents, we need to proactively watch for signs of cyberbullying. Ninety percent of teens surveyed believe cyberbullying is a problem that affects people their age. A majority of them felt their parents were doing a good job addressing online harassment. Let’s keep it up.

Signs of cyberbullying

Here are some signs that your child is a victim of cyberbullying. They: 

  • Suddenly stop using their computer, tablet, or phone, even though they’ve always enjoyed it.
  • Seem nervous when receiving a text or notification.
  • Shut down their devices when family members approach them.
  • Allude to bullying without directly saying they are being bullied. Maybe your child talks about drama at school or their lack of friends.
  • Withdraw from technology, friends, or family.

If you see these signs, don’t just assume they act this way because they are teens. While that may be the case, something deeper may be happening.

Steps you can take to help your child

The first step is to talk to your child. As parents, we know our kids best. When you see a change in their attitude or demeanor, ask some questions. If you sense they’re being bullied but won’t open up about it, share a story from your childhood about when you were bullied. Your child’s safety is your top priority. You want to make sure they feel safe and know they can talk to you about anything. You both want the same result: to stop cyberbullying.

If you don’t already have ground rules in place for technology usage, now’s the time to start. You should be able to see where and who your child has been interacting with online.

If you find evidence of cyberbullying, get help. Here’s what the Cyberbullying Research Center recommends:

  • Collect evidence. Print out or take screenshots of cyberbullying instances.
  • Work with the school. Talk to the administrator about their bullying policy.
  • Do not contact the bully’s parents. While this is often our first thought, we don’t want to escalate the situation. We, as parents, usually take our child’s side and don’t like to listen to accusations about their behavior.
  • Contact the content provider. Websites, apps, gaming networks, etc., all have terms of service that cyberbullying violates. It’s in all those disclaimers that we often just click “I have read and agree” without reading. (Guilty!) Even if your child can’t identify their bully, the provider can do something about it.
  • If necessary, seek counseling. Remember your child’s well-being is the top priority. Bullying can have long-lasting effects. Speaking to a counselor may help them.
  • If there are physical threats, contact the police. It may be an empty threat, but do not wait to find out.  

Cyberbullying can be a severe threat to your child’s well-being. They deserve the opportunity to learn and develop without fear. The best step you can take is to be proactive. Be engaged in their digital lives and build an environment of trust and transparency.

More resources:

Popular artist Taylor Swift is aware of her critics and the harshness of their comments, especially after the time she sang off key with Stevie Nicks. One critic said it was the beginning of the end of her career.

These comments definitely affected Swift. So, what was her response? She wrote a song: Mean. 

You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me,

You have knocked me off my feet again, got me feeling like I’m nothing…

While there have always been mean people, many would agree that there seems to be more mean behavior than even a decade ago.

“I believe as a society we are seeing more meanness and we have become more tolerant of it,” says Dr. Gary J. Oliver, emotional intelligence expert. “While bullying has always been around, we have seen an escalation of inhospitable, hurtful and demeaning behavior – and not just in adults who have lived a rough life. We are seeing this behavior in children as well.”

So, as Swift asks in her lyrics, why do people have to be so mean?

“I think there are a number of reasons,” Oliver says. “People seem to be more accepting of mean behavior instead of stopping it. And we have a lot of hurting people out there. When a wounded person feels threatened, they lash out in an effort to protect themselves. These people are almost always unhappy, insecure and frustrated. Their effort to make themselves feel better and safer comes at a great cost to those who become the target of their anger.”

Oliver also believes mean behavior has increased because of humans’ natural instinct to fight, run away or freeze when they feel threatened. People who don’t how to handle a mean situation often resort to fighting back or attacking someone out of anger.

“Most people do not realize that when they feel threatened, the emotion portion of their brain gets hijacked. If they have never learned emotional self-awareness, they resort to instinctive responses,” Oliver says. “Parents can teach their children how to handle their emotions in a way that is assertive yet not mean and disrespectful.”

Dr. Oliver shares these tips to teach children emotional intelligence:

  • Love your children.
  • Keep expectations realistic. No child can be number one at everything.
  • Help your child to recognize his/her strengths.
  • Teach them healthy boundaries.
  • Model how to treat others with kindness and compassion even when treated disrespectfully.
  • When someone makes a mean statement to your child, teach them to ask themselves if it is true. If not, they can dismiss it. If it is, they can do something about it.

“Nobody likes being treated mean – not even the bully,” Oliver says. “Teaching your children that they don’t have to react to every stimulus and that they can remain calm will serve them well on into adulthood. How far your child goes in life depends more on emotional intelligence than having a degree from an Ivy League school.”

Who would you prefer your child to hang around, someone who is mean, disrespectful and rude or someone who is compassionate, kind and respectful?

Image from Unsplash.com

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. Convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl, they both faced 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.

Image from Unsplash.com

The Truth About Cyberbullying

Here's what parents need to know, and what they can do.

What’s True and False about Cyberbullying?

  • 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.

*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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

What You Need to Know About Bullying

Understand, prevent and counteract bullying with these tips.

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.

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. But there are some other things you need to know about bullying, or at least consider.

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.

Parents, pay attention and 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

*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

On average, how much time do you spend with your children each week?

How much time do your children think you spend with them?

Dad, you’ve probably heard that quality time with your children, not the quantity, is what really matters. A study published in the Youth and Society Journal, however, questions that line of thinking.

The study indicates that bullying behavior increases when children perceive that their dad is not spending enough time with them.

Andre Christie-Mizell is a psychologist and associate professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University. He studied the behavior and perceptions of 687 children ages 10 to 14 and living in two-parent homes in 2000. Plus, he looked at their parents’ work hours.

He asked:

  • What is the relationship between the number of hours parents work and adolescent bullying behavior? 
  • What is the relationship between bullying behavior and youths’ perceptions of the amount of time their parents spend with them?

Interestingly, he found that the child’s perception of how much time they spent with their fathers most impacted bullying behavior. This is exactly opposite of what expected to find. Since mothers usually spend the most time caring for children, Christie-Mizell thought the mother’s time away would be the determining factor.

“The findings about fathers and mothers are important because it turns what most of us think is conventional wisdom — that mothers have the most influence on children — on its ear. This research shows that while it’s equally important for kids to spend time with both parents, fathers need to make an extra effort,” Christie-Mizell says.

He suggests setting up a schedule for parent-child interaction in order to guide children’s perceptions. For example, you could reserve Saturday mornings for daddy-daughter dates or father-son time.

Christie-Mizell says the interaction has to be purposeful and scheduled. You can’t just rely on those random, last-minute trips with Dad to the grocery store.

“Children need to know they have this scheduled time. And it’s important for fathers to try to keep to the schedule as much as possible. If fathers have to miss, then it’s also important that they explain to the child why they have to miss their scheduled time and how what they are doing instead affects their family,” Christie-Mizell says.

A University of Michigan-Ann Arbor study explored time with Dad, too. It found that American kids in two-parent, intact families spend an average of 2.5 hours a day with their fathers on weekdays and 6.2 on weekends. For about half that time, fathers are directly engaging with the kids — playing, eating, shopping, watching television with them or working together around the house. The rest of the time, dads are nearby and available if their kids need them.

Children tend to do better in every area of life when dad is active in their lives. And believe it or not, dads are better off, too.

How to Prevent Bullying

Everyone can make a difference when they speak out against bullying.

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 to prevent bullying?

  • 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.