It can be through verbal taunts, physical violence, or mean comments on a social networking site, but one thing is for sure, the bullying epidemic is still going strong.
High profile bullying cases have caught national attention. Ty Field-Smalley of Oklahoma was just 11 years old when he took his own life after being ridiculed for his small stature, according to his father Kirk Smalley. Rebecca Sedwick, 12 of Florida, jumped from a tower at an abandoned concrete factory after being cyber-bullied by two girls.
School administrators in north central Wisconsin are keeping bullying front and center. Evergreen Elementary Principal Rick Koepke says bullying isn’t a big problem at his school, but he wants to keep it on the minds of his students as the year progresses. That’s why students recite a “Courage to Stand” pledge about what to do if they or someone they know is being bullied.
Psychologists say the motivation for bullies has not changed with the times.
“Kids and teens and individuals might bully as a way of getting more power,” says Dr. Shannon Schaefer. “It’s this sense of ‘if I put you down I’m somehow better than you’.”
She says effects of being bullied include depression, anxiety, sleeping trouble, and academic problems.
Dr. Schaefer says parents should know what their kids are doing and who they’re talking to online. She says hiding behind a computer screen can make it easier to taunt others.
Michelle Reiche says she helps her daughter Sidney deal with bullies by being there for her when she needs a hug.
“You just kind of hold her and try to make her feel better,” she says.
Schaefer says one of the most important things you can do when talking to your kids is to make it an easy conversation so that kids do not feel like they have no place to go.
Earlier this month a group of students and teachers gathered to discuss bullying at Mountain Bay Elementary in Weston. Included in the discussion was Vincent Cumber, a 12-year-old who says he’s been bullied before.
“People just weren’t nice to me,” he says. “They would just say mean things to put people down.”
He was chosen for the anti-bullying seminar by his teachers who say he makes a good leader. He draws on his own experiences being bullied to help others.
His mother Rachel says she knew something was wrong when Vincent wasn’t as excited about going to school.
“To a young person who doesn’t have the life experience to deal with something like that it feels like the worst thing in the world,” she says.
Ethan Cates, an openly gay freshman at UW- Stevens Point, says for him the bullying became really bad when he moved to Wisconsin Rapids at the age of eight. He says he was bullied for, in his words “who I was talking to, how I was talking, who I was hanging out with, and what things I was doing that normally weren’t ‘boyish’ things.”
The National Youth Association says LGBT, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens are bullied two to three times as much as straight teens.
Ethan says he actually began to bully himself because it was a way to turn the tables and feel better. He says that didn’t last long-term and instead he used it as a learning experience.
“I acknowledged it, I learned from it, and I grew from it,” he says.
Psychologists says respect is central to the issue of bullying. It’s important to respect others as well as yourself.
For more information on bullying and what you can do to stop it, visit http://www.stopbullying.gov/
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