by Carl Chenkin, Delaware Guidance Services
Since the Columbine massacre in 1999, there has been both progress and setbacks in the bullying arms race. The progress is in increased awareness of the damaging nature of bullying for the victims and the bully and in knowledge about those who bully, and how to prevent or diminish it. Here’s quick test of your knowledge:
True or False:
- Bullying and conflict are interchangeable terms.
- Bullies have good self-esteem.
- Bullying is a natural part of life.
- Bullying doesn’t always means physical attacks or threats.
- About 10% of the 6th through 10th grade population have been bullied or have bullied others in any semester long period.
- False. Conflict is disagreement (which can become physical or threatening) between two or more people who are of equal power. Bullying is aggression that can take many forms but is based upon some form of unequal power distribution.
- True. Bullies tend to have average to above average self-esteem but tend to be impulsive, see violence as positive, and lack empathy.
- False. Bullying is a destructive process for all concerned. Bullies are more likely to drop out of school, engage in a variety of anti-social behaviors, and be injured in fights. Victims frequently have increased risk for suicidal thoughts, depression and anxiety, and physical ailments.
- True. Bullying is often physically related but it also may involve name-calling, persistent teasing, excluding victims from activities, or public humiliations.
- False. The Journal of the American Medical Association (Nansel et al., 2001) estimates 30 percent of students in those grades have bullied or have been bullied in the previous semester.
If you got most of the answers correct, you are part of the progress being made in the attempts to erase bullying from children’s lives. A major setback in the anti-bullying campaign stems from the technological advances that make bullying increasingly pervasive, insidious, and anonymous. The emotional damage of cyber bullying, which may involve falsified or actual photographs, rumor spreading, and threats, is no less that face-to-face or physical threats. Incidents of cyber bullying have increased exponentially.
What can you to help “bullyproof” your child?
- Insure that your child communicates with you (or other adults) about his/her life. They need to experience you as someone who will support them and someone with whom they can share successes and problems.
- Pay attention to behavioral and emotional changes: a sudden reluctance to go to school, deteriorating school performance, headaches, sleep problems, anxiety, and/or withdrawal. Check if they are missing personal items or money things when they come home.
- Ask questions in a supportive manner: “Who are the friends you spend time with in school?” “Are there kids you don’t get along with?” Or, “Have you, or has anyone you know, been teased, or picked on in any way?”
- If you feel your child is being bullied talk to their teacher(s) and school administrators. Don’t accept “He /she just needs to deal with it.” Your child has a right to a school education that is safe.
- If you suspect that your child is bullying others, take it seriously. Make it clear to your child that it is not acceptable to you.
- Check your own temperament and habits that could be interpreted as making it okay to treat others meanly and unfairly.
- Insure that you have adequate rules that are clearly and consistently administered with appropriate consequences.
- Get your child involved in enjoyable peer-related activities with regular and trustworthy supervision.
Remember, for a child there’s no substitute for feeling loved, supported, and protected.
Carl Chenkin, PhD, is the New Castle County Clinical Director for Delaware Guidance Services.