Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bullying.....or not!

The news is full of reports of bullying and its consequences. Students who have endured taunting for years go on shooting rampages or commit suicide. Parents claim nothing was done to help their child despite repeated complaints.

Bullying is nothing new. I've experienced it, and so have you.

What is bullying? Behavior is considered to be bullying when it meets the following criteria:
  • Negative behaviors by peers over time.
  • The perpetrator intends to oppress the victim.
  • There is a disparity in age, physical size or ability, intellectual abilities, or social status.
There are several types of bullying. The negative actions may be physical, social, relational, verbal, sexual, and cyber.

Physical bullying is the easiest to identify, Any type of violent physical contact falls into this category, and the marks make it stand out.

Social and relational bullying are similar in nature. This may appear as shunning, ignoring, intentional embarrassment, or acting in an unwelcome manner.

Verbal bullying involves threats, teasing, comments, or intimidation.

Sexual bullying includes unwanted physical contact, sexual comments or displays.

Cyber bullying is similar to verbal, but it involves some form of technology.

Think you have a handle on it? Take a look at the following scenarios:

A seventh grade girl is upset because she isn't invited to a party. Is this bullying?
  • No, because this is a one-time event. If this is part of a pattern, and the girl(s) involved repeatedly point out that she is being left out, the teasing is bullying. There are too many other reasons why someone is not invited to a private activity.
A sixth grade boy is called "gay" repeatedly by a variety of students.
  • Yes. This is a negative behavior intended to oppress. Members of a group are using their status to inflict pain.
If your child reports bullying, do as much investigation as you can. If it is a one-time problem, teach your youngster how to resolve conflicts with others and make friends. Unless there was a serious threat of harm, this does not necessarily need further action.

If the events have continued for more than a week, it's time to alert the school. An investigation will be launched. Do not ask what happened to the other student. This is confidential, and you will not be notified. Do ask what is being done to protect your child. If you are concerned, visit with school officials.

Be aware that students do make false reports of bullying incidents. They may be trying to disguise their own bullying of others, covering up for a school transgression, or trying to explain away stress behaviors. Be careful when jumping to conclusions.

The best defense against bullying is vigilance. Encourage your child to be near school personnel during unstructured times (before and after school, lunch, etc.). Ask administrators to keep an eye on your student. Be aware of their digital communications. Watch during community activities. It's the only proven solution.

Questions about this topic? Click the link to send me an email.