By Detective Daniella Quinn
It has to be a very painful and scary thing for parents to learn that their child is being bullied. As parents, you may find yourself pondering the tough question: Do I intervene on behalf of my children or hold back and let them work out the problem themselves?
At times, it wasn’t until after the fact that parents learned their children were being bullied. And I think that’s probably true more often than not — kids go through these things and never tell their parents.
One in 10 teens tells parents if they have been a cyber bully victim. Less than one in five cyber bullying incidents are reported to law enforcement.
Bullying is a repeated and hurtful act of someone intimidating or hurting another person. This behavior includes taunting, teasing, spreading rumors, social exclusion, hitting or pushing, taking or breaking another’s property. Cyber bullying is online harassment to include sending mean texts, emails or instant messages, posting nasty pictures or messages about someone else.
In this fight against bullying and cyber bullying, communication is key. Parents should:
- Talk to your children and explain to them what bullying is and that it is unacceptable
- Teach your children about how to resolve conflicts peacefully and accepting everyone’s differences
- Always keep open communication with your children; know their friends and most of all know their concerns
- Encourage your children to not be afraid and report, to any trusted adult, any bullying that occurs to them or even if they see it occurring to someone else. Let’s get the children to begin to speak up for one another and help their peers
- Ask questions daily about what your children are doing in school; monitor their Internet and cell phone activity, set rules and guidelines for its use. As a parent of a child using social media, educate yourself about the Internet and its various forms of communication and use parental controls. Importantly, take the time to look at the social media conversations, the pictures/videos on your child’s profile page and make sure your children are aware of the consequences of any negative posts or comments.
There are, of course, a million forms of bullying, and sometimes the worst thing adults can do is look the other way. We’ve seen the worst cases where teenagers have used social media in horrible ways that has resulted in their peers committing suicide.
Though bullying is as old as classrooms, it is only in recently that states have moved to address this issue with legislation. Previously, this was simply the domain of schools. In 1999, only Georgia had an anti-bullying law. Today, every state except Montana does. In the past 14 years, states have enacted nearly 130 anti-bullying measures, half of them since 2008.
Spurred partly by the Columbine shootings in 1999, when it was reportedly that the suspects had been bullied, states began rapidly addressing bullying, according to a 2011 U.S. Department of Education report. Victims in 18 states now have legal recourse either from schools that fail to address the issue or from the bullies themselves.
The hopeful news is that in my lifetime, schools and law enforcement have become much more aware of the dangers of bullying and the need to be proactive. The bad news is it is still not enough.
Remember that bullying is not only wrong; it’s a crime and should be reported right away. Now is the time to stand up against bullying. Let’s continue to work together to keep the children in our community safe.