There have been so many horrible stories about bullying in the news lately. It makes me wonder why there was no media coverage when it happened to me and my friends back in the day. I hope it is a sign that our civilization is becoming more aware of the issue.
Individuals with special-needs are especially vulnerable to bullying, according to Starr Taxman of Starr Taxman Children’s Advocacy and Investigative Services. She is also a mother of three, and two of her children have special needs. Starr is also a sought-after speaker on the topic of bullying and interventions that help stop it.
Evidence supports Starr’s position: A 2008 report in the British Journal of Support holds that while 25% of the general student population reported being bullied, the number among students with special needs was 60% – and remember, that is only accounting for what the students reported – or were able to report!
Often people with special needs are unable to communicate traditionally, so they may not be able to explain what is happening. This was the case with Kathy Coleman’s 31-year-old non-verbal son with autism. He was able to communicate that he feared his caregiver, and his observant mom saw bruises on him, so she put hidden cameras in his room at the care facility. She was shocked at what she captured on film, and also at the facility’s reaction – to try to destroy the evidence! Naturally she is suing, and her son is no longer living there.
Even in paradise, bullying rears its ugly head. Recently at a school in Hawaii a 5-year-old boy with autism was being beaten up by a group of 5th graders. The young boy was reportedly down on the ground in a fetal position! A super-brave 2nd grade girl named Eileen Parkman stepped up and told the boys what they were doing wasn’t right. She was then beaten herself, and also became a target at the school. After several bullying incidents she transferred, but she has won the Maui Autism Center’s bravery award for being a “Defender of the defenseless.” On his Facebook page, Eileen’s father has thanked everyone for their support of Eileen because it helps her to hear that she did the right thing. As if that was ever a question??? What kind of world has this become???
The Bully Project has some great resources, including a special section about students with special needs. Their website includes clips from the award-winning film Bully and there are downloadable materials available. Students with disabilities have legal rights, and many situations go beyond bullying and into the legal area of harassment.
Peer advocacy is a great deterrent to bullying, so be sure to teach all your children – typical and those with special needs – to stand up for themselves and for each other.Pin It
All of our children will be faced with confrontation. Whether it is in school, their neighborhood, college, work, even in marriage, as they are older. It is important to prepare them to deal with confrontation now.
Start talking to your children when they are young. When appropriate, find ways to bring up the subject of bullying so conversations can ensure.
Don’t just talk, listen. Our children will drop little hints when there are bullying problems. We will miss the cues if we don’t actively listen to what they are saying.
Role-play with your children. THIS IS A MUST! Give your children different scenarios and teach them how to handle the situations. (“What do you do if someone calls you a name…takes your backpack…etc)”. Answers to these questions are going to be slightly different for each family, depending on how you want to handle things in your own house. There are some things about the answers that will be the same:
- Responses should be confident, direct, and void of emotion. (Emotion conveys weakness). Children should speak with their bodies as well as their mouths. Shoulders back, standing straight and tall, using a firm voice.
- Instead of “…that hurts my feelings… the response should be “…knock it off”.
- Instead of “I don’t like that…the response should be…quit it”
- So much of successful response to bullying is in the delivery. Practice directness, confidence, and strong body language.
- Go through each situation and teach them what to say and do. It will empower them, and when they are faced with bullying they wont be as intimidated because they will have had experience and practiced what to do. They will know just how to respond if necessary. This also gives your family the opportunity to teach your morals and values when handling these types of situations.
Talk to your children about conflict resolution. Talk to them about managing their anger, communicating, compromise and being patient. This is done through role-play and everyday situations. As conflict happens in your home between siblings, use it to teach. Be sure that as adults, we are being good examples of conflict resolution also.
Talk to your children about violence. Fighting is not the answer. Teach your children that it is not okay to fight, UNLESS there is a need to stand up for them selves in self-defense. They should know that if they need to defend themselves because they are being, or going to be physically attacked, then they do. And, that if they do have to fight in self-defense that you will understand and not get mad at them because things turned physical.
Research teaches us that helping our children build their self-confidence is one the best defenses against bullying. By talking to our children about conflict and role-playing challenging situations, we can build our children’s self confidence so they feel more prepared when faced with bullyingPin It
Hailey Bennett is 12 years old – her mother died when she was three and her father is abusive. She’s been bullied for years – in school and on her Facebook page where she admits she wants to die and is ignored – and eventually she commits suicide. At least that is the fictional story being told by Jessica Barba, a 15 year old high school student from New York who created a video called “The Story of Hailey Bennett” as a class project to make a point – that bullying is real, that it happens every day and could be happening to the child who on the surface is living a happy life – and that each and every one of us can and should make a difference in putting an end to this.
To tell Hailey’s story Jessica created a six-minute video and a fake Facebook page. Both had disclaimers to let viewers know that Hailey was a fictional character. A concerned parent however saw “Hailey’s” Facebook page with the update that said “I wanna be dead” and called the police who contacted the school. Despite multiple disclaimers that this was a fictional story, Jessica was suspended from school for 5 days.
“I just created the video in order to raise awareness of the major issue that’s bullying,” 15-year-old Jessica Barba told Matt Lauer on TODAY. “I don’t understand why I’m being punished for it.”
And really when it comes down to it, that is the question. Should she have been? Jessica created a fake Facebook page – that violated Facebook’s terms of service – but the unfortunate truth is that happens every day, often with intent to harm – to bully or deliberately hurt or humiliate others – not to raise awareness of that behavior and encourage others to take a stand against it.
Here is Jessica’s video:
It’s amazing the world technology allows us to create. 10 years ago Jessica Barba could only have submitted this as a paper – I doubt it would have created this much uproar. But not today. Today, she brought us into Hailey’s world and it was real enough to frighten a parent into calling the police. Real enough to frighten the school administration into suspending her. But should they have? Too often what we don’t see is exactly what we need to see…and Jessica Barba certainly opened our eyes.
But did she go too far? Or did the school officials? What do you think??
And then he did just that. A desperate act fueled by humiliation, Clementi committed suicide after his Rutgers University roommate secretly recorded a private sexual encounter between him and another male, only to then post it to YouTube.
In the Phoebe Prince case, the 15-year-old hanged herself on January 10, 2010, after enduring months of bullying from fellow students. Prince felt that killing herself was the only escape from teen tormentors who attacked her in the hallways and taunted her through texts and public online spaces, like Facebook.
We’re all familiar with tales of social networking sites (SNSs), along with other new media platforms, casting a dark shadow over events leading up to a victim’s suicide. Frequently the issues revolve around private encounters, moments and words that spread like wildfire once they’ve been introduced to the digital stage – often without the target’s consent.
With the 21st century ingenue Cyberbullying playing the lead role in each one of those dramas, we rarely hear examples of how social networking promotes a healthy mental state and even prevents suicide in some instances.
Although the media continually make the connection, there is no conclusive evidence that cyberbullying causes suicide.
First, we do youth a disservice by perpetually drawing a straight line between the two concepts of online harassment and self-murder. Continuing to make that association falsely communicates the message that there is no alternative escape from cyberbullying other than ending one’s life, which can result in children making that fatal decision.
Second, adults need to remember that youth connect emotionally and define relationships through their digital devices and Web platforms. They acutely feel both rejection and connection via digital media.
According to a recent International Center for Media and the Public Agenda (ICMPA) study, “students around the world reported that being tethered to digital technology 24-7 is not just a habit, it is essential to the way they construct and manage their friendships and social lives.”
Finally, it’s crucial that we understand both the positive and negative sides of social media, thereby putting cyberbullying into context and appreciating its place amidst all the benefits and opportunities that arise from digital connections.
To further the point, a growing body of research from the Australia-based Co-operative Research Centre for Young People, Technology and Wellbeing (YAW-CRC) supports the idea that SNSs have a much more positive effect on relationships and mental well-being than most of us may be aware.
According to the YAW-CRC’s The Benefit of Social Networking Services report:
“There is a demonstrated positive relationship between young people’s use of social networking services and self-esteem. … It is also argued that a sense of community and belonging has the potential to promote young people’s resilience, giving them the ability to successfully adapt to change and stressful events. … Overall, it appears that the social connections developed and fostered through SNS play an important role in promoting young people’s well-being.
Although cyberbullying represents the seamier side of social networking, it’s greatly outweighed by the support systems that youth develop online.
Too frequently it’s said that friendships in virtual communities do not carry the same lasting loyalty and profound connectivity that real-world relationships hold. Statements like those diminish the value that young ones place on their online relationships and in the end miss the importance of social networking in fostering a sense of self-worth and belonging on this Earth.
Things to Remember
Marginalized children and teens need to hear from trusted sources that their lives are not over if they experience digital persecution from peers. And parents, mentors and teachers should refer to resources (e.g., the Cyberbullying Research Center) to better understand social media’s place in self-esteem development.
If you are concerned for yourself or a child who is being harassed online, intervention programs make all of the difference. For more information, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) What a Difference a Friend Makes website.
Playground taunts and physical threats are nothing new, but until recently, children were usually safe inside their own home. Now, with email, texting and social networking, the harassment and intimidation can happen 24/7 – and anonymously. Here are answers to common questions about bullying and ways to protect your child.
What constitutes bullying?
There are three main types of bullying, according to Dr. Andrea Wiener, a child psychologist and the author of The Best Investment: Unlocking The Secrets of Social Success For Your Child. Physical bullying typically involves hitting, shoving and kicking, and is more common among boys. Social aggression includes alienation, ostracism, deliberate exclusion and spreading of untrue rumors, and is most common among girls. Cyber-bullying happens via social networking sites like Facebook, where kids post harassing comments or embarrassing photos with the intention of hurting someone else.
Why do kids bully?
Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, but the one thing they have in common is a need for power. “Often they are the popular kids that use power to control others,” says Weiner. “They seem to have a strong self-image, but it’s usually the opposite. They use fear because underneath it, they are scared and don’t think highly of themselves.” Bullying behavior can also carry into adulthood, in the form of dating aggression, spousal abuse or workplace harassment.
Who is most at risk?
Bullying victims are often the loners, according to Dr. Weiner – socially withdrawn, passive kids. “They let others be in control,” she says. “They may also have problems that would make them targets of abuse.” In fact, recent research points to children with obesity and food allergies as particular targets for bullying.
How do I know if my child is being bullied?
You’d like to think your child would tell you, but that’s often not the case, according to Weiner. Kids are afraid of being a tattletale or believe that it’s their fault and shy away from telling; so if you suspect your child to be the victim of bullying, don’t ask him directly. Instead, use indirect questions like, ‘How do you spend your recess time?’ or ‘What’s it like walking to school or being on the school bus?” Also, children often show their distress even if they don’t talk about it. “Signs of being bullied may include reluctance to go to school, sleep disturbances and vague physical complaints such as stomach pains or headaches,” says Weiner. “Look for unexplained belongings that are missing or clothes that are ripped.”
What should I do if I suspect bullying?
Go straight to school and report your suspicions. Most schools have adopted a no-bullying policy and take it seriously. Find out if your child’s teachers have observed anything and ask them to watch your child’s interactions with other students, suggests Weiner. Share with them what you’ve noticed at home and anything your child may have said. Then follow up and make sure that either the teachers or school administrators are taking steps to address the problem. With childhood bullying, the only people with the power to stop it are the adults.