Look Out

By Tawny Maya McCray

June 5, 2009 5 min read

LOOK OUT

Bullying comes in all forms, so keep a watchful eye

Tawny Maya McCray

Creators News Service

If your kids' grades are slipping, their moods have changed dramatically and they suddenly want to be driven to or picked up from school instead of taking the bus, be cautious: These are some signs that your child may be the victim of a school bully.

Other signs include a diminished appetite, problems sleeping and coming home with torn clothing.

"Everyday over 160,000 kids do not go to school because of bullying," said Jim Jordan, president of reportbullying.com, which creates anti-bullying programs and assemblies for schools throughout the United States and Canada.

Bullying has always been prevalent in schools, but in recent years it has become a serious problem that needs to be taken care of early on. O'Neal Walker, a clinical psychologist with the Center for Mental Health Services in Maryland, said 30 percent of children are bullied these days. If the problem is not dealt with swiftly, these kids will grow up to be adults who "feed into two systems -- our hospital-based residential care systems or our prison systems. "

To deal with a bully, Walker suggested kids report it to a school official or parent and not try to ignore it or get into a fight with the perpetrator. He added that a lot of bullying also takes place between school and home. If it occurs, the victim should stop in or by a nearby store in the community and use a cell or pay phone to call their parents or 911.

Jordan offered up a different approach. He said it's the bystanders who have to take action and report the incident to a person in authority, whether it's a teacher, the principal or a parent.

"What we try to do is educate the bystanders because that's 98 percent of the kids inside the schools," Jordan said. "The problem with the bullies is that it's bad behavior that's getting great results. By educating the bystanders, you get to the point where the bullies no longer get that gratification from the students being complacent or cheering them on for what they're doing. This bad behavior ends up getting bad results because bystanders are speaking up."

He said schools need to stop focusing on the bullies and the victims because "that's reactive, and the only way you become proactive is when you educate the bystanders. And victims are bystanders as well because they see other people getting bullied."

With the emergence of the Internet and cell phones over the past few decades, bullying is no longer limited to the schoolyard.

"Cyberbullying is the use of electronic information and communication devices such as e-mail, instant messaging, text messages, mobile phones, pagers and defamatory websites to bully or otherwise harass an individual or group through personal attacks or other means, and it may constitute a computer crime," said Rob Nickel, a Cyber Safety Expert who speaks at various schools throughout Canada and the U.S. and has appeared on the Dr. Phil Show.

Nickel said cyberbullying is easy to do because a person can go online anytime and post information for the world to see. It may be worse than typical school bullies because it can reach much further.

"Children used to have a safe place to go from bullying -- they could go home from school," Nickel said. "But with technology and the ability to communicate throughout the world, children are being bullied 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. "

Nickel said it is one of the most important issues in this era, since children are going through so much pain that they are taking their own lives.

"I believe it happens because people can be pretty tough and cruel on the other end of a computer," Nickel said. "They may be angry with someone or a group and decide to go online where they do not have to face the person and say things they would never say to another persons face."

Jordan pointed out that a lot of bullies get their examples from watching how their parents act.

"Kids watch how their parents treat other people in their community and how they talk to people and that's what they bring back to the school," Jordan said. "Kids learn from their parents. [The expression] 'the apple doesn't fall far from the tree' that is probably the best analogy I have ever heard in my entire life and that is so true.

"When we all can go out our front door and show respect for people and show our character education and our integrity, we can build a safe community."

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