Fall is back-to-school season and throughout our country children are hoisting on new backpacks while teenagers are trying to figure out their new class schedules.
Although children often lament the end of summer vacation, most students look forward to a new school year for a variety of reasons. It could be rejoining friends, kicking off a new sports season, or simply getting another year of school under their belt.
For a certain segment of both the junior high and high school population, there is little delight in a new school year; there is fear. These are the young people who serve as the sad and too often unseen faces of bullying. Reports indicate that one in three students have been bullied at school.
Bullying, taunting, teasing and generally making fun of another has reached new levels of negativity and creativity today primarily due to social media. Up to 43% of students report that they have been bullied online.
It isn’t enough anymore to bully an overweight young girl or a skinny boy during school hours in the halls, school yard or bathroom; today’s bullies carry it long into the night via their smart phones. And, they embrace no boundaries and limits as to what they will say in writing.
Simply calling someone fat or ugly isn’t all we’re seeing these days. There are instances where kids are being told to die or kill themselves. In too many cases, unfortunately, it works. The suicide rate for young people tends to dip during the summer, then ramps up as soon as the new school year begins.
Fortunately, recognition of this problem is increasing in school administrators, teachers and counselors. However, for true and lasting change to occur, parents must also get on board. Here are a couple of suggestions for parents:
– If bullying is suspected in any regard, parents need to talk to their child. They should express their own concerns and strongly encourage the child to tell them the truth. These types of conversations are highly encouraged because the possible consequences can be too grave.
– The other component of this equation can prove more challenging. Parents need to realize that every child who is out there in cyberspace telling another kid to kill him or herself, also has parents. Therefore, every parent should ask themselves, “Could my child be a bully?”
It is important to recognize that just because such behavior is not demonstrated at home, doesn’t mean it is not occurring in school or elsewhere. Bullying often comes from a child’s own sense of insecurity and as an attempt to feel like they belong by excluding others. Children need to learn to cope by including others and learning to be gentle with themselves.
In today’s world, parents can no longer afford to live with a “not my child” mentality. Far better for them to consider their own son or daughter’s involvement now, have a serious talk with them about the unacceptability of bullying, then to learn that another student has taken their own life and their child is somehow culpable.