Bullying is a serious problem for kids and can lead to extreme outcomes, like suicide. A case currently unfolding in Florida is investigating the alleged bullying of two girls toward a 12-year-old classmate, who may have ended her life at the hands of their taunting.
According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, two students, ages 12 and 14, were arrested and charged with aggravated stalking for “maliciously harassing” Rebecca Ann Sedwick through verbal and physical abuse and cyberbullying, NBC News
reported. Rebecca Ann jumped to her death
from an abandoned cement factory silo in September.
Social media’s popularity has taken cyberbullying to new dangerous levels, according to Dr. Joseph Wright, Senior Vice President of Community Affairs and the Child Health Advocacy Institute
with Children’s National Health System.
Dr. Wright explained that by the third grade, 75 percent of kids have been exposed to bullying
– mostly as bystanders.
“It’s not a new or exotic behavior that we’re experiencing with this generation of kids,” Dr. Wright said. “But what’s different is we’re hearing about more of the awareness and frankly the attention, which media has been very helpful. But unfortunately, it’s kind of a perverse attention because it’s usually around a high-profile tragic circumstance that we hear about. Secondly, the other reason we’re hearing more and more about it because of the introduction of technology and cyberbullying.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month
. Children and teenagers who are bullied or who bully others “have a high chance of being affected by a wide range of health and safety hazards
” including suicidal attempts, sleeping difficulties and injuries requiring medical care.
Roughly 160,000 children stay home every day to avoid being bullied, according to the National Education Association
Children’s National’s sports medicine pediatrician Nailah Coleman
, MD, said often what’s driving a bully is self-aggrandizement, although the persecuted child may feel it is belittlement at their own expense.
“In fact, bullies are often not focused on those they bully at all. They just want to feel better about themselves by making someone else, anyone else, feel worse,” said Dr. Coleman, who works at Children’s National’s Improving Diet, Energy and Activity for Life (IDEAL) Obesity Clinic
. “In the Obesity Clinic, we have many patients who have suffered bullying and teasing; however, when a new school year begins or when the class dynamics change, the bully focuses on someone or something else altogether.”
The rate of teen and pre-teen suicide is steadily climbing, with bullying being a contributing factor.
Bullying is a big deal and adults should take seriously claims made by their child or child they supervise (such as a coach or a tutor) that another child is targeting them, Drs. Coleman and Wright said.
Last week, Wright was named the 2013 recipient of the Jim Seidel Distinguished Service Award
by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Section on Emergency Medicine. In 2011, the AAP recognized him for his career contributions in the areas of youth violence and bullying prevention.
“Bullying is a normative phase for children to move through developmentally, but that still does not mean that it is a behavior that we should ignore or tolerate, particularly when the behavior, or shall I say, aggression between children is normal and not unusual. When we talk about that aggression rising to the level of bullying is when it’s repetitive, and intentional, and it exploits a power dynamic – one kid exerting power over another whether it’s physical, emotional.More tips parents should keep in mind for bullying prevention:
- Talk to children about their feelings and encourage open conversations
- Tell your kids how special they are to you and that you love them
- Remember your kids are watching and taking cues from you
- Monitor your child’s demeanor
- Focus on increasing your child’s self-assurance even if they have not witnessed or encountered bullying
Parents can have a positive impact on bullying prevention. A study, published last year in the American Journal of Public Health, found that children of parents who were involved in their lives and very communicative were less likely to become bullies.
Prevention must start early, according to Dr. Wright. Give kids less access to computers, personal devices (unsupervised) and more access to you – spending time eating meals together, talking enjoying each other’s company – in short, more pro-social interactions that demonstrate you care, according to Dr. Wright.
And young people will be the “galvanizing voice” and “initiators of change,” Wright said, applauding advocacy work of young people on the issue and the 2012 formation of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus chaired by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.). Helpful links: