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The Golden Rule

By: Kim Richardson, YSB Guest Author and Woodbury Police Detective
reflects on National Bully Prevention Month 

 

The Golden Rule: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

Undoubtedly, everyone has heard this phrase some time in their life. I heard it several times growing up and now tell it to my own children.

Unfortunately, many in this generation are not following wise words. I will never forget the first bullying report I took as a new School Resource Officer. A young female came to my office in tears saying several girls who used to be her friends were telling her to kill herself. I never considered myself old until that moment.

At no point growing up, did I ever think to tell someone I disliked to kill themselves. I soon realized this behavior is “normal” in the teenage world. I also realized how more frequent bullying has become. My goal for this article is for families to understand what to watch for or do if you see or suspect bullying.

To understand what bullying is, we start by defining it: unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.

  • The behavior can be repeated or has the probability to be repeated.

Many parents I have spoken with do not believe their child would bully someone, but with today’s technology, children do it (cyberbully) effortlessly.

  • Bullying can be broken down into three separate categories: physical, emotional and social.

Physical bullying is harming someone and/or their possessions. Emotional bullying is name calling, threatening and/or teasing. Social bullying is spreading rumors, purposely excluding someone from a group or event, and/or telling others not to be friends with someone.

Emotional bullying is what I find most common among teenagers. Teenage boys tend to use physical bullying most often while girls use emotional and social.

  • Technology has provided children with various ways to bully others. 

The hallways of school are where most would think the majority of the bullying takes place. It is actually before or after school in your very own home.

A recent training I attended stated there are over 350 online social media programs to use! Every day there seems to be a new one for children to download and use. The common ones parents should monitor are: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. All of these media sites have some type of direct message capability.

Snapchat in particular erases messages after a set time the sender chooses. As you can imagine this truly enables children to say or send whatever they want knowing it will disappear in a few seconds time. I cannot count the times I have taken bullying reports only to learn the initial reporter was engaging back with bullying themselves. My advice to parents is:

  • Monitor your children’s social media usage. Be in their business and know what social media sites your children are on.

Question them about having another account. Plenty of investigations have led to the discovery that children have two accounts. One to show their parents and the other for their friends. It is the second account they will use for bullying. Most of the time the second account doesn’t have their name on it.

  • Bullying can easily lead to mental health crisis for children.

It is common to find signs of mental health crisis that can be missed by family on the child’s secondary account. Knowing all of your child’s accounts and monitoring their usage could save their life.   

  • The hardest part for a parent is knowing the signs to watch for that suggest their child is being bullied.

There are various signs to be vigilant for and children might display one or several. The signs include: Faking illnesses to stay home, unexplained injuries, lost or damaged property, loss of friends, avoidance of social events, difficulty sleeping, dietary changes, declining grades and/or lower self-esteem. It is not uncommon for children to develop anxiety or depression when it’s time for school. Talk to you children if you are observing any of these signs or symptoms. If you get resistance understand that they might be embarrassed or ashamed; keep trying.

  • It can be easier for children to speak with non-family about the situation.

Make an appointment with their primary care provider. Reach out to the School Resource Officer at the school and/or the assistant principals. The ultimate goal is to not only stop the bullying but provide resources to your child.

Youth Service Bureau (YSB) is one of those resources. They provide several programs that schools and School Resource Officers have access. If you believe your child is participating in bullying, contact YSB for information on their Bullying Program.

The bottom line is you are a parent first and friend second. Be in your child’s business to make sure they treat others the way they want to be treated.

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