Understanding Bullying and Ending Peer Cruelty
It’s a sea of sadness when we read headlines of peer cruelty, youth dying and the rise of incivility in our country today. Whether it’s offline, as in the school cafeteria or online, in the palm of your child’s hand, hate is hate and it’s killing our society.
Dr. Michele Borba is a leading bullying prevention expert as well as a best-selling author. In her most recent book, End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy (Free Spirit, February 2018) she gives us a road-map to bring back civility for our young people.
What works and does not work to reduce bullying?
In Dr. Borba’s new book, she explains that bullying is a learned behavior and can be unlearned, but the solutions to ending peer cruelty are not simple. She continues:
All these eye-catching posters and buttons, T-shirt contests, song competitions, one-day trainings, packaged worksheets, or stop-bullying — while they mean well — are not effective solutions. Bullying is not a one-size-fits-all approach that uses the same strategy for the targets, bystanders, and students who bully. After-all, each bullying incident differs in motivation, type, and dynamics, just as each student’s learning needs differ.
Understanding cyberbullying terminology that parents and educators should know:
- Sexting: electronically sending or posting a naked, sexualized, or compromising photo of a person
- Flaming: posting angry, rude comments in an online forum
- Harassment: repeatedly sending offensive messages to someone
- Denigration: attacking someone online by spreading rumors or posting false information
- Outing and trickery: electronically disseminating intimate private information about someone or tricking someone into disclosing private information, which is then disseminated
- Impersonation: pretending to be someone else and posting material online to damage that person’s reputation
- Exclusion: intentionally excluding someone from an online group
- Cyberstalking: creating fear by sending frequent threatening messages to someone
Is your child a victim of bullying or cyberbullying?
Dr. Borba offers insights and warning signs in her new book as well as the 6R’s of prevention.
Most bullying signs go unreported or undetected. Many students are uncomfortable telling adults they were bullied for fear it will make matters worse, because the parent or educator will confront the bullying child. Fear of retaliation is a major concern of targets, and rightly so. Most bullying occurs in areas and times when adults are not present to protect targets. That’s why it’s crucial that educators learn specific warning signs of bullying so they can support potential targets. Every student can have an “off” day and display a sign or two, so look for a sudden unhealthy behavior that is not typical of the student and endures. Of course, the signs might also indicate other problems, but any signs warrant closer examination and discussing with other staff members and the child’s parents.
A perpetrator uses digital media (such as texts, emails, IMs, website posts, tweets, videos) to hurt, threaten, embarrass, annoy, blackmail, or otherwise target another child. Though it is most common during the middle school years, the problem is making its way into the younger set. It is not surprising that cyberbullying has the potential to cause severe psychological damage in targeted children. Though most electronic bullying happens off school grounds, many students carry cell phones or tablets to school, so the staff should be aware of these signs. In addition to many of the signs just listed, a child who is being cyberbullied may:
- be hesitant to go online, or act nervous when an IM, text message, or email appears
- act visibly upset after using a computer or cell phone, or suddenly avoid electronic devices
- hide or clear the computer or cell phone screen when a peer or adult approaches
- spend longer hours online in a more tense, pensive posture
End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy is a must-own for every parent and teacher. It offers step-by-step valuable and practical solutions — as well as information to help you navigate through a generation of “mean.” From elementary school to middle and high school, no one escapes the scars of bullying, but with education and awareness we are on the way to helping to combat it.
How will you help your community become a kinder one – offline and online?
Is your teen a victim of bullying or cyberbullying?