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Daily Dose

Bullying

1:30 to read

The incidence of bullying continues to rise even 1 month into the school year. While excitement and a bit of anxiety are typical emotions for children as they find out their new classes and teachers, there are a group of students who have tremendous anxiety about going back to school….those children who have been victims of bullying.

 

It depends which study you read but somewhere between 10-29% of students report having been bullied. This represents around 13 million kids.  Some studies also show that somewhere around 6-10% of school aged children may be chronic victims of bullying.  No matter the number or statistic, bullying is an ongoing problem among school aged children and may have long last effects on both the child who has bullied as well as for the child who was bullied. 

 

Bullying by definition is “unwanted aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves either a real or perceived power imbalance”. Bullying behaviors are also typically repetitive. Boys are more likely to be bullies and may bully boys or girls while girls tend to bully other girls more often. 

 

There are different types of bullying. It may be physical (not as common), verbal, exclusionary, or cyberbullying.  All of these types of bully behaviors cause psychological and/or physical distress for the victims.  Victims of bullying are more likely to miss school and will have absences for “unknown” reasons where they may just report “not feeling well”.  These children  may often have frequent headaches and stomach aches without any physical findings.  I find that in many cases of bullying a child has been “well all summer” and the physical distress returns once school resumes. Victims of bullying also report difficulty in school with focus and concentration as well as depression and isolation.

 

The majority of bullying takes place at school, especially at times when there may be less supervision by teachers…during recess, lunch time,  bathroom breaks, and on playgrounds.  Unfortunately with the advent of cyberbullying and the use of cell phones, tablets and computers to send mean texts or emails more and more bullying may be occurring outside of school. 

 

Just as teachers need to be aware of bullying at school, parents need to know what their children are doing online. Now is another good time to discuss or re-visit the issue of online bullying and review your own family rules for posting or texting, reminding your child that anything they post may be seen by anyone. Don’t post or send anything to anyone that could hurt or embarrass themselves or others. It just takes one person forwarding a message for it to become “viral” and it will remain in that “mysterious cloud” forever!

 

Prevention of bullying requires that students, teachers, administrators and parents all work together.  Encourage your child to report any bullying behavior or concerns that they have and to get the school year off to a good start. 

 

One last statistic: parents who are involved with their children (including their online lives) and have clear and concise rules are less likely to have children who are either those who bully or are victims of bullying.  

 

  

Daily Dose

Put a Stop to Bullying

How to put a stop to bullyingUnfortunately, bullying is far too common these days. It seems like there is a headline in the news everyday as a child brings a gun to school to threaten others, or a child is beaten into a coma by bullies, or even stories of child taking their own life after they have been bullied.

Bullying is defined as “any repeated negative activity or aggression intended to harm or bother someone perceived by peers as less physically or psychologically powerful than the aggressor”.  In other words, bullying is when one child picks on another child again and again.  A child that is being bullied typically feels helpless and often does not even talk about being bullied. Bullying also typically happens while other children are watching. The American Academy of Pediatrics wants pediatricians to take an active role in discussing bullying with children and their parents in hopes of  preventing bullying in schools. As the incidence of bullying has increased and taken on “a life of its own”, the consequences of bullying are becoming all too common. In most cases bullying does not lead to headline stories, but rather may be heralded by children who have frequent headaches, or tummy aches or anxiety about school or even school refusal and frequent absences.

Children who have been bullied admit to feeling depressed or sad. Children may be bullied in many different ways, including physical bullying, verbal, social bullying or a combination of all of these. Children feel helpless against all of these different types of bullying and may not report the behaviors to parents or teachers. Children must be taught about bullying and be ready to protect themselves from being bullied.  As with so many issues with child rearing, children who have quality family time with dinners or family evenings for exercise or watching a movie have more conversations with their parents.  Ask your children how things are going at school.  Query as to how the kids in the class act towards one another and then ask them if they feel as if anyone is being bullied or picked on. Bullying is different than just playground “fights” or teasing. It is persistent and malignant and the child becomes a victim from the bullying. Explaining the difference to your children is important to help them understand bullying. Open conversations will hopefully enable your child to come to you for help if they feel like they are being bullied or know of bullying. The newest and maybe one of the most harmful forms of bullying is via “cyberspace”.  A study done in 2007 looked at electronic bullying among middle school students.  Victims of bullying reported that instant messaging was the most common method used to bully, followed by chat rooms, email messages, websites and text messages.  As electronic media continues to grow and be used at younger ages the importance of parents discussing “etiquette” in cyber space cannot be emphasized enough. Teach children to read what they have written aloud before sending a message, and to think if they would be comfortable saying the same thing to someone in person. The anonymity and emotion evoked from a text message may not be realized until it is too late. Social skills on line are equally as important as those within the home and school. We need to be aware of the recent increases in bullying and support interventions to decrease aggressive behavior. Bullies need to be accountable for their behavior and there need to be clear consequences for bullies both at home and school.   It takes “a village” to change behaviors, and this behavior cannot be tolerated! That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue right now!

Parenting

Parents, Encourage Your Child to Stand Up to Bullying!

2:00

We’ve all read the stories about how a crowd of bystanders have not intervened or called the police for help, as someone was being bullied, attacked or beaten. It’s a horrible thought that if you need assistance, no one will respond.

When children grow up in a home that encourages standing up to bullying, they are more likely to step up to the challenge than kids who’ve been taught to stay out of it, according to a recent U.S. study.

About one in 10 children are victims of bullying, and many anti-bullying programs are focused on getting bystanders to intervene, researchers note in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. While previous research has linked certain parenting practices to higher odds that kids will be victims or perpetrators of bullying, less is known about how parents impact what children do as bystanders.

Researchers surveyed more than 1,400 fourth and fifth graders about how their classmates responded in a bullying situation. On average, the kids participating in the study were 11 years old.

They also interviewed parents at home and gave them hypothetical bullying scenarios, asking them how they would advise their children to respond.

In school, kids whose classmates said they might intervene to stop bullies and to comfort victims were more likely to have parents at home who told them getting involved was the right thing to do, the study found. At the same time, kids whose parents told them to stay out of it were both less likely to help victims and more likely to become perpetrators. 

“We were surprised to find that when parents told children not to get involved, children were actually more likely to join in the bullying,” said lead study author Stevie Grassetti, a psychology researcher at the University of Delaware. 

Based on the study results, it makes sense for school anti-bullying efforts to involve parents and endeavor to give children consistent messages about prevention in both settings, the authors conclude.

One limitation of the study is that during school visits; researchers didn’t define what constitutes bullying the authors noted. With home visits, researchers assumed parents gave kids the same advice about the hypothetical incidents that they would offer in real life, which might not always be the case, the researchers also point out.

Parents are role models for how children learn to respond to life’s unpredictable situations. They see and absorb everything their parents say and do. To teach your child compassion and courage, start by being a good example of both and letting them know that standing by and doing nothing to remedy the situation is not an option.

Story source: Lisa Rapaport, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-children-bullying-parents-idUSK...

Your Child

Kids: Texting Harassment Up

2.00 to read

For many children, text messaging has become the number one way they communicate with their friends.  A new study shows that a growing number of these kids are reporting being harassed via text messaging.

Of more than 1,100 middle school and high school students surveyed in 2008, 24 percent said they had ever been harassed by texting. That was up from about 14 percent in a survey of the same kids the year before.

On the other hand, actual bullying was down a little. 

In 2008, about eight percent of kids said they'd ever been bullied via text, versus just over six percent the year before.

Though similar, harassment and bullying are not the same. Researchers determined that harassment meant that peers had spread untrue rumors, made rude or mean comments, or threatened a peer. Bullying was defined as being repeatedly picked on.

Parents need to pay attention to their child’s text messaging, researchers say, but they don’t believe parents should be alarmed by the study’s results.

"This is not a reason to become distressed or take kids' cell phones away," said lead researcher Michele L. Ybarra, of Internet Solutions for Kids, Inc., in San Clemente, California.

"The majority of kids seem to be navigating these new technologies pretty healthfully," she told Reuters Health.

The study included 1,588 10- to 15-year-olds who were surveyed online for the first time in 2006. The survey was repeated in 2007 and 2008, with about three-quarters of the original group taking part in all three.

When it came to Internet-based harassment, there was little change over time. By 2008, 39 percent of students said they'd ever been harassed online, with most saying it had happened "a few times." Less than 15 percent said they'd ever been cyber-bullied.

And even when kids were picked on, most seemed to take it in stride.

Of those who said they'd been harassed online in 2008, 20 percent reported being "very or extremely upset" by the most serious incident. That was down a bit from 25 percent in 2006. (The study did not ask about distress over text-message harassment.)

"I don't think it makes sense for parents to get anxious about every new technology, or every new study," said David Finkelhor, who directs the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

"A lot of the old parenting messages still hold true, like teaching your kids the 'golden rule,'" Finkelhor said. "These are discussions that aren't specific to the Internet or cell phones."

And despite concerns that technology has made teasing and taunting easier, Finkelhor said there's evidence that overall, kids are doing less of it these days. "Bullying and victimization are down over the period that Internet use has gone up. It's improving," he said.

Finkelhor credited greater awareness of the problem, among schools and parents, for that decline.

One way that the anti-bullying and harassment message is getting out is through a school program called Rachel’s Challenge. Rachel Scott was the first person killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. The program was inspired by Rachel’s acts of kindness and compassion. 

According to the Rachel’s Challenge website, the programs exists to stand alongside education professionals at every level to inspire, equip and empower students from K-12 to make a positive difference in their world.

Rachel’s Challenge list their objectives for schools as:

  • Create a safe learning environment for all students by re-establishing civility and delivering proactive antidotes to school violence and bullying.
  • Improve academic achievement by engaging students' hearts, heads and hands in the learning process.
  • Provide students with social/emotional education that is both colorblind and culturally relevant.
  • Train adults to inspire, equip and empower students to affect permanent positive change.

Rachel’s Challenge is just one program that schools are looking at to help students understand and stop harassment and bullying. Researchers say that parents still play the most important role in helping children navigate through life’s sometimes hard and cruel maze. One suggestion is for parents to become more familiar with current technology. Other ideas from online support groups are:

  • Encourage your kids to get together with friends that help build their confidence.
  • Help them meet other kids by joining clubs or sports programs.
  • Find activities that can help a child feel confident and strong. Maybe it's a self-defense class like karate or a movement or other gym class.

The study’s findings were reported in the journal Pediatrics

Your Teen

Cyberbullying

It used to be that parents only had to worry about their child being bullied while on the playground. But now, with over 50 million children online, parents need to take steps to make sure their children are not being bullied while online.

“When a child is online, you can’t see how the victim is reacting, you can’t see how many people are against one person,” says Dr. Kristy Hagar, an assistant Professor of Psychiatry UT Southwestern Medical Center. She says some of the warning signs of cyberbullying include a child not wanting to go to school, behavioral changes and spending a lot of time online. “Girls tend to cyberbully more frequently than boys,” says Dr. Hagar. She also adds that pre-teens are more likely to tell their parents about it than older children. It is important for parents to talk with their children at an early age about internet safety and predators. Dr. Hagar also says parents should monitor their child’s online activities. “Set ground rules and time limits for computer use, this is the best way to insure safety.”

Daily Dose

Stop Bullying Now!

1.30 to read

October is National Bullying Prevention Month.  This is one topic that should be discussed with our children, and not only during the month of October.

Bullying is defined by an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement  as “a form of aggression in which one or more children repeatedly and intentionally intimidate, harass, or physically harm a victim who is perceived as unable to defend himself or herself”.  

Unfortunately, study after study shows that the incidence of bullying is on the rise with the most prevalent bullying occurring during the middle school years.  One study I read stated that “160,000 students skip school everyday to avoid being bullied”.  Another study stated that somewhere between 10-40% of middle school students report being bullied. 

Where does bullying begin?  Sadly, some of the bully behavior is modeled from parent to child, and parents can be part of the problem.  Good behavior and acceptance of others needs to begin in the home with parents discussing hurt feelings and mean language in the toddler years. How many times have you heard yourself saying to your own child, “when you say that it hurts my feelings”, or “did that person hurt your feelings?”  These lessons are taught early on, beginning in the sandbox. The discussions really continue throughout childhood but are obviously age appropriate.

When talking to my patients during middle school years about bullying and the “mean girls”  phenomena (verbal and cyber bullying is more common among girls, while physical bullying is more common among boys) I ask about their friendships and how they perceive themselves as friends. Many middle school patients of mine report feeling excluded from some groups, or events, but at the same time are learning how to decide who are their “real” friends. The discussion often comes back to the basic, “if you are nice to everyone, you will find that you are not very interesting to bully or gossip about”. Sounds easy, but it is really hard to always be nice. It is a good place to start.

Bullying not only causes emotional effects it is often linked to physical effects as well. Anxiety, depression, substance abuse, physical complaints  (head and tummy aches)  and even suicidal ideas may all arise due to bullying. These are all problems that I see in my own practice.  

Take some time to engage in a bit of dinner conversation and talk to your children about the various types of bullying and how to prevent it. 

Daily Dose

Put a Stop to Bullying

1.30 to read

While bullying has always been a problem encountered during childhood and adolescence, we all know that it is on the rise. Bullying is when a child is intentionally mean to another child, but it occurs over and over again. Bullying used to occur on the playground, at lunch in the cafeteria, in the locker room or even over the phone.  With all of the latest technology, bullying has become even more prevalent, and there are all sorts of new “means” of bullying. 

Enter cyberbullying; bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Cyberbullying occurs when a child/teen deliberately uses digital media to communicate false, embarrassing or just plain mean messages or pictures about a person to another person. Cyberbullying can occur via text, email, on facebook or twitter or the dozens of other social media sites that tweens and teens use.   The American Academy of Pediatrics calls cyberbullying, “the most common online risk for all teens”.   

Studies have shown that between 25-45% of teens report being bullied online. Many report having had this occur more than once.  Cyberbullying is also occurring at all ages as even younger children have access to technology and the internet.  Children, tweens and teens all need to understand that the internet is not a “safe” place and that it is a public forum. Even if you delete a message or a picture it is truly not deleted, but exists in the cyberspace world.   Many teens mistakenly think that they will “not get caught” if they bully on line, or that it is “not that big a deal”.  

Parents need to discuss internet safety and the problem with cyberbullying with their children. This is especially important for the tween/teen age as much of their life is “online”.  Just like good manners in public, children need to learn on line manners as well.  If you wouldn’t say something to another person’s face, then it should not be emailed or text on the internet!  It is really as simple as that. 

I call this the “front door rule”.  Tell your child that if they write an email or text, or post something on facebook, twitter or Instagram (and there are other sites as well) to think before they push send. If they would not want to post the information on their front door so that all of the neighbors and their own family could see it, then don’t send it!  Stop, think and change the message.  It could hurt someone more than you realize and it may also be forwarded to hundreds, thousands or even millions of others.  There was something to be said about just having a phone to talk on! 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Talk With Your Child Now About Hazing

The last week of September is National Hazing Prevention Week. I have had a real interest in hazing and how to try and teach adolescents about the hazards associated with hazing since I sent my own children off to college.The last week of September is National Hazing Prevention Week. I have had a real interest in hazing and how to try and teach adolescents about the hazards associated with hazing since I sent my own children off to college.

I guess I was naïve to think that hazing does not occur in high school, so I should have been discussing the subject at even a younger age. Hazing, which is really similar to bullying, is prevalent on all college campuses. While bullying can happen to anyone, hazing is done to a person or a group of people in order to gain entrance into a club, organization, or team. After reviewing the statistics about hazing I was alarmed to find out that 1.5 million high school students are hazed each year, and 47 percent of entering college students have already experienced hazing. Among college students, 55 percent involved in clubs, teams and campus organizations experience hazing. Alcohol consumption, typically in the form of binge drinking is one common type of hazing. Humiliation, isolation, sleep deprivation and sexual acts are hazing practices too. These hazing practices seem to be common across all types of student groups. These practices also cross gender lines, and occur with both boys and girls. When talking about hazing with your teens ask them if they have ever felt pressured to participate in events that might be considered hazing. A good question is, “would you be comfortable participating in the activity if your parents walked into the room?” Another good question would be, “is the event I am being asked to participate in going to cause emotional distress or harm of any kind to myself or others?” We all want to “belong”. Whether to a team, club, sorority or fraternity, belonging to a group is often important. Discussing hazing as it relates to joining an organization is another important conversation to have with your teens. There are so many conversations to have with our children and I think this is yet another. The statistics continue to show that hazing is prevalent. Unfortunately, in many cases hazing incidents are not reported until there are deadly consequences. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again soon.

Daily Dose

Stop Cyberbullying Now!

1:30 to read

There have been a lot of recent stories about bullying occurring on social media sites. I have such mixed feelings about social media, and ironically I myself am writing a blog for our website and app.  The Kid’s Doctor is  active on Twitter (@TheKidsDoctor) and Facebook (TheKidsDoctor) as well.  So, I realize to stay current, social media is a must and it is usually quite beneficial and is a source of instant information and sharing. Maybe too instant?

But with that being said, why do some people feel they may use it as a “bully pulpit”.   Why do they feel compelled to be mean and even vulgar?  I spend a great deal of time discussing this topic with my adolescent patients and their parents but I am concerned that sometimes even parents are guilty of “cyber bullying”.

How do parents teach their children right from wrong, or how to behave appropriately in society....by modeling behavior themselves. Our children are watching us and looking to their mother and father to “show them the way”.  Leading by example is often difficult but absolutely imperative, and this includes social media and bullying.

For all of the years I have practiced I have seen that in most, maybe not all cases,  having parents who model appropriate behavior is one of the keys to raising healthy, compassionate, resilient and well balanced children.  It sounds simplistic but it works.

Curt Schilling recently wrote an interesting and compelling article discussing this very issue.  Right after he posted a congratulatory tweet announcing his daughter’s college acceptance his daughter received terribly inappropriate hateful and hurtful messages. He was able to “trace” the tweets to accounts and therefore knew exactly who had sent these messages. Unfortunately, there are often not consequences for cyberbullying or inappropriate behavior....at least for now.  Did the messengers get punished? Did their parents even know? I should hope so.

Social media is here to stay, but there has to be a way to teach our children (and adults) that there are consequences for behaving badly especially when the whole world is aware of your behavior.  It is time for the pendulum to swing back to morals, civility,manners....and as my mother would say to me, “Emily Post would not approve”. 

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