By Jennifer Ely
The Caledonia School District is giving special attention to bullying this year in the form of policy making, presentations and student, parent and teacher education.
On Dec. 4 “Parents as Partners Against Bullying” — sponsored by Kohl’s Cares — was presented by Gundersen Lutheran Medical Foundation and Gundersen Lutheran Pediatrics and Behavioral Health to an audience of mostly parents and day-care providers.
Jeff Reiland, family therapist, MS, CPT-S, gave the address at the high school.
The presentation covered the definitions of bullying and cyberbullying, roles of the bully, victim and bystander, also the emotional, psychological and health effects of the bully and victim. Reiland also gave parents tools and strategies to help keep their child and teenagers safe.
Bullying is defined as the “unprovoked physical or psychological abuse of an individual by one student or a group of students over time to create an ongoing pattern of harassment and abuse.” Bullying can be physical and verbal, such as swearing or cursing at someone or hitting, slapping, tripping or shoving someone.
Every day in the United States, 160,000 students stay home from school to avoid being bullied. The statistic doesn’t include cyberbullying.
Cyberbullying is defined as spreading rumors about a victim, tricking kids into revealing personal information, sending and forwarding mean text messages, posting pictures of a victim without their consent, or saying hurtful things about the victim using online tools and social media.
More than 93 percent of teens go online for more than two hours a day. One in every five teens have or are being cyberbullied, Reiland said. About 39 percent have been harassed online and 24 percent of teens have been sexting.
Why do kids cyberbully? It’s easy, anonymous and doing so has no immediate consequences.
Warning signs that your child may be a victim of cyberbullying include: They may become more secretive about cell and computer use, try to stay away from the computer or become more aggressive, like slamming the computer screen down when logging off.
Who, what, where, how
Who are victims of bullying? Children who are different in any way shape or form, whether it be what shirt they are wearing, if they are terrible in sports, if they excel in school, have learning, physical, emotional or behavior problems or are just different.
What are the effects of bullying? Victims of bullying can suffer from low self-esteem, depression, living in fear and torment, poor academic achievement, emotional turmoil, physical abuse and suicidal thoughts or gestures.
Where can bullying occur? Bullying can happen anywhere at any time. Bullying tends to happen in the least supervised areas such as in school on the playground, in the cafeteria or on the bus ride to or from school.
How can kids cope with a bully? Reiland suggests kids should try and stay calm and use humor, instead of showing the bully that they have the upper hand. He also suggests walking away and being assertive.
Six out of 10 teenagers witness bullying almost every day. Less than 20 percent of bystanders try to stop bullying. Bystanders don’t think it’s their problem to stop. They don’t want to draw attention to themselves, and they fear being on the outside of the group or getting bullied themselves. However, bullying stops in less than 10 seconds 57 percent of the time when a bystander intervenes.
What parents can do: Be involved in your child’s life; have routine family conversations about friendships, bullying situations, how to treat others; limit “screen time” and use of the computer or cellphone.
Establish clear rules for your child to follow online and with their cell phone.
Parents can also ask questions: Why do you think kids are reluctant to talk about cyberbullying with their parents? What kinds of challenges do you hear about with other kids when it comes to cyberbullying? Are you aware or concerned that cyberbullying is happening at your school or with kids you know? Are you aware or concerned if it has ever happened to anyone in your friend group? What would you do if it did happen to your friend group or you?
What parents can do about cyberbullying: Avoid blame and talk with the victim child about what they have tried. Try blocking the user or turn the computer off for awhile. Talk with teachers and other parents. Keep electronic records as evidence and always encourage kids to never attack a bully.
Never delete the online messages or texts — it will help when keeping the bullying accountable — and don’t fight back.
Establish frequent communication with your child’s school teacher or principal if you are concerned about bullying. Attend school meetings and be a part of your child’s school.
Parents can make an appointment with the principal or teacher, but don’t come barging into the school and demand to ask what is going on. Gather the facts (that you know) regarding the incident that has happened. Don’t make angry accusations to the school, students or teachers. Understand the school may need to investigate the circumstances, which can take time. Be clear that you as a parent want to work with the school in support of the anti-bullying policy.
When the presentation was opened up to comments and questions, some audience members questioned the lack of administrative representation from the school while also seeking additional information from Reiland, who offered the following online resources: