(Thanks to WAFB Channel 9 for inviting me to share this message with their viewers!)
Q. Is bullying becoming a worse problem in our society today? If so, why?
A. YES! It is clearly becoming a growing epidemic among us. I believe the most significant contributing factor is the growing number of communication channels available that allow us to send powerful messages immediately, without taking time to think through our emotion or impulse. There are two reasons this has given rise to more bullying behavior. First, such digital communication is viral. One message sent can quickly be spread to mass numbers of people in ways that were unimaginable to us back when I was a teen in the 80s and early 90s. Second, such communication channels give an illusion of safe distance where it becomes easy to think of the message simply as fun comments, and not as a direct assault on a real live person. As we become increasing consumers of digital communication, we will continue to see a rise in bullying, particularly cyber-bullying.
Q. What can we do about this?
A. Parents, teachers, coaches, school administrators, pastors, scout leaders, and the like must commit to a no-tolerance stand against any type of bullying behavior. In addition to physically aggressive behavior and threatening messages, this includes hurtful name-calling, manipulative pressure tactics, deliberate exclusion and ridicule, etc. Children and youth need to learn from an early age that the adult leaders of their community are standing together against such foolishness, thoughtlessness, and cruelty.
A. Parents can contact your school administration to find out what is in place to monitor and respond to bullying. Challenge your school to be proactive and effective in their approach.
A. Parents need to take time to clearly teach and coach our kids in respectful behavior toward others, including face to face, phone conversation, texting, and online formats. Don’t assume your kids will do the right thing. Train them to do the right thing!
A. We must watch our own words and actions carefully. For example, what message are you sending your kids when you scream and cuss at players, coaches, and officials during a football game that isn’t playing out to your liking? How do you treat other drivers during traffic? What kind of snarky comments and “likes” are you posting on your own Facebook page? Any time we use our words and actions to tear down others, we are essentially giving our kids permission to be bullies.
A. Teach victims to respond calmly, rather than reacting emotionally. Emotional reactions typically “fuel the fire” of bullies, bringing on more of the unwanted behavior.
A. Help victims find genuine strength and self-worth in their abilities and your love.
Q. What are some signs that your child might be the victim of bullying?
A. Sudden lack of interest in social activities.
A. Sudden change in Facebook/MySpace activity (You ARE keeping an eye on your teen’s Facebook/MySpace activity, AREN’T YOU?!!)
A. Lashing out toward siblings, pets, property, etc.
For much more guidance, information, resources, etc, check out Bullying.org
Book Recommendation: “The Wounded Spirit” by Frank Peretti