This weekend a friend posted an anti-bullying video on Facebook. The video contained stories of three victims. The first victim, a teenage girl describing, through index cards, an ongoing incident she’d suffered at the hands of classmates. Shortly after she posted the original video online, she committed suicide.
If her story was not heart-wrenching enough, it led to a second story. This victim, lured to a house by someone she considered to be her friend, was beaten. A third person in the house filmed the attack. This girl suffered severe head and eye injuries. According to the video, the assault caused permanent eye damage.
The final story described the abuse a boy with special-needs suffered at the hands of his classmates. The torment was more than he could handle. He hung himself.
These stories are tough to read, but it is reality. Feeling sorry for bullied children and their parents is not enough. We need to protect children. We have all asked a neighbor or parent at school to keep an eye out for our child. I know I’ve requested that parents let me know if they see my son go into the woods (a popular hangout for teenagers in my neighborhood). Yet, we are conflicted when our child notifies us of a bullying situation.
How many people have told their children not to get involved? Don’t be embarrassed. Most parents want to protect their child. They fear reporting an incident will cause problems in their own home. How would you feel if neighbors and friends ignored a bullying incident involving your child?
There are several ways your child can help. The most effective way is reporting the incident to an adult. I’ve included a few other options to consider:
1. Do not give the bully an audience. Show disapproval of the incident by walking away. Encourage friends to do the same. Most bullies want an audience. They believe this behavior will increase their popularity. If peers show disapproval, it may prevent the bully from repeating this inappropriate behavior. Make sure you tell an adult.
2. Never laugh at stories involving bully behavior. We must encourage our children to speak out against injustices.
3. Send an anonymous letter to the proper authorities suggesting that staff members watch a particular hallway, bus, lunchroom or student. Indicate unkind behavior or bullying that is taking place in a certain location.
4. If you are friendly with the bully, tell them to stop.
5. Reach out to isolated children. Support the victim.
6. Athletes are respected by their peers. These students can support anti-bullying by reminding classmates that the behavior is unacceptable.
Punishment does not necessary solve the problem. Often it enrages the bully. The key to ending this epidemic is teaching appropriate behavior. Sometimes the most effective lessons are taught by our peers.
Empower your children to stand up to bullies.