February 07, 2011
National Stop Bullying Day: We all have a role to play
On Wednesday, February 9, our country marks National Stop Bullying Day. While this isn’t a day most of us commemorate each year, National Stop Bullying Day offers an opportunity for us to consider the children in our lives and begin a community-wide conversation about bullying. This is a conversation that too few adults are having today, but it is an important one.
The concept of bullying certainly isn’t new, but it is a problem that has become increasingly dangerous. As new technologies emerge, the way bullies target their victims continues to evolve. A taunt once hurled on a schoolyard and forgotten in days has become pervasive verbal abuse that is cached online forever. Online social networking sites, blogs and smart phones enable bullies to extend their impact on victims, allowing for around-the-clock harassment. When bullies target victims online or through text messages, it is often difficult for victims to escape and even harder for parents and school officials to act on the violence or slander that occurs.
Research shows that 42 percent of children have been bullied online, and of this group of victims, one in four has experienced this kind of bullying more than once. It is important for children, parents, teachers and community leaders to discuss what can be done to stop this growing epidemic. Here are a few guidelines and suggestions to help parents protect their children.
Monitor your child’s use of technology.
Even if you don’t suspect your child is being bullied, it’s important to be aware how they are using today’s technology. Monitor their reactions and emotions when they are online. If your child is on Facebook, sign up for Facebook, and stay up to date with their online profile. Look for signs of bullying, depression or other concerning issues. The same advice applies to other technology, like texting. As a parent, your presence is powerful, and you may be able to prevent bullies from harming your child.
Report bullying behaviors to appropriate officials.
Resist confronting the bully or the bully’s parents. Instead, report any unlawful or harassing behaviors to law enforcement. If incidents happen at school, report them to school officials. If your child receives cruel texts, don’t respond. Instead, make copies of them. This evidence may be useful to report to school officials or law enforcement. Set up online filters to block the bully‘s messages on Facebook or Twitter.
Educate kids about bullying at an early age.
Teach them what bullying means, what to expect as they get older, and ask them to promise to talk to you if someone ever makes them feel bad about themselves. Additionally, talk to your kids about social pressures that could prompt them to bully others, and teach them why bullying is wrong. Look for signs of anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts. Caring conversations with your child can impact their emotional health.
Ask for help.
If the torment of bullies becomes too much, contact a mental health professional for help. Because bullying can have long‐term devastating effects on our children, we must remain committed to reporting the first signs of bullying and offering help when our children need it most.
Even if your child isn’t being bullied, it is still important to educate them about the topic at an early age. By having these conversations early in life, you may be able to prevent the negative emotional impact bullying could have on your children in the future. If your child needs professional help to heal from the emotional scars of bullying, contact a mental health professional. Centerstone’s experts are available 24 hours a day, connecting families to the services they need. If you or someone you love needs help, contact Centerstone at 888-291- HELP (4357).
If you are in crisis, call Centerstone’s 24-Hour Crisis Intervention Hotline at 800-681-7444.
For more of Susan's Wellness advice, visit our Health and Wellness page.
Centerstone, a not-for-profit organization, has provided a wide range of mental health and addiction services to people of all ages for more than 50 years. Through more than 60 facilities and 170 partnership locations across Middle Tennessee, Centerstone serves more than 50,000 children, adolescents, adults and seniors each year. Centerstone is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). For more information about Centerstone, please call 888-291-4357.
About Susan Gillpatrick, MEd, LPC, CTS
Susan Gillpatrick, Centerstone Crisis Management Specialist, primarily works in the field with clients in critical incident response situations, and in Centerstone’s wellness trainings and presentations. She is also responsible for planning and implementing marketing and growth strategies for Centerstone’s Crisis Management Strategies.
Ms. Gillpatrick is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Certified Trauma Specialist, Certified Workplace Conflict Mediator, and Mental Health Service Provider in the state of Tennessee and a National Certified Counselor. She is also a member the American Counseling Association, the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists, the Tennessee Mental Health Counseling Association, and the Middle Tennessee Employee Assistance Professionals Association. She is a frequent presenter at local and national conferences, and has had numerous articles published. She received her Master of Education degree in Human Development Counseling from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University.
To request Susan Gillpatrick to speak with your group or organization about complete wellness in living, contact her at (615) 460-4445 or email@example.com.