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Wisconsin Parent

Bullies... so NOT cool anymore.

Aug 25, 2014 11:33AM ● By Brooke McGee
"Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me!" How we wish that were true. Tragically, the effect of these words can be deep and long lasting. Because of recent news events (and maybe from personal experience) we know all too much about the results of bullying. And just as our technology keeps changing and advancing—so does the manner in which children can be bullied.

So, what exactly is bullying? Kids will just be kids—right? When do we cross that proverbial line? Another good question is, "Why should we intervene? Doesn’t this build resilience in kids?"

"Back in my day, every kid didn’t get a trophy." (Who hasn’t heard that?) The key is there is a big difference in "teasing" and "bullying." Bullying is characterized by behavior that is severe, persistent, and creates an environment that is hostile or uncomfortable for the victim.

Why now? Why is it such a big deal recently? Well, by now we have probably all heard the term "cyberbullying." With the use of electronic devices, cyberbullying is extreme for various reasons. Unlike in the past when you could walk away, cyberbullying "stalks" the victim. They can be called, texted, or messaged 24/7 in person and from afar. The methods used to cyberbully often cannot be easily undone. Electronic bullying can be difficult if not impossible for others to remove or delete completely. Cyberbullies can also make anonymous profiles so you don’t even know who to address. Take a moment to view this powerful cyberbullying clip. And don't forget—you CAN report it and help make a difference!

howtoreportcyberbullyingEven with back to school on everyone's mind, it takes time for laws to catch up with the times. Right now, bullying is "lumped in" with discriminatory harassment. According to state and federal laws, schools receiving federal funding are obligated to intervene when bullying is based on race, national origin, color, sex, age, disability, or religion. Wisconsin (and other) public school systems also have their own school policies that enforce anti-bullying campaigns. You may be familiar with campaign bracelets and representation by the color orange.

Unfortunately, the effects of bullying can persist long after the behavior is stopped. Long-lasting effects can interfere with self-esteem, result in poor grades and low attendance and also cause some to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope.

You may suspect your child or friend is being bullied, even if they deny it. If their behavior becomes different, they becomes depressed or you suspect substance abuse, they may be hiding something. Not everyone wants to ask for help. They may be embarrassed or may have even been threatened. Don’t always expect a confession—TALK to your child openly, honestly and without reproach if you notice anything concerning.

We may never want to admit it, but sometimes, it may be our child who is the bully. That takes some hard self-reflection to come to terms with, but in the end, that honesty can help not only your child but you as well. If you have a child who is frequently in trouble, is aggressive, is overly concerned about popularity or have friends who are bullies, you may have some serious conversations ahead of you.

Whichever side of the coin you’re on, one of the most important things you can do to prevent bullying is to talk about it. Talk about what it is, what it feels like, how to stop it and more. In order to do that you need to keep lines of communication open. Build confidence. Have a plan on how to react to bullying and on how your child can help others ahead of time.

One thing we need to keep in mind (even though we don’t want to pass on negative traits to our children) is that they model their behavior from us. They are watching—and learning—while we manage our own stress and conflicts in life. Be a good example! Read below for stats on bullying (image courtesy of