Sue Scheff: Myths of Bullying - Be an educated parent

As school is back in, some kids dread walking the hallways or riding the bus. Bullying is a growing and serious problem among kids and teens. Years ago, the cliché "sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you," couldn't be more wrong.

Words can not only hurt you, they can emotionally scar you for a very long time. Stop BULLYING Now offers a vast amount of information to help educate parents, teachers, and kids about the affects of bullying.

Let's start with the ten myths about bullying:

1. Bullying is the same thing as conflict.

Wrong. Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves an imbalance of power or strength. Often, bullying is repeated over time.

Conflict involves antagonism among two or more people. Whereas any two people can have a conflict (or a disagreement or a fight), bullying only occurs where there is a power imbalance-where one child has a hard time defending himself or herself. Why is the difference between bullying and conflict important? Conflict resolution or mediation strategies are sometimes misused to solve bullying problems. These strategies can send the message that both children are "partly right and partly wrong," or that, "We need to work out the conflict between you." These messages are not appropriate messages in cases of bullying (or in any situation where someone is being victimized). The appropriate message to the child who is bullied should be, "Bullying is wrong and no one deserves to be bullied. We are going to do everything we can to stop it."

For more information, see the tip sheet entitled, Misdirections in Bullying Prevention and Intervention.

What does work? Research suggests that the best way to deal with bullying is through comprehensive programs that focus on changing the climate of a school and the social norms of the group. For more information, see the tip sheet entitled, Best Practices in Bullying Prevention and Intervention.

2. Most bullying is physical (involves hitting, shoving, kicking).
Physical bullying may be what first comes to mind when adults think about bullying. However, the most common form of bullying-both for boys and girls-is verbal bullying (e.g., name-calling, rumor spreading). It is also common for youth to bully each other through social isolation (e.g., shunning or leaving a child out on purpose).

3. Bullying isn't serious. It's just a matter of "kids being kids."
Bullying can be extremely serious. Bullying can affect the mental well being, academic work, and physical health of children who are targeted. Children who are bullied are more likely than other children to have lower self-esteem; and higher rates of depression, loneliness, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. They also are more likely to want to avoid attending school and have higher school absenteeism rates. Recent research on the health related effects of bullying indicates that victims of frequent bullying are more likely to experience headaches, sleeping problems, and stomach ailments. Some emotional scars can be long-lasting. Research suggests that adults who were bullied as children are more likely than their non-bullied peers to be depressed and have low self-esteem as adults.

Children who bully are more likely than other children to be engaged in other antisocial, violent, or troubling behaviors. Bullying can negatively affect children who observe bullying going on around them-even if they aren't targeted themselves. For more information, visit Why Should Adults Care About Bullying?

4. Bullying doesn't happen at my child's school.
Bullying is more common at some schools than others, however it can happen anywhere children and youth gather. Studies show that between 15- 25% of U.S. students are bullied with some frequency ("sometimes or more often") while 15- 20% admit that they bully others with some frequency within a school term. The best way to find out about bullying at your child's school is to ask children and youth, themselves. One good way to do this is by administering an anonymous survey about where bullying occurs, when it occurs, and how often it occurs.

5. Bullying is mostly a problem in urban schools.
Bullying occurs in rural, suburban, and urban communities, and among children of every income level, race, and geographic region.

Part 2: 5 more myths: Click here.

Reference: StopBullyingNow adults page

Watch PSA and also read on Examiner.

Watch video and learn why it is so important to learn about bullying.

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