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Bullying

Dead Serious: Breaking The Cycle of Teen Suicide

Posted by Sue Scheff on May 24, 2019  /   Posted in Bullying, Cyberbullying, Featured Book, Mental Health, Residential Therapy, Teen Depression, Teen Help, Teen Suicide Prevention, Troubled Teens

Teen Suicide Rates Are Rising

A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows over the last 20 years, 1.6 million kids ages 10 to 24 called poison control centers after attempting suicide; using prescription pills, street drugs and other household poisons.

By Jane Mersky Leder

My brother took his own life on his thirtieth birthday. My life has never been the same.

Thirty plus years after publishing the first edition of Dead Serious, this second completely revised and updated edition covers new ground: bullying, social media, LGBTQ teens, suicide prevention programs, and more.

Scores of teens share their stories that are often filled with hurt, disappointment, shame–yet often hope. Written for teens, adults and educators, Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide explores the current cultural and social landscape and how the pressure-filled lives of teens today can lead to anxiety, depression–suicide.

Leder’s own journey of discovery after her brother’s suicide informs her goal of helping to prevent teen suicide by empowering teens who are suffering and teens who can serve as peer leaders and connectors to trusted adults.

The skyrocketing number of teens who take their own lives makes Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide more relevant and important than ever. “Talking about suicide does not make matters worse. What makes matters worse is not talking.”

Order Dead Serious on Amazon today.

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Are you concerned about your teen? Have they been struggling with depression? Becoming withdrawn? Have you exhausted your local resources — local therapy isn’t working? Contact us if you want to learn more about residential therapy.

 

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Does Your Teen Have the Tools to Handle Cyberbullying?

Posted by Sue Scheff on November 19, 2018  /   Posted in Bullying, Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Parenting Teens, Sexting, Teen Help

Does Your Teen Have the Tools to Handle Cyberbullying?

We’re living in an age where incivility and trolling is not only common, it’s become the new normal.

PEW Research Center recent survey found that 63 percent of teens said that online harassment and bullying was a major problem, while 59 percent reported experiencing being bullied or harassed online.

It’s a sea of sadness when we read headlines of peer cruelty and youth dying as the word bullycide has now entered our vocabulary.

Digital discourse

Generations earlier, before technology and social playgrounds such as Instagram and Snapchat, kids were teasing and mocking each other in schools, neighborhoods or on their traditional playground with monkey bars and swings.

What hasn’t changed is name-calling.

Being called offensive names is the most offensive form of cyberbullying according to teens in this survey at 42 percent, followed by someone spreading false rumors about them on the internet at 32 percent.

The difference between twenty years ago and today is that with technology, your insults are magnified by a million.

Resilience can be learned

Resilience is a word we’re all familiar with; however, with the rise of online hate and harassment, it’s imperative to discuss how to build digital resilience with our teens.

In the PEW Research survey, teens share that parents are, overall, doing a good job in helping them handle cyberbullying—however, they felt that teachers, social media platforms and others could be more involved.

Digital resilience is a tool that helps people of all ages move through the difficulties of trolling and cyber-combat.

1. Prepare them (and yourself) for the ugly side of the Internet or possibly being upset by what people say. Remind them there could be inappropriate content that slips through filters. Being forewarned is being forearmed.

2. Show them how to block individuals, flag and report abusive content, and when to report incidents. Emphasize the importance of telling someone “in real life.”

3. Show your teen how easily digital pictures can be manipulated. The realization that not everything is what it seems is a useful first step—understanding that life is not as perfect as it may seem virtually. Teens may be familiar with the digital world but less familiar with the motivations for creating ‘fake’ images.

4. Critical thinking. Help them to think through the possible consequences of what they post online. Remind them that there is no rewind: once it’s posted, it’s nearly impossible to take back. Fifteen minutes of humor is not worth a lifetime of humiliation.

5. Encourage your teen to socialize in person with their friends. Communicating solely behind a screen can be isolating. Socializing in person builds more face-to-face contact in helping your child have empathy and compassion towards people.

Getting schools involved

After a cyberbullying episode hit her daughter’s public charter school, parent and video producer Diana Graber developed this program based on the master’s degree she had just received in media psychology and social change. Graber still teaches the course herself, but also trains teachers to run the program at their own schools, providing video and written materials for a fee.

Since its inception, the program has grown to be offered in more than one hundred schools in 47 states and overseas, ranging from Waldorf to public schools.

Sixth graders begin with the basic concepts of digital citizenship, covering digital footprints, what should never be shared online, and antibullying behavior, such as the difference between being an upstander and a bystander. Seventh graders focus on research skills, covering concepts such as keywords, Wikipedia, fair use, browsers, search engines, and privacy protection.

By eighth grade, the students shift focus again to consuming versus producing online content, covering media literacy issues from sexting to Photoshopping to copyright protection. The final exam is a series of questions we adults would likely fail: What are cookies and how do they work? What does URL stand for? What is a spider? What are the eight tips for a secure password?

While much of the same information is on her complementary website, CyberWise.org, Graber ultimately found that approaching the students directly, instead of using their parents as mediators, works best. “Kids don’t want to talk to their parents in middle school,” she says. “The talking is with each other. If we can make safe spaces in the classroom, that is way more powerful.”

Graber knew her message was received when a new girl posted a photo of herself in a bikini, and an eighth-grade boy who’d taken the course scolded her. “You need to take that off your  Instagram,” he told her bluntly. “That was stupid.” Harsh, Graber concedes—but effective. “In a crude way, he was looking out for her. The kids start being each other’s mentors.”

This teacher seems to be making a difference with her curriculum, CyberCivics, that is now spreading throughout the country.

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Is your teen a victim or target of cyberbullying? Have you noticed them becoming withdrawn, nervous when they receive notifications on their phone, loss of appetite, drop in grades? Words can hurt and leave our young people with emotional baggage.

If you have exhausted your local resources, therapy isn’t working, maybe you tried out patient and even a hospital stay — contact us for information on how residential therapy might be able to help.

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Teen Suicide and Bullying

Posted by Sue Scheff on June 06, 2018  /   Posted in Bullying, Cyberbullying, Featured Article, Mental Health, Teen Depression, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

The Link Between Teen Suicide and Bullying

TeenBullyingSuicideExamining the Link Between Bullying and Suicide (and What to Do if Someone You Know is in Danger)

Bullying is a significant and complex problem in our society. We used to worry about in-person bullying — physical injuries, theft, and even vandalism. Today, in addition to bullying we also must be concerned about cyberbullying, which can be just as harmful. In 2013 the Urban Institute’s study on bullying revealed that “17% [of] students reported being victims of cyberbullying, 41% reported being victims of physical bullying, and 45% reported being victims of psychological bullying.”

In 2014 JAMA Pediatrics reported that “cyberbullying was strongly related [to] suicidal ideation in comparison with traditional bullying.” Most kids spend a lot of time online, talking to friends, but also gossiping at times. Because they see the Internet as anonymous, kids feel as though they can pretend to be someone else online (known as catfishing), and bully people in this way. This can be immensely harmful to others, as well as themselves, and can have devastating consequences.

Who, Where, Why?

Like other forms of bullying, cyberbullying can occur anywhere, by anyone. All that’s required is a device with Internet access, which is incredibly common anymore.

People from all different backgrounds are bullied. Some groups are unfortunately more likely to be bullied, such as LGBTQ youth, young people with disabilities, and individuals who tend to isolate themselves from others. Basically anyone who is different from the accepted norm in their respective community or peer group is at a higher risk of being bullied.

A bully can pick on anyone about anything. They can target those they deem to be too “weird” or different from themselves, or even someone they’re secretly jealous of. Children and young adults have been bullied for myriad reasons, from weight, to wearing the “wrong” clothing, to merely being outside a clique. Some of the warning signs that may indicate that someone is being bullied include:

  • Unexplained physical injuries
  • Items missing that the victim states are “lost”
  • Feeling or faking illnesses, often headaches or stomach problems
  • Different eating habits, whether overeating or undereating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of interest in school and having trouble with schoolwork
  • Not wanting to be in social situations or a loss of friends
  • Low self-esteem and hopelessness
  • Hurting themselves, speaking of suicide, and leaving home without notice

The Link Between Bullying and Suicide

Children who are bullied may be at an increased risk of suicide. However, most bullying victims do not think about suicide. Bullying itself is seldom the single cause of suicide; it’s typically a combination of issues, illnesses, or situations in the individual’s history combined with bullying that leads to suicidal thoughts. Some issues of concern include mental illness, traumas, and bad home situations. In addition, there are different groups who may have an increased risk of suicide including:

  • American Indian and Alaskan Native
  • Asian American
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth
  • Kids [who] are not supported by parents, peers, and schools

How to Help With Bullying

There are many ways to help someone you know if they’re being bullied, including:

  • Really listen to the individual, show that you care by paying attention.
  • Let the child know that being targeted by bullies is not their fault.
  • Realize that bullied children might have trouble talking about it with you. You may want to have them talk with a psychologist, psychiatrist or even a counselor at their school.
  • Give them some good advice as to what to do. You may want to partake in role-playing in this situation.
  • Work together with the victim, the victim’s parent(s), school, or an organization to come up with a fair solution. The child being bullied should not have to have their schedules or routines changed; they are not at fault.

How to Help With Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is new to our society and is becoming more and more common. Some children have taken their lives as a result. There are some ways you can help your child or friend prevent cyberbullying, such as cutting off communication with the bully, blocking the bully on social media sites (so they do not have any access to your postings or phone number), or complaining anonymously to the social media sites where cyberbullying is taking place — they have strict rules and will keep evidence of bullying interactions.

If you’re a parent, ways to help your child include supporting them mentally and emotionally and not forcing them to end online communications with others. When a child is the victim, being banned from participating on social media may be perceived as punishment. It’s not their fault, though, that they are being victimized. Consider speaking with the other child’s parent(s) or even the police (if the situation is serious enough). Bullying is a serious problem and can lead to many terrible events, including violence and suicide. Remember that there is always someone out there to listen and support you.

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Contributor: Steve Johnson co-created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow pre-med student.The availability of accurate health facts, advice, and general answers is something Steve wants for all people, not just those in the health and medical field. He continues to spread trustworthy information and resources through the website, but also enjoys tennis and adding to his record collection in his spare time.

(Image via Pixabay by Jedidja)

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Bullycide: Understanding Cyberbullying

Posted by Sue Scheff on March 06, 2018  /   Posted in Bullying, Cyberbullying, Digital Parenting, Featured Article, Parenting Books, Parenting Teens

We’re barely into 2018 when we’ve already have had several headlines of youth taking their lives from cyber-humiliation – across the country and the globe:

Dolly Everett of Australia, Sarah Ullman of California and Gabriella Green of Florida.

Young girls that were bullied online and didn’t feel they had a way out. The term bullycide has now been defined to describe these young people that become so emotionally distressed by (online and offline) harassment/bullying that they commit suicide.

Are girls getting meaner?

One parent who knew Dolly Everett and her family shared how his daughter was also victim of online bullying. According to Daily Telegraph, this father said his 15-year-old daughter Katelyn had been bullied relentlessly via Snapchat for years.

He posted a photo on Facebook of one of the horrible messages he said Katelyn regularly receives.

“Why don’t you just go cut your wrist until you bleed out,” the message said.

“You’ll do everyone a favour. Go do what dolly did it should’ve been you not her”.

Katie Hurley, author of the new bestselling book, No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong Confident and Compassion Girls (Penguin, January 2018) encourages parents to talk to their daughter’s about relational aggression.

In No More Mean Girls, Katie Hurley stresses the importance of starting these conversations early:

“Define words like gossip, teasing, taunting, public humiliation, excluding, cliques or groups, and cyberbullying (yes, even if your child “never has screen time” and “has no chance of getting a phone anytime soon.”) Avoiding these topics will only keep your daughter in the dark and render her powerless when she does confront them. Educating her and talking about positive alternatives empowers her and prepares her.” – Katie Hurley, No More Mean Girls (Penguin, January 2018)

Short chats are better than long chats

As a family cyber-advocate for over a decade, I’ve encouraged parents to talk to their kids offline about online safety. This is not the sex talk, this is the tech chat. In reality, these are so much easier and can be fun. The one hiccup is — they have to be as regular as, how was your day at school.

We all know that communication is key to help keep our kids safe, both online and off — but at the same time, we understand that talking to our teens (especially) can be a struggle. Maybe we can only squeeze in five – ten minutes at a time, which is better than nothing, especially if it’s on a regular basis.

  • Driving to school, a sporting event, dropping them off at a friend’s house etc. Anytime your “side-by-side” with your child in a car is a great time to connect with them.
  • Coffee shops, ice cream parlors (or smoothies) – Enjoy a treat with them – and talk tech. Teens love their technology – and in reality, they do want you to be interested in their online life.
  • Family dinners – We know parents try, but even if you can do this once or twice a week, make it a habit to ask about everyone’s cyber-life. Any new apps? Websites or virtual friends? Most importantly – have they witnessed any online hate – and what do they do about it?

Yes – talk about what to do when they read people being hurt online. Recently a young teen won a contest for his video on helping bystanders become upstanders. In my interview with him, he shared how he was once a victim of bullying — and didn’t share it with with parents, but wished he had. His video, Leave A Message, is an empowering three minutes you need to share with your child.

Parents, you need to be more involved and interested in your teen’s cyber-life. It truly matters.

Learn more about how to help your child build digital resilience.

Understand why some kids aren’t talking to their parents when they are suffering with digital hate, and try to reassure your teen that no matter what, you are there for them without judgement.

Book chats with teens can truly open up dialogue. My recent book, Shame Nation: Choosing Kindness and Compassion In An Age of Cruelty and Trolling (Sourcebooks, Oct 2017) offers a discussion guide that can help you start a conversation with your teenager. Shame Nation is for teens and parents alike to read.

Let’s not wait for your name or a friend or family to become a headline – start your chats today.

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Unselfie by Michele Borba

Posted by darcy56 on March 05, 2018  /   Posted in Bullying, Cyberbullying, Featured Book, Parenting Books, Uncategorized

9 Proven and teachable habits to nurture children’s empathy and why developing empathy is key predictor to help kids succeed in our global, digital-driven world.

Why Kids Are Bystanders Rather Than Upstanders

Did you know that when a bystander decides to step in on behalf of a peer that is being harassed, 57 percent of the time the bullying is stopped within 10 seconds? Yet in most cases only 19 percent of bystanders will get involved in helping a friend or peer.

Why?

Educational psychologist and renown parenting and bullying prevention expert, Dr. Michele Borba, reveals in her twenty-fourth book, UnSelfie, Why Empathic Kids Succeed In Our All-About-Me World that teens today are 40 percent less empathic than those of thirty years ago and narcissism are increased by 58 percent. She points out that as “empathy wanes, bullying can rise, and tormentors begin to see victims as “objects,” not human beings.”

The good news is, as Dr. Borba shares, “Empathy is a trait that can be taught and nurtured. And so can moral courage. Empathy and courage are a powerful combo to solve the bullying crisis.”

Why are our youth not stepping in and helping each other and becoming Upstanders?

Dr. Borba interviewed over 500 children from around the globe for her book, UnSelfie. She found that bullying is a concern for all kids worldwide, and reasons they don’t intervene are similar regardless of region, culture, or demographics.

UnSelfie describes the top six reasons why kids don’t step in to help:

Powerless. “I don’t know how to make it stop.” Most kids don’t know how to step in. There is a lack of training and communication from the adult to the students. Kids witness 85 percent of bullying incidents, usually when adults aren’t present. So we must educate them on how to step in safely.

Vague expectations. “I wasn’t sure if should help.” Kids fear they will make things worse, be embarrassed, or get themselves (or others) in trouble. But if they have clear expectations, know adults will support them, and understand what bullying is, they are more likely to help.

Peer pressure. “I don’t want to be a snitch.” Friends play a big part in our children’s lives, and losing social status is a huge kid concern.

The diffusion of responsibility. “Somebody else will help.” Bystanders are less likely and slower to intervene if others are present because they assume that someone else will step in, so no else does.

Empathy overarousal. “I felt too bad to help.” There’s no doubt that bullying can cause severe emotional harm to the bullied, but witnesses also suffer severe psychological and physiological stress.


Weak adult support.
 “My mom didn’t believe me.” Many kids admitted they didn’t tell an adult about a bullying incident “because she didn’t believe me.” Some said the adult downplay the severity: “The Teacher said it wasn’t a big deal.” Others worried that it might make things worse and they’d be targeted next. Fear of retaliation is a huge concern.

While interviewing hundreds of kids about bullying, Borba heard similar types of comments worldwide:

Columbian kids: “Do other kids in the world hurt like us?
Military kids of US bases: “Ask teachers to watch us to make us feel safer.”
British teens: “There’s so bullying that we can’t think.”
U.S. kids: “No one listens, and we’re hurting. Thanks for listening.”

We may be from different parts of the globes, but our commonality is that we all hurt and fear the same. Borba contends that empathy is the best antidote to combat peer cruelty. If you can imagine a victim’s pain, causing that suffering is a near impossible feat. Empathy also fuels children’s moral courage to step in and speak out for each other.


UnSelfie shares the top five things to know about cultivating kids’ courage

1. Kids discover their inner hero from the right parenting style, experiences and training. What hinders it? A “too much rescuing” style.

2. Modeling, encouraging, experiencing and acknowledging a child’s courage helps instill it.

3. Courage can be strengthened like a muscle, but regular work-outs are crucial for it to become habitual.

4. A child’s temperament and physical strength don’t determine moral courage: almost every child can be taught how to stand up and speak up to help others if given the right support, encouragement and training.

5. Mobilizing children’s courage to be Upstanders may be our best hope to stop peer cruelty, but they must learn how to step in or get help.

Takeaway tips:

• Be sure your school has an Upstander Club and encourage your child to be part of it.

• Help kids learn specific habits like the ones in UnSelfie to help them stand up to injustice. Better yet, join up with like-minded adults so kids learn the same Upstander skills in groups.

• Reading books Upstanders (like Hooway for Wodney Wat, Nobody Knew What to Do, The Bully Blockers Club or Stand Up for Yourself) helps dispel the “Superman Myth” so kids know people can better the world with quiet courageous acts.

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End Peer Cruelty: Understanding Bullying

Posted by Sue Scheff on February 14, 2018  /   Posted in Bullying, Cyberbullying, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Teen Help

It’s a sea of sadness when we read headlines of peer cruelty, youth dying and the rise of incivility in our country today. Whether it’s offline, as in the school cafeteria or online, in the palm of your child’s hand, hate is hate and it’s killing our society.

Dr. Michele Borba is a leading bullying prevention expert as well as a best-selling author. In her most recent book, End Peer Cruelty, Build Empathy (Free Spirit, February 2018) she gives us a road-map to bring back civility for our young people.

What works and does not work to reduce bullying?

In Dr. Borba’s new book, she explains that bullying is a learned behavior and can be unlearned, but the solutions to ending peer cruelty are not simple. She continues:

All these eye-catching posters and buttons, T-shirt contests, song competitions, one-day trainings, packaged worksheets, or stop-bullying — while they mean well — are not effective solutions. Bullying is not a one-size-fits-all approach that uses the same strategy for the targets, bystanders, and students who bully. After-all, each bullying incident differs in motivation, type, and dynamics, just as each student’s learning needs differ.

Understanding cyberbullying terminology that parents and educators should know:

  • Sexting: electronically sending or posting a naked, sexualized, or compromising photo of a person
  • Flaming: posting angry, rude comments in an online forum
  • Harassment: repeatedly sending offensive messages to someone
  • Denigration: attacking someone online by spreading rumors or posting false information
  • Outing and trickery: electronically disseminating intimate private information about someone or tricking someone into disclosing private information, which is then disseminated
  • Impersonation: pretending to be someone else and posting material online to damage that person’s reputation
  • Exclusion: intentionally excluding someone from an online group
  • Cyberstalking: creating fear by sending frequent threatening messages to someone

Is your child a victim of bullying or cyberbullying?

Dr. Borba offers insights and warning signs in her new book as well as the 6R’s of prevention.

Bullying:

Most bullying signs go unreported or undetected. Many students are uncomfortable telling adults they were bullied for fear it will make matters worse, because the parent or educator will confront the bullying child. Fear of retaliation is a major concern of targets, and rightly so. Most bullying occurs in areas and times when adults are not present to protect targets. That’s why it’s crucial that educators learn specific warning signs of bullying so they can support potential targets. Every student can have an “off” day and display a sign or two, so look for a sudden unhealthy behavior that is not typical of the student and endures. Of course, the signs might also indicate other problems, but any signs warrant closer examination and discussing with other staff members and the child’s parents.

Cyberbullying:

A perpetrator uses digital media (such as texts, emails, IMs, website posts, tweets, videos) to hurt, threaten, embarrass, annoy, blackmail, or otherwise target another child. Though it is most common during the middle school years, the problem is making its way into the younger set. It is not surprising that cyberbullying has the potential to cause severe psychological damage in targeted children. Though most electronic bullying happens off school grounds, many students carry cell phones or tablets to school, so the staff should be aware of these signs. In addition to many of the signs just listed, a child who is being cyberbullied may:

  • be hesitant to go online, or act nervous when an IM, text message, or email appears
  • act visibly upset after using a computer or cell phone, or suddenly avoid electronic devices
  • hide or clear the computer or cell phone screen when a peer or adult approaches
  • spend longer hours online in a more tense, pensive posture

End Cruelty, Build Empathy is a must-own for every parent and teacher. It offers step-by-step valuable and practical solutions — as well as information to help you navigate through a generation of “mean.” From elementary school to middle and high school, no one escapes the scars of bullying, but with education and awareness we are on the way to helping to combat it.

How will you help your community become a kinder one – offline and online?

Is your teen a victim of bullying or cyberbullying?

Have you exhausted your local resources or maybe therapy isn’t working anymore? Considering residential therapy? Contact us for more information.

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