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Bullying

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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End Peer Cruelty: Understanding Bullying

Posted by Sue Scheff on February 14, 2018  /   Posted in Teen Help

Understanding Bullying and Ending Peer Cruelty

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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The Relationship Between Bullying and Drug Abuse

Posted by Sue Scheff on April 12, 2017  /   Posted in Mental Health, Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help

Teen Bullying, Drinking and Drug Use

Bullying is a major problem for teens. It is estimated that at least 50% of teen suicides can be attributed to bullying, and suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people. Bullying also leads to depression, loss of motivation, personality change, self-harm, eating disorders, and substance abuse. It is already estimated that 1 in 3 teens experiment with drugs or alcohol by the time they finish the eighth grade. Bullying only increases the chances that your child will try drugs or alcohol. Spotting the signs of bullying before it becomes too severe can prevent teens from hurting themselves or developing an addiction.

Addiction can either begin rapidly or manifest over time. Bullying causes trauma, and trauma can follow a person for a lifetime. This trauma can cause a person to look for outlets and ways to feel better, or ways just to forget. Most addicts suffer from another underlying mental illness, and this often times was directly caused or triggered by emotional trauma. Drugs can often be a safe haven for someone suffering from trauma, anxiety, and/or depression. Drugs offer a false sense of confidence and happiness that bully victims lack; this is why it can be so hard for a bully victim to put down drugs.

Here are some ways to understand teens and addiction:

Skipping school

Bully victims often will skip school out of fear of harassment by their bully. This can lead to mischievous activities or risk taking. When a person begins skipping school or extracurricular activities they may begin to hang around people who are doing the same things. This can introduce your child to a “bad crowd” that may already be experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Teens who have friends or acquaintances who use drugs are far more likely to experiment. 

Low self esteem

Bully victims often develop low self-esteem and self-worth. Drugs offer a false sense of confidence that seem to “fix” this problem. A person eventually finds that they need drugs or alcohol to feel normal or like they fit in.

Isolation

Bully victims lose motivation and interest in others. When they begin to abuse drugs this is exacerbated. A child may begin to stay out late, avoid friends and family, or stay in their room for long periods of time.

Personality changes

Bully victims and those suffering from addiction both begin to have significant personality changes. They lose interest in their favorite hobbies and activities. If they were once out-going they may become more introverted and lonely. Bully victims often become very depressed and find drugs or alcohol a way to “self-medicate”.

Bullies are at risk, too

There is research that suggests that bullying perpetrators are also at risk.  Amanda Nickerson, PhD, Professor and Director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at University of Buffalo stated that “A fair amount of research has found higher rates of substance use among bullying perpetrators.”

Bullies often have turbulent lives at home or other underlying mental health issues which leads to their mischievous activities like violence, sexual promiscuity, and drug use.

Parents also play a vital role in protecting their children. It is common for parents or teachers to brush of bullying as “kids being kids” or that it is just “part of growing up”. Parents who can support their children and report bullying effectively have a high likelihood of preventing their children from trying drugs. This is crucial because teens who experiment with drugs are far more likely to develop and addiction later in life. Avoiding the perception of neglect plays a vital role in parenting and prevents childhood trauma.

Another study at the University of Buffalo examined 119 teens who said they had consumed alcohol in the past month. “They found teens who were severely bullied and who had strong support from their mothers and family cohesion—such as family members asking each other for help and spending free time together—were less likely to drink than bullied teens without strong maternal support and tight family bonds.”

Always talk to your child about bullying and take their concerns seriously. Addressing bullying quickly can mean the difference between development of an addiction or childhood trauma.

Contributor: Trevor McDonald

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Bullying and Cyberbullying: The Effect It Has On Teens

Posted by Sue Scheff on October 02, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help

cyber-bullying55Bullying and cyberbullying is a major concern today. When we read headlines of youth taking their lives and read more about their life — what they experienced, what they felt, was the end of the world. Especially cyberbullying that can spread so fast and furious – their entire school campus and community feels like it was closing in on them.

They soon feel like there is no way out. The shame, the humiliation, and peer cruelty can be overwhelming.

Experts have discovered the majority of kids and teens don’t tell their parents when they are being harassed or teased for fear of further embarrassment or the parent may remove their life-long, the Internet.  Keep in mind, the technology is not the issue — it’s the people using it.

Bullying can affect everyone—those who are bullied, those who bully, and those who witness bullying. Bullying is linked to many negative outcomes including impacts on mental health, substance use, and suicide. It is important to talk to kids to determine whether bullying—or something else—is a concern.

Kids Who are Bullied

Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues.

Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:

  • Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
  • Health complaints
  • Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.

Kids Who Bully Others

Kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood.

Kids who bully are more likely to:

  • Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults
  • Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school
  • Engage in early sexual activity
  • Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults
  • Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults

CyberBullying_5Be Aware of What Your Kids are Doing Online

Talk with your kids about cyberbullying and other online issues regularly.

  • Know the sites your kids visit and their online activities. Ask where they’re going, what they’re doing, and who they’re doing it with.
  • Tell your kids that as a responsible parent you may review their online communications if you think there is reason for concern. Installing parental control filtering software or monitoring programs are one option for monitoring your child’s online behavior, but do not rely solely on these tools.
  • Have a sense of what they do online and in texts. Learn about the sites they like. Try out the devices they use.
  • Ask for their passwords, but tell them you’ll only use them in case of emergency.
  • Ask to “friend” or “follow” your kids on social media sites or ask another trusted adult to do so.
  • Encourage your kids to tell you immediately if they, or someone they know, is being cyberbullied. Explain that you will not take away their computers or cell phones if they confide in you about a problem they are having.

Sources: StopBullying.gov

If your teen is struggling with issues from being bullied or cyberbullied and has become withdrawn, be sure to reach out and get them help. If you have exhausted all your local resources and they are continuing to shut-down, it may be time to consider residential therapy. Contact us for more information.

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