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Renown Bullying Expert, Michal Kolář, Deals with Epidemic in Schools

Feb 2 2012in Whats New admin Comments Off on Renown Bullying Expert, Michal Kolář, Deals with Epidemic in Schools

Is it possible to stop an epidemic of school bullying?

(An interview with Dr. Michal Kolář)

 Do you think that bullying at schools has become a global problem?

School bullying is a very old phenomenon, certainly as old as school itself. However, its scientific understanding is relatively recent. Origins of its identification can be placed in the seventies. Since then extensive national and international studies have been developed involving millions of school children. There is a large number of empirical data indicating that the problem is global.

In the Czech Republic, located in Central Europe, the situation is best mapped in elementary schools with children between 6 to 15 years old. Using stringent investigative methods, the incidence of bullying has been determined to be around 20 percent. Empirical research also indicates that a similar unfavorable situation exists in high schools with students between ages of 15 to 18 years. This confirms my diagnosis that this moral disease is epidemic. In the Czech Republic, an epidemic is defined by more than two thousand people per 100 thousand inhabitants being impacted. Of course, I am presenting this image to underscore the seriousness and urgency of the situation.

Is it possible to stop the epidemic of bullying in school? If so, how?

My view is skeptical, but I think that the situation can be improved in a particular school and in a particular class. In terms of nationwide solution, I see many problems because I participate in several large projects. However, even here an improvement should not be ruled out. An important basis for effective help is to understand bullying as a relationship breakdown in the group. From this perspective, the best defense and the best prevention is an educational community, which means building open, friendly, and safe relationships. However, empirical experience (as well as my research) at various types of schools, showed that even the best democratic community cannot essentially stop the bullying. Each school needs to have their own special program that can detect bullying in the early stages and can treat it effectively.

I will share the good news that really encouraged me. As part of the Czech Ministry of Education, I worked on a project to design and implement a special program. In the experimental school selected for the project, we succeeded to reduce the incidence of bullying by 42.5% in 4 months which was a record short time. An especially trained team (there were teachers with long-term training) managed to reduce the number of victims of bullying by 50 to 75%. At the same time, there was no change in the control school. Later on, when this program was implemented on a larger scale at 50 schools its effectiveness was confirmed.

I would like to emphasize that the results of our program is one of the most successful in the world. It can be compared only with the program of Dan Olweus from Norway. Olweus is a pioneering figure in this field. During 2-3 years, he succeeded in reducing bullying in Norway by 50%. In the United States, in South Carolina, and in Schleiwig-Holstein in Germany, the attempts to replicate the success of this program have failed. According to some sources, however, the Olweus program achieved excellent results in US. Supposedly, some schools have managed to reduce bullying by more than 40%. But be as it may, other programs considered successful, usually have a maximum efficiency of around 15%. Not to mention that quite a few programs (led by top experts) had no effect. It is really difficult in a particular school and in a particular situation to demonstrably reduce the incidence of bullying.

What is the basis of the effectiveness of this program?

There were a number of factors, but the biggest difference compared to other programs, including the program of Olweus, is a new methodology for solving the existing bullying. The novelty of the methodology lies in the fact that it is not a general guidance in the form of cookbooks. But it is a specific and differentiated treatment – according to stages and forms of bullying, as well as, according to the level of treatment goals (See Appendix 1 – Classification of scenarios for assistance according to treatment goals, stages and forms of bullying).

This type of assistance is least risky and highly effective. I’ll explain its advantage by using the stages of bullying. Based on my long-term practical experience, I have come to the conclusion that the process by which the group relationships become infected by the “bullying virus” has its inevitable evolution. It evolves from the first embryonic form to a perfect fifth so-called ostracism stage – totalitarianism. To respect these stages is very important for the treatment of bullying for at least three reasons:

a) There is a fundamental difference in the investigation and first aid – partial treatment in the initial (i.e. first, second and third stages) and advanced (i.e., fourth and fifth stages) of the impacted group.

b) Overall treatment of the group has its own specifics for each stage.

c) These stages allow to select various experts that can provide qualified assistance (first contact experts, specialists, and unsolvable even for specialists).

For more details see Appendix 2: Stages of bullying and their significance in practice).

How important is for the success of your program the teacher training and peer programs?

These are two essential components that belong to 13 major components of our program. Peer programs are run at the level of classroom and school-wide community programs.

Training of teachers and other professionals is an essential step that must be started immediately at the beginning. The point is that all schools teachers must be trained using the modular course in the management of 6 scenarios (see Annex 1). They should handle the first and the second group by themselves. For others – third to sixth group of scenarios they need to recognize their suitability and to handle the most urgent and critical steps, including cooperation with experts.

Regarding the first two groups of scenarios, here are particularly important class teachers and the school counselor. They should be able to provide the first aid up to the third stage and overall treatment for the first two stages of common initial bullying. These cases of bullying are by far the most frequent and the school must fight them by itself.

The training must be provided not only for teachers, but also for experts from special services facilities who take care of the school issues. They must be able to work with the 3rd to the 6th group of scenarios. This requires in most cases, that some of them have received training and supervision in diagnosing and solving unusual and advanced bullying cases.

Do you work with schools that have no apparent interest in protecting their students from bullying?

Sometimes a serious case of bullying is uncovered and the schools where the bullying took place are forced to collaborate with me. But it is only dealing with a problem at a superficial level. To establish an effective school-wide program requires much more. The best preventive conditions are provided by a full-fledged educational community. This means a school that operates as a democratic community and relies on the morality of love.

School-wide meetings, school parliament, school board, etc. open up the chances for an effective defense against bullying. But be aware of the fact that this by itself will not be effective against already existing bullying. Also, it is important to note that schools that don’t yet have an educational community and want to implement the program must meet the minimum requirements. They need to have a good team and teachers as individuals must be willing to work on themselves professionally, personally and morally.

How do you protect children from cyberbullying?

The program includes the protection of children from cyberbullying. The assistance will take place on two levels.

If the cyberbullying affects students and happens during teaching or during a school program, then the school is responsible to provide a direct treatment for cyberbullying. Trained staff determines on the basis of stages and forms of bullying whether the school alone is capable to solve the problem or whether they need to see a specialist. (See Appendix 1. Classification scenarios for assistance according to treatment goals, stages and forms of bullying). It is a procedure that applies to all types of bullying; cyberbullying is no exception.

For practical help, it is very useful to know that most cases of cyberbullying are connected with the traditional school bullying. Cyberbullying is not investigated in isolation, but as part of bullying in the whole school. Using this approach, we can provide effective diagnosis and safe treatment.

As the main battlefield against cyberbullying I see the school itself. My experience shows me that the role of aggressors and victims in school bullying are usually carried over into cyberspace. Besides, most victims know their aggressor. Czech research in 2009 showed that 80% of the attackers came from the class or the school of the victims.

And now I come to the second level of assistance. If the cyberbullying does not happen during teaching and does not take place at school, then the teacher is not the one who will directly address the problem. When considering punishing the attacker, a lawyer needs to be consulted. Bullied students should be provided with an advice on how to protect themselves immediately, how to secure the evidence, and to whom to turn. It is always necessary to map the relationships in the classroom, where the victims of cyberbullying are. The goal is to determine whether there is already on-going school bullying. As I said – most of cyberbullying is just part of school bullying. It is also useful to find ways how to make relationships healthier in a particular classroom.

What can we do to encourage the young adults to confide their troubles in adults?

The basic principle of gaining the trust of children is a real interest of the school to address bullying. Children must also be able to verify that the school really knows how to deal with this problem professionally. This means that a child who seeks help will find it without being bullied for it even more.

Specifically, we need to weaken the reasons that prevent the victims to come forward. There are few and I will discuss some of them:

It is hard for victims to talk about how they were abused, because it threatens the loss of the last remnants of their self-esteem and break-up of personal integrity. It’s a similar situation and pain as with the victims of rape. Neither one can accurately describe what happened and how, which is important for the investigation. Often the victim submits to the pressure of the group, who commands him/her to be silent. Sometimes the victim may have internalized the prohibition of “ratting out” or the group has indoctrinated its “pseudo consciousness “, and if the victim reveals the aggressor, s/he is experiencing feelings of guilt, remorse and strong anxiety. In some cases, the victim does not want to testify because s/he has a great fear of retribution and sometimes even of being killed. The situation is complicated by the fact that sometimes the victim takes on the aggressors’ distorted view of the situation and themselves. And sometimes, the victim suppresses the painful experiences and forgets them.

Appendix 1: Classification of scenarios for assistance according to the goals of treatment, stages and forms of bullying (M.Kolář)

Scenarios that the school can handle itself  

1. First aid for initial stages of bullying with the standard form.

2. Overall treatment for dealing with bullying in the embryonic stage, Framework Class Program

Scenarios when the school needs help from outside

3. First aid for initial stages of a nonstandard form of bullying.

4. First Aid (crisis scenario) for common forms of advanced bullying.

5. First Aid (crisis scenario) for advanced bullying with an unusual form that includes, for example, an explosion of group violence, the school lynching etc.

6. Overall treatment up to the 3rd stage of bullying, ZIP – The basic intervention program (for advanced bullying it is always in combination with first aid)

Key to the level of treatment goals:

1. First Aid – partial and symptomatic treatment, quickly and safely stops bullying.

2. Overall treatment – works with relationships in the whole classroom, causal therapy at the level of school causes, requires a longer time.

As the table shows, the first area covers two types of scenarios that the school itself can handle. The second area includes four groups of scenarios where the school needs help from outside. The qualified work with these scenarios enabled teachers to effectively and safely deal with different types of bullying.

Appendix 2: 5 stages of bullying developed by Dr. Michal Kolář

First stage: The birth of ostracism

This stage includes mild, mostly psychological forms of violence, when the marginal member of the group does not feel well. She/he is unpopular and ignored. The others more or less reject him/her and don’t talk to him/her, slander him/her, concoct intrigues against him/her, and making “little” horseplay at his/her account, etc. This situation is already an embryonic form of bullying and includes the risk of further negative development.

Second stage: Physical aggression and escalating of manipulation

In stressful situations, when the tensions within the group are rising, the ostracized students will serve as a lightning rod. Their classmates unwind on them their unpleasant feelings from, for example, an expected hard written exam or from a conflict with a teacher or simply from the fact that going to school is bothersome. Manipulation is increasing and at first, mostly subtle physical aggression appears.

The third stage (pivotal moment): Creating a nucleus

A group of aggressors is created, so-called striking core. These “virus” multipliers (disseminators of virus) begin to collaborate and systematically, no longer at random, to bully most convenient victims. In the beginning, the victims become those who are already proven objects of ostracism. These are students who are lowest in the hierarchy, i.e. the “weak”.

Fourth stage: The majority accepts norms

Norms of aggressors are adopted by the majority and they become an unwritten law. At this time, an informal pressure to conform is gaining new dynamics and only very few could stand up to it. The members of the group overwhelmed by the “virus” are beginning to create an alternative sort of identity that is entirely indebted to the leaders. Even tame and disciplined students begin to behave brutally. They get actively involved in bullying of a classmate and find it satisfying.

Fifth stage: Totalitarianism or perfect bullying 

Violence is accepted as a norm by all members of the class. Bullying has become a group program. Figuratively speaking, here comes an era of “exploitation”. Students are divided into two groups of people, “slave masters” and “slaves.” Those in the first group have all the rights; the ones in the second one have none.

Dr. Michal Kolář is a psychotherapist who has been treating bullying for more than 30 years. He has created a special theory and methodology for the diagnosis and treatment of bullying at schools. He also works with the International and European Observatories on School Violence

 

 



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Beyond Bullies Agents of Change Video Campaign – Inspire Others to Take Stand Against Bullying

Dec 12 2011in Whats New admin Comments Off on Beyond Bullies Agents of Change Video Campaign – Inspire Others to Take Stand Against Bullying

Are you Beyond Bullies?

The Beyond Bullies Agents of Change video campaign is to help bullied youth express how they feel, what they are experiencing and how they took a stand against bullying. One of our main goals emphasizes being an active bystander in bullying situations, rather than remaining silent when encountering a bully or someone else being bullied. We want our message to bring people together, empowering students to use their voices, realizing they are not alone, and that they can become agents of change against bullying at their schools.

Beyond Bullies is asking YOU to send your videos telling us about your personal experiences with bullying: standing up for someone in need, dealing with it, and other personal or even inspirational stories. Your video will help others take a stand against bullying. Be creative – create your own video speaking of your experience and your message and post it as a Video Response to this link. End your video with, “I am _____, and I am Beyond Bullies.”

Tell us what you’re going through? Was there ever a time you stopped a bully at school or online? Have you ever made friends with someone who was excluded?  Tell a story in a video and be as creative as you’d like.

Please be sure to include your name and contact information, in case we need to contact you, if your video is selected to be featured on our Web site and Facebook page.  It may also be used as promotional material for our upcoming campaigns.

You may use a video camera, cell phone or computer to record your video.

For more information watch our video for details at:

http://youtu.be/_Q1Ci8AdzJE

Bullying Stops with You.

Melissa Sherman
Executive Director

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STANDING UP TO FEMALE BULLIES PREPARES HER FOR LIFE

Nov 20 2011in Whats New admin Comments Off on STANDING UP TO FEMALE BULLIES PREPARES HER FOR LIFE

Nancy (name was changed to protect her) was in the 5th grade and had learning disabilities. She was blond with blue eyes and very cute. Her learning problems were not noticeable. But there were several girls who decided to bully her. They called her names, pushed her into her locker, grabbed her backpack and dumped it in the trash. At recess, the girls put her in the center of a circle and pushed her hard from girl to girl, yelling insults, until forcing her out of the circle.

The bullies would put notes on her desk and stick them in her locker. The bullies had written Nancy’s name and scribbled, This is how you look, and pointed to faces where the nose was a penis, the eyes where breasts and the mouth was a vagina. Nancy came home from school nervous and crying, and said she did not want to go back to school.

Nancy felt intimidated and did not want to stand up to the bullies. When her mom saw the pictures and notes she knew she could go to the school, speak with the principal and create a ruckus. But instead she wanted Nancy to learn how to stand up for herself and gain the confidence she needed to not only deal with these bullies but how to deal with life. Nancy needed to know how to cope and deal with the negatives in life.

The school had a psychologist to help the kids with general problems. Nancy’s mom spoke with her daughter and told her to try and meet with the school psychologist and ask her to get these girls together and speak about the problem.

The school psychologist brought the girls together. Nancy had a chance to express the pain she was going through, and how much it hurt her. She asked the girls, “Why are you doing this to me?” They said, She was easy and would not put up a fight.

They girls said they thought it was fun. After that, the girls left Nancy alone, and they became her friend. Nancy learned from this experience and became much stronger. She also learned she could handle problems that might come up in her life with the bullies of the world.

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When Severe Bullying Calls for Back Up From Law Enforcement

Oct 4 2011in Whats New admin Comments Off on When Severe Bullying Calls for Back Up From Law Enforcement

When to Call Law Enforcement in Severe Bullying Cases in School

An overwhelming amount of children are victimized each year by bullies in and out of the classroom. This problem has become so apparent in America’s schools that some state legislatures have enacted laws against bullying. Though these laws do not entirely criminalize all forms of bullying, it is the acts of some bullies which can trigger the need for law enforcement to play a role.

It is imperative for parents, teachers, and administrators to become familiar with their school policy on bullying. Each school system may have different steps or methods to dealing with bullying, but in order for the school to react to bullying they need to know how to handle low level and severe forms of bullying. If a child is in immediate physical danger then it is absolutely necessary to alert the police. Being a bully is not a crime itself, but there are several crimes a bully can be involved with that are, including assault, sexual harassment, Theft and hate crimes. It is important for parents to understand that notifying school authorities is their first line of defense. Parents need to work in conjunction with school officials in order to provide a safe environment for all children.

Sometimes parents, teachers, and administrators of victimized children do not know when to call the police. There are some distinct cases in which law enforcement agencies need to be informed. They should be called when school authorities have been negligent in the prevention of severe bullying incidents. When bullies use physical harm on their victims, this can be a form of Assault (Intent to cause violence, shoving, pushing,) and Battery (physically harming and individual). Assault and Battery can lead to hospitalization or even death to a child that has been victimized. When a target of bullying is assaulted or physically harmed, police should be notified immediately.

In addition to Assault and Battery, Hate crimes, which is defined by congress as an offense “in which the defendant’s conduct motivated by hatred bias, or prejudice, based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation of another individual or group of individual or group of individuals” can occur in or out of school (H.R. 4797, 102d Cong 2nd Session, 1992).

Another crime is Theft. An example of this crime is the theft of bikes, phones, video games, or money. Sexual Harassment & Battery are also serious crimes. In extreme cases of bullying, sexual offense occur, law enforcement and school officials should be notified immediately. Cyber-bullying is a fairly new form of bullying to parents. Though there is no federal laws against cyber-buying yet, cities ordinances in a few states ruled cyber-bullying as a misdemeanor. Much like harassment laws, it is however illegal to threaten to harm an individual via the internet (USC Title 18§ 875(c).

Contacting law enforcement should be priority when there is imminent danger, loss of property, or when parents or school administrations have exhausted means to correct bullying behavior. It is important for individuals to recognize that everyone can be affected by bullying, even the bully themselves.

According to a study on bullies and criminal behavior, 55% of individuals who claim to be bullies received a conviction of a crime before they reached the age of 24 (Olweus, D. 2011). If bullies can be corrected at an early age, it can be possible to reduce conviction rates for bullies as well. The restorative perspective in criminal justice is a sentencing technique used by the court system in hope to prevent future offenses. The offender or bully is made aware of how he affected the victim and the community. The court system with the school administration can develop a punishment that can restore the community (usually through service work) and help negate the bullying behavior.

Olweus, D. (2011), Bullying at school and later criminality: Findings from three Swedish community samples of males. Criminal Behavior and Mental Health, 21: 151-156. doi: 10.1002/cbm.806

By Alan J. Stevenson, Veteran, Criminal Justice/Information Security and Assurance Student

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Bullies tend to Pick on People they Think are Uncool and Abnormal: A look at Peer Abuse

Sep 7 2011in Whats New admin Comments Off on Bullies tend to Pick on People they Think are Uncool and Abnormal: A look at Peer Abuse

Q&A Elizabeth Bennett

Q: You describe yourself as a survivor of peer abuse. When most people think about peer abuse or bullying, they often think that it is physical. Howwere you abused by your peers and how old were you when the abuse started?

A: I was three when it started. A child from across the street threw rocks at me. Some of mine was physical but also verbal, mental and emotional.

Q: Bullies tend to pick on and torment people they think are uncool or not normal. Do you think you were targeted because you stood out?

A: Oh yes…I was a sensitive child and I cried very easily. I did not know how to stand up for myself. By nature I am not combative and I know that is what got me in trouble so to speak.

Q: How can we teach teens that being cool is standing up for themselves or for people who are being bullied?

A: We need to get parents more involved to talk to their children and set consequences. There is such a lack of accountability today and if kids knew they were held accountable for these actions, it may decrease. Plus, children need to be learning empathy a lot more. They are growing up far too desensitized today to the pain of others. Adults need to model behavior that reflects what we are trying to teach children. It does not hurt to talk to and make children aware of how this behavior really hurts others. Schools need to be reinforcing the dangers bullying on a regular basis. Parents need to be monitoring and staying on top of internet use a lot more Children need to be taught how to use technology properly. If we reinforce kindness instead of brutality then I believe children can learn that it is not so bad to be kind. We need to teach kids how to handle conflict but this is not normal conflict. Peer Abuse is about just that…abuse.

Q: What advice would you give teens that are too afraid to go to school because people are spreading rumors about them?

A: They need to tell their parents what is going on and then go to the school and see what the policies are about stopping this. Also, document everything and save any notes, email, texts and voicemails, so evidence is there. As for the hurting teens, I would reinforce that they are wonderful kids and so much better than those who are spreading the lies. Suggest getting themselves in activities away from school. Also, get a journal and vent these frustrations out. If the rumors are severe, I would suggest they talk to their parents about homeschooling. When it gets to a point where people believe the rumors, and make them worse, it can become psychologically traumatizing. Targets then need to be in a healthy environment. Telling them to "ignore" it will just make it worse. This type of stuff leaves lasting scars on a person and does not "prepare them for the real world."

Q: If a teen is being told by his parent or another adult figure to grow a tougher skin, when he is being called names or made fun of because of his physical shape or size, what can he do?

A: Continue searching for an authority figure that WILL listen and take them seriously. To survive in this world we need to develop thicker skin. At the same time, not everyone is blessed in this area. Get them in activities where they can build their self-esteem and where people appreciate them. Also, educate these adults that it takes all kinds to make the world go around and not everyone is blessed with thick skin. I know I was not and have had to try and grow it the best that I can. At the same time, it is still not enough. I am not wired that way, bottom line.

Q: I've read that bullies have higher self-esteems than the average student. On the other hand, why would someone put someone down, if they feel good about themselves?

A: This form of abuse is about control and power. It is about going after those who are different because these abusers cannot handle those being different from them. For them, this is entertainment and a lack of tolerance of others. It is important for them to remain on top and will do whatever it takes. Peers look up to them and feed them constantly with praise. For them, they must have their following so they can control and keep getting praised. These abusers actually make great leaders which is one reason I believe that people flock to them. At the same time, they misuse this to satisfy their own needs. Now, I do not doubt that they have insecurities in them. Our world today is basically insecure but I can assure you that they are pleased with themselves for the most part.

Q: As an adult, you write a Blog and have written books about bullying. If you could go back to school with what you know now, what would you do differently?

A: I would work on trying not to be accepted so much. I would stand up for myself as I have the confidence now that I never had then. I was beaten down so badly as a kid that I had NO self-worth and NO self-esteem and did not know how to fight back. Now I do have these skills. I would document everything and stay on top of the policies at school. Not get down to the abusers level but let them hang themselves with their own actions via documentation.

Elizabeth Bennett is the author of "Peer Abuse Know More! Bullying from a Psychological Perspective" along with the e-book "Child Safety Online: Top Tips to Protect your Child from Internet Predators.

By Melissa Sherman, Executive Director, Beyond Bullies

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How to Face Bullies with Confidence

May 2 2011in Whats New admin Comments Off on How to Face Bullies with Confidence

Looking Bullies in the Eyes: Bullying Tips for Teens & Adults

 

 

Michele Sherman, MFT

Many parents are looking for answers and ways to help their children from becoming a target of bullying, a bystander or a bully. In this article, Michele Sherman, MFT, who has worked with families for more than fifteen years, stresses the importance of teaching and encouraging children to develop their communication skills in order to help them resolve internal and external conflicts.

How can you help a shy and withdrawn child who is bullied?

A shy and withdrawn teenager who struggles with feelings of insecurity and anxiousness may benefit from several different techniques. Keeping a journal and encouraging your child to write about their feelings, may help them to better understand themselves. Michele also recommends teaching your child to make new friends and to stop looking for approval from people who don’t appreciate or accept their gifts and talents.

Why is my child so angry all the time? Could he/she be a bully?

Michele says it important to understand why they are angry and the source of their pain. Sometimes youth turn to bullying to assert influence and power over others when they’re feeling hurt or push others down that they perceive as different from them or mimic behavior they see from adults.

Many youth experience distressing thoughts, stressors and feel pressured in many areas of their lives, so their aggressive actions often express vulnerabilities that aren’t expressed in effective ways. In essence, they are acting out because they are unable to express their feelings and deal with their emotions in constructive ways.

Are there key words or phrases that can help my child when they are being harassed?

Working with I statements helps a person be more direct in their communication, focus on the issue and not be manipulated by other people’s negative comments. Teach your child so say No, I do not like being called names. If you role play with them at home, you will give them more confidence to go back to school.

  • Pretend you are the bully. Poke your child gently and have them say very firmly and loudly, NO. Stop. I don’t like being pushed around! If you don’t stop then I will walk away.
  • Be sure to teach them to look the bully in the eye and walk away with confidence.
  • Encourage them to report the incident to an adult.

 

What should I do if my son or daughter is too afraid to go school?

Parent’s need to get involved and talk to their teenagers about what is going on at school As a parent, Michele says, I would talk to my child about his/her feelings while developing a plan of action. That may consist of talking to a school counselor and pursuing activities that can take momentarily take their focus away from their negative feelings about themselves and their personal lives. Having distractions and/or activities can often help children & adolescents feel better about themselves, which enables them to think and behave in more neutral ways.

Michele also recommends giving children articles about bullying and showing what other kids have experienced, and how they got through it. The bottom line, she says, they are not alone and there is life after high school. As a parent, your involvement in their lives at home and at school can help them overcome bullying.

For more information about therapy for individuals or families contact Michele Sherman.

Michele Sherman, M.A., MFT

16055 Ventura Blvd., Suite 719

Encino,CA91436

(818) 725-2488

www.Micheleshermanmft.com

Interview with Cyberbullying expert Les Parsons

Q: What exactly is cyberbullying?

A: Cyberbullying is the intentional attempt to harm someone else through information and communication technologies. Usually, harmful texts or images are posted via email, cell phone, instant messaging, Blogs, or chat rooms. Cyberbullying usually occurs more than once. A single episode, of course, can be devastating to the targeted individual.

Q:  How are cyberbullying and bullying related?  Â

A:  While cyberbullying may be related to other forms of face-to-face bullying, each  incident needs to be understood on its own terms. One person, for example, may be targeted at school as well as online. Another student may be targeted at school and retaliate online. Still another individual, targeted at school, may disclose online their anger or depression.

Q:  What forms can cyberbullying take?

A:  Young people need to understand the kinds of bullying they may meet online. If they have met any of the following kinds of behaviours, they are being bullied:

  • harassment (repeatedly bothering or tormenting someone, often with hurtful and offensive notes)
  • bad-mouthing (claiming that someone is a bad person by attacking their character or reputation, often by posting rumors or gossip)
  • impersonation (pretending to be someone else and trying to get them into trouble)
  • rejection (trying to turn a group against someone and repeatedly leaving them out of things)
  • outing (posting a secret or embarrassing information or image)
  • threatening (trying to frighten someone by revealing that you may say or do something to harm them; if someone is bothered, tormented, or threatened so badly or so often that they become afraid for their safety, the term cyberstalking is sometimes used)

(Flaming or sending messages with extremely angry, disgusting, or mean-spirited language are an inappropriate behavior that is relatively common online; in extreme or repeated occurrences, it may be deemed to be cyberbullying.)

Q: Why are people so reluctant to get help with cyberbullying?

A:  In spite of the distress, fear, and emotional and social damage suffered by students online, they are notoriously reluctant to report incidents of cyberbullying. The number one reason, of course, is that they expect that parents will unduly supervise or severely restrict their online activity.  Some teenagers believe not using their cell phone or computers, seems to be a fate worse than the bullying they endure while they are there.

Many students hold the mistaken belief that there are no rules on the internet: therefore, bullies think they can say anything they want. In the same vein, students may have been targeted while engaging in risky or unwise behaviours online, behaviour they may rationalize as permitted in the “wild west” environment of the internet but still punishable by their parents. Finally, just as in real life, targets may feel that if the bully gets in trouble, the friends of the bully might retaliate.

Q: What can teenagers do to protect themselves from cyberbullying?

A:  Young people should “cyberproof” their behaviours, from protecting personal information of all kinds to “netiquette.” The number one rule, of course, is never to put anything online that would allow someone to find the person in real life. Young people need to understand that they aren’t invisible online.

When a person is bullied, they should not immediately respond to the attack; the cyberbully loses power if the attack has been ignored. If the targets want to respond after an interval has passed, they should reflect on what they want to say, in what form they want to say it, and why they want to say it. Then challenge the bully from the strength of that reflection.

Les is the author of numerous books, including The Classroom Troubleshooter and Grammarama. His latest book is, Bullied Teacher: Bullied Student.  For more information, contact Les at clifpar@rogers.com.

 

 

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Mean Girls Aren’t Cool Founder was Inspired after being dropped by High School Friends

Nov 30 2010in Whats New admin Comments Off on Mean Girls Aren’t Cool Founder was Inspired after being dropped by High School Friends

Q&A with Kelsey Ann Jackson

Q. How were you bullied in high school?

A. When I was fourteen-years-old I was left out and wasn’t included in cliques and invited to parties. It was more psychological than overt.

Q. Can you explain what you mean by psychological?

A. The bullying was not physical. One day my friends decided to drop me and I felt very sad and alone. This type of bullying happens all the time and it is very painful.

Q. Did you try to talk to the girls who bullied you?

A. The group leader, known as the Queen Bee, happened to be by next door neighbor. When I tried to talk to her mom about being bullied by her daughter, she said that she’d rather have her daughter be in the popular group than be nice to me.

Q. Did you speak to a teacher or an adult about what happened to you?

A. I was too scared. I thought it would only get worse. I thought if I told anyone they would think I was a tattle tale.

Q. How were you able to finally get help?

A. My mother noticed that something was wrong. I told her what happened to me in school. My mom helped me find resources and encouraged me to speak to a teacher.

Q. Why do you think it’s necessary to tell a teacher at school about your experience?

A. Many teachers don’t know what it feels like to be bullied. No one likes to get in trouble. Bullies need to know that they are not going to get away with it.

Q. Now that you have started your own program called, Mean Girls Aren’t Cool, to help girls who have been targets of bullies, what has it been like for you to see the girls who once bullied you?

A. Today, I am thankful to those girls because I wouldn’t have started a program to help girls, if it wasn’t for what I went through.

For more information, visit meangirlsnotcool.com You can e-mail Kelsey Ann Jackson at meangirlsnotcool@bellsouth.net.

By Melissa Sherman, Executive Director, Beyond Bullies

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International Bullying Program is Tribute to Son’s Life

Oct 26 2010in Whats New admin Comments Off on International Bullying Program is Tribute to Son’s Life

 Q&A with Dr. Allan Beane 

Q: Why is bullying such an important cause for you? 

 A: Our son, Curtis, was bullied in seventh grade and in high school. Bullying contributed to his depression and anxiety and his need to turn to an illegal drug at the age of 23. He took METH to release the pain of bullying and it killed him. Since then, my wife and I formed a company called, Bully Free Systems, LLC.Q: I’m sorry to hear about your loss. How do most people cope with being bullied and where can it lead if it’s not addressed?
 

A: Thank you. Bullying destroyed our son. He eventually turned to METH to fly away from the problem.  Many people who suffer from bullying experience depression, anxiety disorders, school phobia, eating disorders, school shootings, suicides, alcohol and drug abuse and much more. Sometimes students join gangs, cults, hate groups and drug groups to have a place to belong and to be accepted. Bullies go up and commit crimes, abuse their spouse, their children and their animals. They also cause heartache in the workplace as adults. So, they also need our help.

 Q: What is bullying?

A: Bullying is aggressive behavior that is intentionally hurtful (physical or psychological) and is persistent (repeated). Since it involves a power imbalance (physical or psychological), it is often threatening. So bullying is not accidentally hurting someone. It has to be intent to hurt and the person must be a repeated target. The person also must feel over powered. It does not have to be the same person or the same behavior, but the person is persistently mistreated.

 Q: Bullying is not exactly something new.  What had happened in the last years that it became so much more harmful and common?

 A: Bullying is more prevalent and more intense today because there are more students who are participating in it. Many of these students may not initiate bullying but they often encourage the bully to mistreat someone, they laugh when someone is mistreated or they join in on the mistreatment. In addition, students today constantly have some technology device turned on and are constantly communicating with one another. Unfortunately, they are using these means of communicate to hurt, humiliate, threaten individuals and often seek to destroy their reputations and their relationships with others.

 Q: How can parents help their children from being targets, a bystander or a bully?

 A: It also appears that more parents are not using effective discipline in their homes to help their children develop self-control. We have more children who are all “gas” and no “brakes.” Perhaps parents are spending less time with their children to develop empathy, sensitivity to the needs and feelings of others and the Golden Rule – “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

 Q: What would you say to someone who is being bullied?

 A: If you are being bullied or you know someone who is bullied, report it to the appropriate officials. If action is not taken, report it again to someone else. Document everything: who, what, when and where, and the other witnesses who were involved, and then report it. If you are mistreating others, stop it. You may push them too far – because they have been bullied for years and/or because they are also mentally ill. Grow up. Stop mistreating others. The fact is no one deserves to be mistreated. Even individuals who irritate you or provoke you do not deserve to be mistreated. The Golden Rule does not say treat others the way you want to be treated, if they do not irritate you. If you are encouraging it by giving the bully an audience or by laughing, stop it. Grow up. Be the good person you were designed to be. Don’t let others control your good heart. It is also time to “wake-up.” When we mistreat others we are being destructive to a human life and we may be putting lives at-risk – even our own. Our society seems to be devaluing human life. If that continues, we can expect more cruelty, more sickness, more suicides, and more shootings.

 For more information, visit www.bullyfree.com. You can e-mail Dr. Beane at abeane@bullyfree.com

By Melissa Sherman, Executive Director, Beyond Bullies

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