"Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
-- Nelson Mandela
Bullying has become a huge issue these days, both online and off. Not just for individuals, but also for families and communities. It's a mentally, emotionally trying experience. With the release of the movie, Bully in theaters March 30, the spotlight is shining even brighter on the tragic consequences bullying can have.
The good news is, there are ways to find, prevent, and remove bullying from classrooms and computers (and workplaces and life). Many organizations, celebrities, and passionate people are focused on the issue. Lady Gaga recently launched her Born This Way Foundation, Ellen DeGeneres has been an outspoken advocate to #endbullying, supporting organizations like GLSEN, The Trevor Project, and The National Center for Bullying Prevention, and what once seemed like "someone else's problem" is becoming much more visible to us all. And along with more mainstream visibility comes more compassion, as well as more solutions. Part of solving any problem is education.
Here are some alarming figures from anti-bullying nonprofit Community Matters:
- 25,000 students are targets of attacks, shakedowns, robberies in secondary schools every day (National School Safety Center)
- 46% of high school students report seeing a serious fight at least once a month at school (USA Today). Research shows that 1/3 of the brain shuts down for as much as 72 hours after seeing that type of violence
- 260 teachers are physically assaulted and 6250 teachers are threatened with bodily injury every day (National Education Association)
- Approximately 75% of students say they have been bullied at school (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention)
- Every day, 160,000 students stay home from school due to fear of attack or intimidation (National Association of School Psychologists)
Although these statistics seem intimidating, concrete steps can be taken to protect your child. The first step is awareness. CNN has an article, "How to Spot a Bullied Child and What to Do," that highlights a few signs you may see from a bullied child:
- Inexplicable fits of rage: Does your child blow up at the least provocation?
- Overreaction to normal, daily frustrations: Does your child overreact to people and situations that never would have bothered him or her before?
- Faking illness to avoid going to school, or even making themselves sick.
- Impaired immune system and frequent illness: The constant stress and sadness associated with severe bullying can weaken your child's immune system. This, coupled with a child's wishing he or she were sick to get out of school can be a powerful combination.
Image courtesy of Eddie-S (Flickr).
Here are a few things The National Bullying Prevention Center suggests you can do to help prevent bullying:
- Sign a Petition--Unite with others and add your voice to an online petition or hold a petition signing event at your school or in your community.
- Share Stories--Upload a video, story, poem, artwork, or audio clip expressing how you feel about bullying, how you think it affects students and schools, what you have done to prevent bullying, or what others can do to prevent bullying.
- National Bullying Prevention Month--Participate in activities, education and awareness building in October.
- Community Events--Hold a special event to show your school or organization cares about this important issue. The event can include music, giveaways, special speakers, petition signings and more, as people unite to join the movement against bullying.
- Run, Walk, Roll Against Bullying--Raise awareness of bullying prevention in your community with a live event. Find a location, gather sponsors, invite participants and hold the event. Consider planning activities for after the race, such as speakers, drawings and more.
- Donate--Donating to the cause is a great way to share you care. Your contribution can mean one less student being bullied, one more student speaking out, or one more student knowing that someone cares.
And don't forget to share your passion to help with your social networks. With more understanding and awareness of the problem, the chances of creating long-term change greatly increase. Like most things, the more we work together to listen, learn, and help, the faster things will get better. Because everyone deserves to feel and be safe and happy.