I am sure that most of you are as horrified as I am at the increasing number of media reports of teen suicides due to bullying. This past month alone, 4 teens have been in the news for killing themselves in relation to bullying.
Bullying is an act of repeated aggressive behavior in order to intentionally hurt another person, physically or mentally. Bullying is characterized by an individual behaving in a certain way to gain power over another person.
I, like many other clinicians, educators, parents and even celebrities, have blogged, written articles for newspapers, participated in community presentations and spoken about this on radio and television. Yet, the situation continues to get worse.
It seems that as technology advances, kids and even adults are finding new and more toxic ways to hurt others. The consequences can be lifelong and devastating, if not lethal. No longer is bullying limited to the school playground or the walk home. Kids receive horrible taunts via text and email 24-7. To make matters worse, the remarks, photos and videos are now being posted on the web. Few of us can tolerate the knowledge that millions of people know we are “ugly,” “stupid,” “gay” or whatever else someone decides to post, let alone teens struggling with their self-esteem and identity.
Tyler Clementi, a bright and very talented student at Rutgers University killed himself this week in the aftermath of another student’s cruel behavior. This past month, Seth Walsh, 13, Asher Brown, 13, and Billy Lucas, 15, died because they were or someone thought they were gay. How many more kids are we going to let die because of our own cruelty?
I am begging all of you to take action. First, talk to your children. First find out if they are being bullied. Look for signs they are being emotionally hurt. Let them know that talking about bullying is not tattling. Let kids know that the Trevor Project is an online resource for kids who are or think they are gay.
Next, let your kids know that you will not tolerate them bullying or being cruel to others. Let them know you will check their phones, computers or Facebook pages. Get involved in your kid’s school. Find out what their policies are regarding bullying and what they are doing about the problem.
And finally, remember that kids learn what they see. If your home does not promote a culture of kindness, if you are abusive to your kids, or you and your spouse call each other names and are cruel to each other, don’t be surprised if you find your kids being disrespectful and outright cruel to others.
Please think about joining in on this blog topic. I, and others, would love to know about your experiences as a victim or bully, or what you as a parent, educator or clinician are doing to help this unacceptable situation.
Photo by r.f.m. II (via Flickr)