The headline quote above is a lie. Bold and bald-faced.

Let me say in advance, our schools are filled with wonderful, loving youngsters who are going to make a positive difference in our world. That being said, I’ll get to the bad news… 

The effect of bullying has taken over the media lately. Bullying in schools is so serious that dreadful consequences have occurred — yes, even in DeSoto County. In the extreme, we have seen bullying lead to suicide. Yes, in DeSoto County. It’s real and it’s alive and scary. 

No matter what degree of the bullying, there can be devastating results. A child who is different, shy, not beautiful or smart or not a member of “the clique” can be a target. A clique is a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself. Just friends who “hang” together, making memories. It starts out being a bad thing when a leader nudges the group to make a remark or initiates an act of unkindness towards someone outside the group.

Thus — bullying. Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children (or adults, for that matter) that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious problems that linger for years.

We as parents and grandparents tend to ignore this problem until something bad happens to wake us up.

Why is this happening? What are we doing wrong in raising our children? Can we do it better?

In my opinion, we are not giving our youngsters a firm foundation for a productive, meaningful life by NOT teaching them the basics about kindness and respect for other people. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

A teacher related to me that she notices a few students go about their daily routine with an attitude of entitlement. They believe that they are inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment because of who they are, or more correctly, who they perceive themselves to be.

I’ve seen a few adults like that, haven’t you? Maybe it’s a “monkey see, monkey do” sort of situation. Maybe youngsters are “aping” what they see and hear from adults. 

Here is a weird twist: I was told that there have been incidences where a student will make a false report that “so and so” is bullying them. This is another kind of bullying. Lying about someone is always a bad choice. And guess what? Parents can join the fray and complicate things further. I do not envy teachers and youth leaders. This sort of behavior is what they have to deal with. Teachers are heroes. 

These statistics on bullying are from the website stopbullying.gov.:

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

• An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power — such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity — to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.

• Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once. That’s the thing. Once it starts, it builds momentum and keeps on going.

Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

There are three types of bullying:

1. Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:

 * Teasing

 * Name-calling

 * Inappropriate sexual comments

 * Taunting

 * Threatening to cause harm

2. Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:

 * Leaving someone out on purpose

 * Telling other children not to be friends with someone

 * Spreading rumors about someone

 * Embarrassing someone in public

3. Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes:

 * Hitting/kicking/pinching

 * Spitting

 * Tripping/pushing

 * Taking or breaking someone’s things

 * Making mean or rude hand gestures

Where and When Bullying Happens

Bullying can occur during or after school hours. While most reported bullying happens in the school building, a significant percentage also happens in places like on the playground or the bus. It can also happen traveling to or from school, in the youth’s neighborhood, or on the Internet.

National Statistics

• Been Bullied

 28 percent of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying.

 20 percent of U.S. students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying.

• Bullied Others

 Approximately 30 percent of young people admit to bullying others in surveys.

• Seen Bullying

 * 70.6 percent of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools.

 * 70.4 percent of school staff have seen bullying. 62 percent witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41 percent witness bullying once a week or more.

 * When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.

• Been Cyberbullied

 * 9 percent of students in grades 6–12 experienced cyberbullying.2

 * 15 percent of high school students (grades 9–12) were electronically bullied in the past year.16

 * However, 55.2 percent of LGBTQ students experienced cyberbullying.

 * In one large study, about 49 percent of children in grades 4–12 reported being bullied by other students at school at least once during the past month, whereas 30.8 percent reported bullying others during that time.

 * Defining “frequent” involvement in bullying as occurring two or more times within the past month, 40.6 percent of students reported some type of frequent involvement in bullying, with 23.2 percent being the youth frequently bullied, 8.0 percent being the youth who frequently bullied others, and 9.4 percent playing both roles frequently.

• Types of Bullying

 * The most common types of bullying are verbal and social. Physical bullying happens less often. Cyberbullying happens the least frequently.

 * According to one large study, the following percentages of middle schools students had experienced these various types of bullying: name calling (44.2 percent); teasing (43.3  percent); spreading rumors or lies (36.3 percent); pushing or shoving (32.4 percent); hitting, slapping, or kicking (29.2 percent); leaving out (28.5 percent); threatening (27.4 percent); stealing belongings (27.3 percent); sexual comments or gestures (23.7 percent); e-mail or blogging (9.9 percent).

• Where Bullying Occurs

 * Most bullying takes place in school, outside on school grounds, and on the school bus. Bullying also happens wherever kids gather in the community. And of course, cyberbullying occurs on cell phones and online.

 * According to one large study, the following percentages of middle schools students had experienced bullying in these various places at school: classroom (29.3 percent); hallway or lockers (29.0 percent); cafeteria (23.4 percent; gym or PE class (19.5 percent); bathroom (12.2 percent); playground or recess (6.2 percent).

• How Often Adult Notified

Only about 20 to 30 percent of students who are bullied notify adults about the bullying.

OK, we see the problem, what can we do and our youngsters do to stop the insanity?

Share with your youngsters

What kids can do:

Are you being bullied? Do you see bullying at your school? There are things you can do to keep yourself and the kids you know safe from bullying.

Treat Everyone with Respect

Nobody should be mean to others.

• Stop and think before you say or do something that could hurt someone.

• If you feel like being mean to someone, find something else to do. Play a game, watch TV, or talk to a friend.

• Talk to an adult you trust. They can help you find ways to be nicer to others.

• Keep in mind that everyone is different. Not better or worse. Just different.  

• If you think you have bullied someone in the past, apologize. Everyone feels better.

What to Do If You’re Bullied

There are things you can do if you are being bullied:

• Look at the kid bullying you and tell him or her to stop in a calm, clear voice. You can also try to laugh it off. This works best if joking is easy for you. It could catch the kid bullying you off guard.

• If speaking up seems too hard or not safe, walk away and stay away. Don’t fight back. Find an adult to stop the bullying on the spot.

There are things you can do to stay safe in the future, too.

• Talk to an adult you trust. Don’t keep your feelings inside. Telling someone can help you feel less alone. They can help you make a plan to stop the bullying.

• Stay away from places where bullying happens.

• Stay near adults and other kids. Most bullying happens when adults aren’t around.

Protect Yourself from Cyberbullying

Bullying does not always happen in person. Cyberbullying is a type of bullying that happens online or through text messages or emails. There are things you can do to protect yourself.

• Always think about what you post. You never know what someone will forward. Being kind to others online will help to keep you safe. Do not share anything that could hurt or embarrass anyone.

• Keep your password a secret from other kids. Even kids that seem like friends could give your password away or use it in ways you don’t want. Let your parents have your passwords.

• Think about who sees what you post online. Complete strangers? Friends? Friends of friends? Privacy settings let you control who sees what.

• Keep your parents in the loop. Tell them what you’re doing online and who you’re doing it with. Let them friend or follow you. Listen to what they have to say about what is and isn’t okay to do. They care about you and want you to be safe.

• Talk to an adult you trust about any messages you get or things you see online that make you sad or scared. If it is cyberbullying, report it.

When you see bullying, there are safe things you can do to make it stop.

• Talk to a parent, teacher, or another adult you trust. Adults need to know when bad things happen so they can help.

• Be kind to the kid being bullied. Show them that you care by trying to include them. Sit with them at lunch or on the bus, talk to them at school, or invite them to do something. Just hanging out with them will help them know they aren’t alone.

Not saying anything could make it worse for everyone. The kid who is bullying will think it is ok to keep treating others that way.

You can be a leader in preventing bullying in your community.

• Find out more about where and when bullying happens at your school. Think about what could help. Then, share your ideas. There is a good chance that adults don’t know all of what happens. Your friends can go with you to talk to a teacher, counselor, coach, or parent and can add what they think.

• Talk to the principal about getting involved at school. Schools sometimes give students a voice in programs to stop bullying. Be on a school safety committee. Create posters for your school about bullying. Be a role model for younger kids.

Be kind.

DALE  LILLY  is Lifestyles Editor and may be contacted at 662-429-6397 or lifestyles@desototimes.com

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