Chat experts include:
Dr. Mike Troy, Medical director, behavioral health services, Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Kelly Wolfe, Senior advocacy and health policy specialist, Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota
Julie Hertzog, Director, PACER's National Bullying Prevention Center
Christina Wagner, high school student and activist
Welcome to today's noon chat on Understanding and Preventing Bullying. We're about ready to get started. Please start leaving your questions and comments. Thanks.
Unfortunately many social media websites make it easy to create a fake profile, which makes it much harder to identify the actual person who is doing the bullying. Some are even designed specifically to be completely anonymous. Another issue with so much of the bullying happening online, is that schools hesitate to get involved since the incident happened outside of school. Because of this, media use needs to be monitored by parents more than it currently is.
Kelly Wolfe: The state House passed the Safe and Supportive Schools Act last session, and the state Senate is scheduled to take action on the bill this session. If passed, the governor will sign it, and it will become law. The bill requires schools and school districts to have their own bullying policies. It also establishes a school climate center at the Department of Education, which will be a resource for parents, teachers and students on bullying prevention and awareness.
To James: There are many roles that students can play in addressing and preventing bullying. The bystander (those that witness bullying) is particularly powerful.
Websites such as formspring, which was actually shut down due to bullying related issues, and ask.fm are two examples of social media that are designed to post anonymous comments on others profiles. This leads to major problems since it makes it possible to say anything you want anonymously. I often see fake accounts made on twitter and Facebook.
Dr. Troy: While it's understandable for parents to want to defend their children when there are reports of problems outside the home, parents can be supportive of their children while also taking the time to gather the facts. In terms of warning signs that your child may be bullying, look for changes in friendship groups and more secretive behavior. Most importantly, don't be afraid to ask questions.
Dr: Troy: The simple answer is that most instances of bullying are addressed in the school. Factors that would make it more likely that it would enter the legal system would include the length and seriousness of bullying. Kelly: If the bullying involves physical violence, it is also more likely to become a legal matter.
Many bullying definitions include that it is behavior that is directed at another individual that hurts, harms and humiliates another. The behavior is also often intentional, repeated over time, and there is a power imbalance. The power imbalance can be characteristics such as physical size or social status. Conflict is typically between two evenly matched students (the power imbalance i not present) it is also characterized by when one student realizes that they are hurting another, that they will stop the behavior.
Dr. Troy: It's important to remember that learning to negotiate normal range conflict between peers can be an important developmental skill.
Social media has become a large part of our lives as teens. Parents can make that decision to keep their kids off of social media all together, or they can simply give their kids guidelines. These guidelines can include language, time, who you add, privacy etc. There are positives to social media as well. Many schools decide to use things like Facebook groups to post homework, or have class discussions. It is also a great way to get involved with different things.
Dr. Troy: Bullying behaviors can occur as soon as kids begin to interact in meaningful ways with one another. The specific form of the bullying behaviors will be relevant to the developmental stage. For example, even in preschool, kids with difficult developmental histories may exhibit aggressive, bullying behaviors, with other preschool kids.
Many schools' bullying prevention policies address the use of technology; including cell phones, social media, photos and more. This typically includes use of technology within the school and often addresses the use outside the school. Many schools are providing education to students around the proper use of technology.
Kelly: Adults have a responsibility to role model acceptable behaviors and responses to conflict. Not only do schools have a responsibility, but parents do, as well.
Through my experiences with being bullied, I have seen that many parents aren't always willing to admit that their child may be bullying. It's important for parents to realize that if their child is participating in bullying, that this could be impacting someone else's life in a very negative way. When talking to your child if they are bullying, it's important to ask, not accuse. As a parent you need to be able to show your support, but stress the importance of the issue. Ask them why they feel the need to act this way. Often this behavior comes from an issue the child is dealing with in a negative way. You need to explain to your child that the behavior is not okay, and the possible outcomes of their actions. It's never easy, but needs to be done.
Dr: Troy: The important thing is that you recognize that your daughter is struggling with some impulsive and aggressive behaviors. Addressing it at this level, rather than worrying right away about bullying, makes sense. It's normal for kids at this age to sometimes need help with social tasks like sharing, frustration tolerance and impulse control.
Dr. Troy: In isolation, the answer is no. It's an example of an everyday challenge kids face. Learning how to respond to this without excluding one child or escalating the conflict with another is part of the work of growing up.
Kelly: The chances are very good. The first Safe Schools bill was actually introduced in 2009. Since that time, over 90 different organizations have signed on in support of the bill. There's been a lot of work and consensus building to get the bill to a place where most people can support it.
Dr. Troy: In general, it's important to be supportive without immediately involving yourself. It's important to learn as much about the situation as possible. If it's isolated and mild, perhaps you can talk to your child about ways he or she can handle it himself or herself. If the concern is more serious and ongoing, then it may make sense to involved the school and/or parents of other children.
Having peer support is crucial for bullying prevention. As long as this website is private, it could be a great success. This shows leadership and could help bring in more support.
Dr. Troy: The first thing to consider whether it is actually bullying or the give-and-take typical among adolescents. If you're really concerned that something more destructive is occurring in the group, then talk to your child to better understand what's happening and, if necessary, set some limits on who's allowed to come to the home.
Kelly: As a mom, I think that you have an opportunity if you have a group of boys in your home to educate them about the boundaries for what's appropriate in your home, the types of behaviors that are appropriate and the consequences of bullying outside and inside the home and in the schools.
Kelly: There are more avenues for bullying with technology.
Dr. Troy: Although it may not be more common than it used to be, because of social media, the consequences can be more severe.
When someone is being bullied, often they say the worst part of their experience is feeling alone. As a friend of someone who is bullying others, you could have a very strong influence. By stepping in and simply telling your friend that you are not okay with being a part of hurting others, you can stop the bullying right then and there. We look to our peers for support. As teens specifically our friends play a very big role in our lives. If our peers are less accepting of behavior like this, it is more likely that it will stop.
For more information on bullying, we shared this infographic earlier this year.
We have time for 2-3 more questions. We've had many excellent ones already.
Kelly: I think educators are doing the best they can. They go into education because they care about kids. However, I think in an age of new technology, when a lot of bullying may happen online, on the bus or outside the school environment, it's hard to know how best to address it. I think school districts, school boards and even the Legislature have been working the past few years to create guidelines, policies, procedures and resources to help educators be better equipped with the knowledge they need to proactively address bullying and protect our kids. Could we have done better? Yes. But I'm hopeful we're on a path toward making progress.
Bullying is a sensitive subject, regardless of what end of it you are on. The father wanting to step in is taking too strong of an approach. He did the right thing by going to the other parent, but his next step should be talking to the school directly, if the father is less than willing. I encourage you to listen and have a conversation about the issue. Both sides need to be open to talking about it. If you can resolve the issue in your own homes, you can avoid having to bring the school into it. By doing this, you both can show your daughters how to deal with a conflict in a mature way.
That's all the time we have for today's chat. Thanks to everyone who asked questions and to the Star Tribune for hosting this discussion!