LOUISIANA — Compared to all of the things kids can become involved in this day and age, bullying behavior might seem to be insignificant. But, it isn't. More than 160,000 kids skip school every day because of bullying.
What is bullying? It's more than just a part of growing up. Actually a form of aggressive, violent behavior, bullying occurs when someone repeatedly does or says things to gain power over another person, or to dominate them. And, studies show that one in four children who bully will have a criminal record before the age of 30.
Sheriff Mike Tregre says, "Although it isn't easy to define, bullying can take several forms: physical, emotional, verbal or a combination of these. It might involve one child bullying another, a group of children against a single child, or groups against other groups."
Recent data indicate that bullying is pervasive in most schools.
•The National Threat Assessment Center, run by the Secret Service, reported last fall that in more than two-thirds of 37 recent school shootings, the attackers felt "persecuted, bullied, beatened, attacked or injured."
•The National School Safety Center estimates that there are more than 525,000 attacks,shakedowns, and robberies per month in public secondary schools in this country.
•The NEA estimates that 28 million missed school days per year occur due to fear of attack or intimidation by a bully.
•In a survey of 558 students in a Midwestern middle school, the researchers found that 80 percent of the students had engaged in bullying behaviors in the previous 30 days.
"Whatever form bullying takes," says Sheriff Tregre "it is destructive and unhealthy behavior."
Victims of bullying behavior are most likely targeted because of psychological traits more than physical traits.
Typical victims tend to be shy, sensitive, and insecure.
How can we recognize bullying behavior? Sheriff Tregre cites the following examples:
•name calling, put-downs, cruel teasing;
•saying or writing nasty things about them;
•deliberately excluding them from activities;
•not talking to them;
•threatening them with bodily harm;
•taking or damaging their things;
•hitting or kicking them; or
•making them do things they don't want to do
Bullies can be aggressive and outgoing, or they can be reserved and manipulative. But they all have some similar characteristics in common.
•are concerned with their own pleasure;
•want power over others;
•are willing to use and abuse people to get what they want;
•feel pain inside; and
•find it difficult to see things from someone else's perspective.
What can parents do to protect their children against bullying behavior?
•Listen to children and encourage them to talk freely about any problems they are having.
•Take children's complaints of bullying seriously. They may be too timid, afraid or ashamed to let anyone know they have been bullied.
•Be mindful of symptoms that children may be victims of a bully.
•A drop in grades, torn clothes, withdrawal, or needing extra money for supplies may be indicative of this.
•Advise the school or organization immediately if you think your child is being bullied.
•Help children learn social skills they need to make friends.
•Show praise for children's kindness toward others.
•Teach children ways to resolve arguments without violent words or actions.
•Realize that bullies may be acting out feelings of insecurity, anger, or loneliness.
•If your child is demonstrating bullying behavior, help get to the root of the problem.