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Daily Dose

Stop Bullying Now!

1.30 to read

October is National Bullying Prevention Month.  This is one topic that should be discussed with our children, and not only during the month of October.

Bullying is defined by an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy statement  as “a form of aggression in which one or more children repeatedly and intentionally intimidate, harass, or physically harm a victim who is perceived as unable to defend himself or herself”.  

Unfortunately, study after study shows that the incidence of bullying is on the rise with the most prevalent bullying occurring during the middle school years.  One study I read stated that “160,000 students skip school everyday to avoid being bullied”.  Another study stated that somewhere between 10-40% of middle school students report being bullied. 

Where does bullying begin?  Sadly, some of the bully behavior is modeled from parent to child, and parents can be part of the problem.  Good behavior and acceptance of others needs to begin in the home with parents discussing hurt feelings and mean language in the toddler years. How many times have you heard yourself saying to your own child, “when you say that it hurts my feelings”, or “did that person hurt your feelings?”  These lessons are taught early on, beginning in the sandbox. The discussions really continue throughout childhood but are obviously age appropriate.

When talking to my patients during middle school years about bullying and the “mean girls”  phenomena (verbal and cyber bullying is more common among girls, while physical bullying is more common among boys) I ask about their friendships and how they perceive themselves as friends. Many middle school patients of mine report feeling excluded from some groups, or events, but at the same time are learning how to decide who are their “real” friends. The discussion often comes back to the basic, “if you are nice to everyone, you will find that you are not very interesting to bully or gossip about”. Sounds easy, but it is really hard to always be nice. It is a good place to start.

Bullying not only causes emotional effects it is often linked to physical effects as well. Anxiety, depression, substance abuse, physical complaints  (head and tummy aches)  and even suicidal ideas may all arise due to bullying. These are all problems that I see in my own practice.  

Take some time to engage in a bit of dinner conversation and talk to your children about the various types of bullying and how to prevent it. 

Your Child

Kids: Texting Harassment Up

2.00 to read

For many children, text messaging has become the number one way they communicate with their friends.  A new study shows that a growing number of these kids are reporting being harassed via text messaging.

Of more than 1,100 middle school and high school students surveyed in 2008, 24 percent said they had ever been harassed by texting. That was up from about 14 percent in a survey of the same kids the year before.

On the other hand, actual bullying was down a little. 

In 2008, about eight percent of kids said they'd ever been bullied via text, versus just over six percent the year before.

Though similar, harassment and bullying are not the same. Researchers determined that harassment meant that peers had spread untrue rumors, made rude or mean comments, or threatened a peer. Bullying was defined as being repeatedly picked on.

Parents need to pay attention to their child’s text messaging, researchers say, but they don’t believe parents should be alarmed by the study’s results.

"This is not a reason to become distressed or take kids' cell phones away," said lead researcher Michele L. Ybarra, of Internet Solutions for Kids, Inc., in San Clemente, California.

"The majority of kids seem to be navigating these new technologies pretty healthfully," she told Reuters Health.

The study included 1,588 10- to 15-year-olds who were surveyed online for the first time in 2006. The survey was repeated in 2007 and 2008, with about three-quarters of the original group taking part in all three.

When it came to Internet-based harassment, there was little change over time. By 2008, 39 percent of students said they'd ever been harassed online, with most saying it had happened "a few times." Less than 15 percent said they'd ever been cyber-bullied.

And even when kids were picked on, most seemed to take it in stride.

Of those who said they'd been harassed online in 2008, 20 percent reported being "very or extremely upset" by the most serious incident. That was down a bit from 25 percent in 2006. (The study did not ask about distress over text-message harassment.)

"I don't think it makes sense for parents to get anxious about every new technology, or every new study," said David Finkelhor, who directs the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham.

"A lot of the old parenting messages still hold true, like teaching your kids the 'golden rule,'" Finkelhor said. "These are discussions that aren't specific to the Internet or cell phones."

And despite concerns that technology has made teasing and taunting easier, Finkelhor said there's evidence that overall, kids are doing less of it these days. "Bullying and victimization are down over the period that Internet use has gone up. It's improving," he said.

Finkelhor credited greater awareness of the problem, among schools and parents, for that decline.

One way that the anti-bullying and harassment message is getting out is through a school program called Rachel’s Challenge. Rachel Scott was the first person killed at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. The program was inspired by Rachel’s acts of kindness and compassion. 

According to the Rachel’s Challenge website, the programs exists to stand alongside education professionals at every level to inspire, equip and empower students from K-12 to make a positive difference in their world.

Rachel’s Challenge list their objectives for schools as:

  • Create a safe learning environment for all students by re-establishing civility and delivering proactive antidotes to school violence and bullying.
  • Improve academic achievement by engaging students' hearts, heads and hands in the learning process.
  • Provide students with social/emotional education that is both colorblind and culturally relevant.
  • Train adults to inspire, equip and empower students to affect permanent positive change.

Rachel’s Challenge is just one program that schools are looking at to help students understand and stop harassment and bullying. Researchers say that parents still play the most important role in helping children navigate through life’s sometimes hard and cruel maze. One suggestion is for parents to become more familiar with current technology. Other ideas from online support groups are:

  • Encourage your kids to get together with friends that help build their confidence.
  • Help them meet other kids by joining clubs or sports programs.
  • Find activities that can help a child feel confident and strong. Maybe it's a self-defense class like karate or a movement or other gym class.

The study’s findings were reported in the journal Pediatrics

Your Teen

Violent Video Games Tied to Teen Agression

Adolescents who play violent video games may become increasingly aggressive over time according to research from a new study. The study of American and Japanese teenagers found that kids who played violent video games on a regular basis were more likely than their peers to become increasingly involved in physical fights.

"Basically what we found was that in all three samples, a lot of violent video game play early in a school year leads to higher levels of aggression during the school year, as measured later in the school year -- even after you control for how aggressive the kids were at the beginning of the year," said lead researcher Dr. Craig A. Anderson of Iowa State University. Researchers also point out that not all children who play aggressive video games act them out in real life. Nor is media violence alone to blame for teenagers' aggression. Another researcher in the study pointed out that what video games may do is feed the idea that violence is a normal and acceptable way to react to everyday conflicts. ""It is important to realize that violent video games do not create schools shooters," said Dr. Douglas A. Gentile. Researchers followed three groups of children ages nine to 18 years old over several months. The study is the first to show that effects are seen across cultures. It is also the first study to chart changes in gamers' aggressive behavior over time.

Your Teen

Cyberbullying

It used to be that parents only had to worry about their child being bullied while on the playground. But now, with over 50 million children online, parents need to take steps to make sure their children are not being bullied while online.

“When a child is online, you can’t see how the victim is reacting, you can’t see how many people are against one person,” says Dr. Kristy Hagar, an assistant Professor of Psychiatry UT Southwestern Medical Center. She says some of the warning signs of cyberbullying include a child not wanting to go to school, behavioral changes and spending a lot of time online. “Girls tend to cyberbully more frequently than boys,” says Dr. Hagar. She also adds that pre-teens are more likely to tell their parents about it than older children. It is important for parents to talk with their children at an early age about internet safety and predators. Dr. Hagar also says parents should monitor their child’s online activities. “Set ground rules and time limits for computer use, this is the best way to insure safety.”

Daily Dose

Put a Stop to Bullying

1.30 to read

While bullying has always been a problem encountered during childhood and adolescence, we all know that it is on the rise. Bullying is when a child is intentionally mean to another child, but it occurs over and over again. Bullying used to occur on the playground, at lunch in the cafeteria, in the locker room or even over the phone.  With all of the latest technology, bullying has become even more prevalent, and there are all sorts of new “means” of bullying. 

Enter cyberbullying; bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Cyberbullying occurs when a child/teen deliberately uses digital media to communicate false, embarrassing or just plain mean messages or pictures about a person to another person. Cyberbullying can occur via text, email, on facebook or twitter or the dozens of other social media sites that tweens and teens use.   The American Academy of Pediatrics calls cyberbullying, “the most common online risk for all teens”.   

Studies have shown that between 25-45% of teens report being bullied online. Many report having had this occur more than once.  Cyberbullying is also occurring at all ages as even younger children have access to technology and the internet.  Children, tweens and teens all need to understand that the internet is not a “safe” place and that it is a public forum. Even if you delete a message or a picture it is truly not deleted, but exists in the cyberspace world.   Many teens mistakenly think that they will “not get caught” if they bully on line, or that it is “not that big a deal”.  

Parents need to discuss internet safety and the problem with cyberbullying with their children. This is especially important for the tween/teen age as much of their life is “online”.  Just like good manners in public, children need to learn on line manners as well.  If you wouldn’t say something to another person’s face, then it should not be emailed or text on the internet!  It is really as simple as that. 

I call this the “front door rule”.  Tell your child that if they write an email or text, or post something on facebook, twitter or Instagram (and there are other sites as well) to think before they push send. If they would not want to post the information on their front door so that all of the neighbors and their own family could see it, then don’t send it!  Stop, think and change the message.  It could hurt someone more than you realize and it may also be forwarded to hundreds, thousands or even millions of others.  There was something to be said about just having a phone to talk on! 

 

 

 

Daily Dose

Put a Stop to Bullying

How to put a stop to bullyingUnfortunately, bullying is far too common these days. It seems like there is a headline in the news everyday as a child brings a gun to school to threaten others, or a child is beaten into a coma by bullies, or even stories of child taking their own life after they have been bullied.

Bullying is defined as “any repeated negative activity or aggression intended to harm or bother someone perceived by peers as less physically or psychologically powerful than the aggressor”.  In other words, bullying is when one child picks on another child again and again.  A child that is being bullied typically feels helpless and often does not even talk about being bullied. Bullying also typically happens while other children are watching. The American Academy of Pediatrics wants pediatricians to take an active role in discussing bullying with children and their parents in hopes of  preventing bullying in schools. As the incidence of bullying has increased and taken on “a life of its own”, the consequences of bullying are becoming all too common. In most cases bullying does not lead to headline stories, but rather may be heralded by children who have frequent headaches, or tummy aches or anxiety about school or even school refusal and frequent absences.

Children who have been bullied admit to feeling depressed or sad. Children may be bullied in many different ways, including physical bullying, verbal, social bullying or a combination of all of these. Children feel helpless against all of these different types of bullying and may not report the behaviors to parents or teachers. Children must be taught about bullying and be ready to protect themselves from being bullied.  As with so many issues with child rearing, children who have quality family time with dinners or family evenings for exercise or watching a movie have more conversations with their parents.  Ask your children how things are going at school.  Query as to how the kids in the class act towards one another and then ask them if they feel as if anyone is being bullied or picked on. Bullying is different than just playground “fights” or teasing. It is persistent and malignant and the child becomes a victim from the bullying. Explaining the difference to your children is important to help them understand bullying. Open conversations will hopefully enable your child to come to you for help if they feel like they are being bullied or know of bullying. The newest and maybe one of the most harmful forms of bullying is via “cyberspace”.  A study done in 2007 looked at electronic bullying among middle school students.  Victims of bullying reported that instant messaging was the most common method used to bully, followed by chat rooms, email messages, websites and text messages.  As electronic media continues to grow and be used at younger ages the importance of parents discussing “etiquette” in cyber space cannot be emphasized enough. Teach children to read what they have written aloud before sending a message, and to think if they would be comfortable saying the same thing to someone in person. The anonymity and emotion evoked from a text message may not be realized until it is too late. Social skills on line are equally as important as those within the home and school. We need to be aware of the recent increases in bullying and support interventions to decrease aggressive behavior. Bullies need to be accountable for their behavior and there need to be clear consequences for bullies both at home and school.   It takes “a village” to change behaviors, and this behavior cannot be tolerated! That's your daily dose for today.  We'll chat again tomorrow. Send your question to Dr. Sue right now!

Daily Dose

Talk With Your Child Now About Hazing

The last week of September is National Hazing Prevention Week. I have had a real interest in hazing and how to try and teach adolescents about the hazards associated with hazing since I sent my own children off to college.The last week of September is National Hazing Prevention Week. I have had a real interest in hazing and how to try and teach adolescents about the hazards associated with hazing since I sent my own children off to college.

I guess I was naïve to think that hazing does not occur in high school, so I should have been discussing the subject at even a younger age. Hazing, which is really similar to bullying, is prevalent on all college campuses. While bullying can happen to anyone, hazing is done to a person or a group of people in order to gain entrance into a club, organization, or team. After reviewing the statistics about hazing I was alarmed to find out that 1.5 million high school students are hazed each year, and 47 percent of entering college students have already experienced hazing. Among college students, 55 percent involved in clubs, teams and campus organizations experience hazing. Alcohol consumption, typically in the form of binge drinking is one common type of hazing. Humiliation, isolation, sleep deprivation and sexual acts are hazing practices too. These hazing practices seem to be common across all types of student groups. These practices also cross gender lines, and occur with both boys and girls. When talking about hazing with your teens ask them if they have ever felt pressured to participate in events that might be considered hazing. A good question is, “would you be comfortable participating in the activity if your parents walked into the room?” Another good question would be, “is the event I am being asked to participate in going to cause emotional distress or harm of any kind to myself or others?” We all want to “belong”. Whether to a team, club, sorority or fraternity, belonging to a group is often important. Discussing hazing as it relates to joining an organization is another important conversation to have with your teens. There are so many conversations to have with our children and I think this is yet another. The statistics continue to show that hazing is prevalent. Unfortunately, in many cases hazing incidents are not reported until there are deadly consequences. That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again soon.

Daily Dose

Stop Cyberbullying Now!

1:30 to read

There have been a lot of recent stories about bullying occurring on social media sites. I have such mixed feelings about social media, and ironically I myself am writing a blog for our website and app.  The Kid’s Doctor is  active on Twitter (@TheKidsDoctor) and Facebook (TheKidsDoctor) as well.  So, I realize to stay current, social media is a must and it is usually quite beneficial and is a source of instant information and sharing. Maybe too instant?

But with that being said, why do some people feel they may use it as a “bully pulpit”.   Why do they feel compelled to be mean and even vulgar?  I spend a great deal of time discussing this topic with my adolescent patients and their parents but I am concerned that sometimes even parents are guilty of “cyber bullying”.

How do parents teach their children right from wrong, or how to behave appropriately in society....by modeling behavior themselves. Our children are watching us and looking to their mother and father to “show them the way”.  Leading by example is often difficult but absolutely imperative, and this includes social media and bullying.

For all of the years I have practiced I have seen that in most, maybe not all cases,  having parents who model appropriate behavior is one of the keys to raising healthy, compassionate, resilient and well balanced children.  It sounds simplistic but it works.

Curt Schilling recently wrote an interesting and compelling article discussing this very issue.  Right after he posted a congratulatory tweet announcing his daughter’s college acceptance his daughter received terribly inappropriate hateful and hurtful messages. He was able to “trace” the tweets to accounts and therefore knew exactly who had sent these messages. Unfortunately, there are often not consequences for cyberbullying or inappropriate behavior....at least for now.  Did the messengers get punished? Did their parents even know? I should hope so.

Social media is here to stay, but there has to be a way to teach our children (and adults) that there are consequences for behaving badly especially when the whole world is aware of your behavior.  It is time for the pendulum to swing back to morals, civility,manners....and as my mother would say to me, “Emily Post would not approve”. 

Your Child

Bullied Kids at Risk for Health problems as Adults

2:00

Being teased or humiliated by fellow classmates in school was once just a part of growing up for many kids. No one took it very seriously and children were basically told to either deal with it or physically fight back.

That began to change when bullying tactics changed from one-on-one painful snubs or pushing in the hallways to shaming and hateful social media taunts. All of a sudden everyone was in on the game and there was no where to hide or seek refuge from the never-ending onslaught of mean spirited and sometimes violent threats to a child’s very existence.

Bullying had reached a new stage of hurtfulness and too often the coping mechanism from children who were bullied was and still is suicide. Schools, parents and peers began to take notice and implement strategies to stop the bullying – at least in public environments.

Some of these strategies have been very effective and kids, as well as parents, are much more aware of the dangers that can come from bullying. However, there is always someone who thinks that they have a right to humiliate someone else. While it is more a reflection of the insecurity and abnormal personality of the person doing the bullying, the recipient still feels the pain and harbors the emotional damage to their self-value.

A new study looks at the possible future health hazards for children who have been bullied. Their findings reveal that adults who were bullied in childhood may be at an increased risk for obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

"Our research has already shown a link between childhood bullying and risk of mental health disorders in children, adolescents and adults, but this study is the first to widen the spectrum of adverse outcomes to include risks for cardiovascular disease at mid-life," said senior study author Louise Arseneault. She is a professor from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King's College London.

"Evidently, being bullied in childhood does get under your skin," she said in a college news release.

The long-term study involved analyzed data from more than 7,100 people.  Participants in the study included all the children from England, Scotland and Wales that were born during one week in 1958. Their parents provided information on whether the participants were bullied at ages 7 and 11.

By age 45, more than one-quarter of women who were occasionally or frequently bullied during childhood were obese, compared to 19 percent of those who never experienced bullying, the study found. Both men and women who were bullied during childhood were more likely to be overweight.

Compared to those who weren't bullied, men and women who were bullied had higher levels of blood inflammation, putting them at increased risk for heart attack and age-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, according to the researchers.

Like most studies, results didn’t show an actual cause and effect relationship, only an association or link between being bullied and future health risks.

"Bullying is a part of growing up for many children from all social groups," Arseneault said. "While many important school programs focus on preventing bullying behaviors, we tend to neglect the victims and their suffering. Our study implies that early interventions in support of the bullied children could not only limit psychological distress but also reduce physical health problems in adulthood."

Andrea Danese, a study co-author, pointed out that obesity and high blood inflammation can lead to potentially life-threatening conditions such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Taking steps to prevent these conditions is important, Danese said in the news release.

"The effects of being bullied in childhood on the risk for developing poor health later in life are relatively small compared to other factors," Danese added. "However, because obesity and bullying are quite common these days, tackling these effects may have a real impact."

Counseling coupled with family support for children who have been or are being bullied can offer tremendous value to helping a child disconnect with the hurtful words and actions of others. No one likes to be made fun of or taunted for some slight “imperfection”, but those kinds of things can linger in the mind and wear on one’s self-value. The sooner they are dealt with and put in their true perspective, the quicker one can let them go.

The study was published May 20 in the journal Psychological Medicine.

Source: Robert Preidt, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/bullying-health-news-718/bullying-heart-disease-psych-med-kcl-release-batch-1756-699576.html

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