Experts Disagree on When Parents Should Intervene in Bullying Situations

As we met for coffee, a friend of mine could hardly wait to flip to the latest expert opinion on bullying quoted in her Family Circle magazine. The article on helping teens overcome rejection held many fine points, but when it talked about intervening in bullying I had to disagree.

There is a difference between the rejection invariably faced by all teens as they naturally find the social circles to which they will belong…until the next clique forms…. and bullying.  And nothing can be as hurtful to an adolescent as being on the outside of a clique to which they once belonged. Most teen cliques form, norm and disband quickly. Being blindsided and  unexpectedly dumped to the curb like yesterday’s snack by your “friends”  usually passes quickly.

As parents it is important we keep a pulse on what is going on in our children’s lives to discern if the comments that are causing the hurt from our teen’s peers are a result of an incident that will be forgotten in a few days, or if the hazing and harassment seem to be on-going and causing your teen a great deal of stress.

According to the Director of Clinical Psychology at UNC Chapel Hill, Mitch Prinstein, Ph.D  parents who intervene by contacting the bully or their parents infantilize the teen. He encourages parents to try and understand what is happening and to work with their teen to recognize the bullying is not about them but about the perpetrators.

I would agree, but this is a first level approach. If the bullying escalates to the point where your teen doesn’t feel safe at school, or they refuse to ride the bus home, or walk a particular route because they are fearful of encounters with bullies, it is time for adults to take charge and create a “teachable moment”.  To take next level approach contact the school counselor if the incidents are happening to and from school or on the school grounds. If the bullies don’t attend the same school, contact the parents.

We are all sensitive to the pain our kids receive when they are socially rejected because we can all remember walking in those shoes. There  is  difference between allowing your kids to overcome a little rejection here and there and learn important coping skills in the process and allowing your teen to be constant brunt of torment in the hands of classmates.

For some teens, the difference is life or death.



What is CyberBullying?

According to :

“Cyberbullying is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor.”

Certainly, it’s not the social cruelty you or I experienced when we were in school. Unlike the bullying you and I faced, cyberbullying  is without time limits, is not bound by space; it doesn’t go away when we leave the school cafeteria or get off the school bus. It is a 24/7 gossip cycle, a hell where the innocent are sentenced to social ostracism, and  a neon beacon on line for all to see. Picked up by the nimble fingers of former friends it can spread faster than wild fire.

The insidiousness of cyberbullying  is its’ under the radar nature and the quickness with which it strikes. The humiliation of cyberbullying follows the intended victim to and from school, around the house, and into their social circles. With the press of a button the hurtful remarks can be around the school in minutes, even around the globe in a matter of hours, and forever carved in cyberstone.

Many parents are unaware their child is being victimized or acting as a perpetrator. Only 20% of the students tell their parents, and about double that many tell a friend of their cyber torture. The rest suffer the social degradation in silence.

As of this post, at least 44 states have anti-bullying laws.

Unfortunately, how the law is translated and enforced at the school level varies. While the consciousness is rising that it is not right to mistreat another human, to say unkind and mean things to others, many educators still hold the “turn the other cheek” attitude and a “kids will be kids” mindset.  The intervention practiced by most schools include suspension of the perpetrators, work with an over-burdened guidance counselor for the victimized child and pre-packaged programs stressing positive social norms for the by-standers.

Communities effectively addressing the problem have stopped pointing fingers at the parents, the kids, the educators. They are coming together to create circles of understanding where professionals and community leaders, work alongside educators and parents to look at the policies and practices of protection need to weave a safety net allowing children growing up in a world increasingly without boundaries to remain safe.

As one of my parents told me, “It’s not the adult perpetrators we have to worry about in cyberspace. We need to be protecting our kids from each other.”

“The language we use to communicate with one another is like a knife. In the hands of a careful and skilled surgeon, a knife can work to do great good. But in the hands of a careless or ignorant person, a knife can cause great harm.”

Exactly as it is with our words.”

Source of Quote Unknown