*Warning: this post does contain language that some might find offense*

“The cyber bullying has gotten to the point where the school will not take any action unless I kill myself.”

That was the headline of a recent social media posting from a high school student named “Sarah.” Sarah had been constantly harassed both in-person and online by her fellow students and she could not deal with it anymore. She shared with her readers some of the nasty comments she received from her bullies:

"Life has its ups, and you have the Downs. Please do us a favor, and fucking drown."

"I have AP Lit in the morning. Sarah, if you say a single word, you are getting choked."

"Sarah for biggest slut. Go die."

While I do not feel good even reposting this language, it’s necessary that adults understand how serious of a problem bullying has become. It’s not about teasing or calling someone a loser. The language is so much stronger, and many times there is physical violence too. In fact, every year 282,000 middle school students are assaulted. Additionally, consider that every day 160,000 students miss school due to bullying, every seven minutes a child is bullied, and, most astonishingly, 85 percent of the time nothing is done about it.

Thankfully, in Sarah’s case, after her posting received thousands of comments and concerned readers flooded the school principal’s inbox with emails, her matter was taken seriously. The bully was suspended until they could figure out what to do with him. Most of the time, this is not the outcome.

With the national spotlight and media’s attention, now is the time to rethink the bullying issue. This isn’t something children should deal with; this is an adult problem. Bullying is an adult problem to solve. Children are often unsuccessful in standing up to bullies. As seen with Sarah, these victims need the help of adults to tip the power scale.

There are a number of things parents can do to help protect their child against bullying. The first step is being aware how big of a problem it is and getting in habit of talking to their kid about their day, every day.  Kids don’t normally come right up to a parent and say “Hey, I’m being bullied,” so adults need to actively look for warning signs. If a child has been behaving abnormally or skipping school, these could be red flags that he or she is dealing with a bully.

When a problem is discovered, parents need to meet with the teacher closest to the problem after school and bring the problem to their attention. It needs to be dealt with very openly and, since bullying often begins at home, the parents of the bully need to be brought into the school to discuss the matter. Counseling and skill building are essential for the bully and his or her family. These behavior patterns will not change overnight or without the involvement of the parents of the bully. 

If there is any threat or actual violence from the bully, the matter has escalated to a higher level. Adults need to alert the police right away. There is nothing more important than a child’s safety.

As a society, we need to stop turning a blind eye to an issue that we all know is not going away on its own. There will be some people that say this is just more liberal talk of entitlement that will allow the “trophy-generation” persona to grow, but really this is about decency, dignity, and respect: virtues that everyone is entitled to no matter how old or young they are.

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–Dr. Kathy Seifert

About the Author

Kathryn Seifert Ph.D.

Kathryn Seifert, Ph.D., is the author of the Child & Adolescent Risk Evaluation screening tool.

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