Model How to Treat Others with Kindness and Respect
Kids learn from adults’ actions. By treating others with kindness and respect, adults show the kids in their lives that there is no place for bullying. Even if it seems like they are not paying attention, kids are watching how adults manage stress and conflict, as well as how they treat their friends, colleagues, and families.
This is not rocket science. We know that the most important role models in our children’s lives are us, their parents. So why is it that we have seen such an uptick in cyberbullying BY PARENTS against OTHER PARENTS?
A divided community targeting marginalized students
We have all noticed how divided our community has become. Political agendas have loudly arrived at our school board meetings. While it is both okay and helpful to have people sharing different ideas, the name calling and shaming is NOT and has to stop.
Regardless of how anyone feels about certain groups of people, those beliefs are no excuse to bully them or encourage your child to bully them. They are here in our schools and they have just as much right to feel safe and welcomed as any other child.
Being supportive could look like:
- creating a club for them to support each other
- educating others on how to be an ally to them
- encouraging them to share little-known aspects of their culture
- displaying a sign to show that they can trust you
- allowing them to use the correct bathroom
- respecting whatever name or pronoun they prefer to be called
These things are done at the request of the students themselves and parents.
If DASD said no to them, they would be creating a hostile learning environment and would be open to litigation which they would likely lose.
It also would be really wrong. When a student group asks for support, you don’t say no.
Social Media is a public place with Natural Consequences
Social media was created for sharing and that has always been its intent. Whether we are in a private group or on a public page, it should be assumed that anything we share can be seen by anyone and can live on for eternity.
Some people use social media to share their most intimate thoughts, sometimes thinking that “only my friend list or private group will see this”. It is therefore not surprising that people frequently post things that get them into trouble, especially now that we can take screenshots. Unfortunately, it gets forgotten that while free speech may give us the right to say any hideous thing that we want to in public and on social media, it will not be without consequences. There will be hurt feelings, loss of respect, employers who decide that you are not the right fit for their corporate culture, etc…
Parents encouraging their children to bully
We saw a few weeks ago a mom that had shared on social media that she encourages her middle school child to rip up flyers posted by a certain student club just because their family does not approve of it. The purpose of this club is to provide a safe space for marginalized students, and they could easily walk past the flyers and ignore them, but this does not matter to their family…only that they do not approve of it. Not surprisingly, the club in question was the Gay Straight Alliance.
When her comment was shared on an anonymous page and people disapproved of her encouraging her child to target clubs like this, she lashed out at an innocent DASD parent who she (incorrectly) suspected to have posted it. She proceeded to verbally attack various aspects of their physical appearance and even their marriage in a public online forum, even though these two people appear to be strangers in real life.
30 Minutes of Hate
We then learned through some STEM alumna about the tradition of “30 minutes of hate” (#30moh). What had started out as harmless, good natured, pre-competition smack talk has now deteriorated into vicious attacks on certain students’ characters, abilities, and lifestyles, usually targeting a few unlucky victims, often including racial, anti-semetic and anti-LGBTQ slurs, as well as slut shaming and body shaming.
There is nothing a student could do to deserve such treatment. Ever. If someone has a problem with them, there are appropriate ways to deal with it. This is not it.
If you look online, you will not easily find evidence of the 30 minutes of hate…because it was designed that way. For a specific, predetermined span of 30 minutes, anonymous Twitter accounts are created for users to share whatever they want about whomever they are feeling spiteful toward that day. At the end of the thirty minutes, the accounts and supposedly every trace of the nastiness are taken down. But we all know that the internet keeps ghosts of anything that is posted, plus the screenshots. And then there are the marks left on the people who are targeted. Invisible, but lasting forever.
Call to Action
We know that administration will not easily be able to fix this problem, if at all, since much of it happens off campus and would require a talented forensic police force to identify the bullies. But we also know from our district’s sad mental health state that we cannot ignore it. We are pleading with administration, educators, but most importantly with parents to talk to your kids about the negative impacts of bullying. Make sure they know how to stick up for themselves and for others. Help them learn to overcome if they are ever victims.
Treat people online the way you would treat them in person.
Don’t mistake a keyboard as a free pass to be extra mean.
Be a good role model.
See the opening paragraph again. We know that any kid who sees their parents being vile to another person will think nothing of doing the same to a classmate.
Explain to your kids the long-term consequences of bullying.
Many of us have been on the receiving end of bullying. Thankfully for us, we were able to go home and escape it. For this generation of social media kids, the negativity can be 24-7.
Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, social, emotional, academic, and mental health issues. Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience:
- Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy. These issues may persist into adulthood.
- Health complaints
- Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.
Remember that popularity, wealth, and privilege of most kinds are fleeting.
Keep in mind that it will take but a second for you to be on the receiving end of this. Ask yourself the next time you post something how you will feel when it happens to you or someone you love.
Teach Resilience and help your kids to be confident in themselves.
When a confident person is attacked, they understand that hurtful words are less than irrelevant. Especially when bullies go for a person’s looks or whatever they perceive as flaws, they are doing so as a reflection of their own shortcomings and no one else’s, or because they have nothing of any real consequence to say. We need to teach our kids, and especially our daughters, how to be resilient and to focus on their true inner self worth.
Because words like these directed at a person with low self-esteem, or worse, at a child, could send them into a downward spiral of depression, self harm, or worse.
Teaching your kids to love themselves means that they will easily dismiss attacks on them and they won’t feel the need to tear someone else down to make themselves feel better.
This is what stops the cycle of bullying.