Monday, June 8, 2015

What Does Bullying Look Like?

                The following is an excerpt from, The Bully and the Booger Baby: A Cautionary Tale, my children's anti-bullying book. The book is a school story about bullying, but it also offers researched effective strategies for children, parents, and schools to employ in order to address the bullying problem. This excerpt explains clearly what bullying looks like.

              Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, philosopher and poet, expressed it most eloquently in saying,  “When a resolute young fellow steps up to the great bully, the world, and takes him boldly by the beard, he is often surprised to find it comes off in his hand, and that it was only tied on to scare away the timid adventurers.” There is some truth to Emerson’s words. Bullies do make a show of false bravado or toughness. Bullies tease and harass, but some bullies are all bark and no bite, as the old saying goes. If children who are the targets of bullies were to “pull off their beard” and call their bluff, they may discover beneath a real cream puff. 

Unfortunately, most bullies, however, have some kind of advantage, size, strength, or power over their victims. Most children who are bullies intend to inflict emotional, verbal or physical harm on the children they are targeting. These are the types of bullies who represent a   threat and ever-increasing problem for children and teenagers. 

Such bullying can take the form of direct attacks, such as hitting, taunting, name-calling, malicious sexual remarks, and stealing or damaging belongings. Such bullying can also take the form of more subtle attacks (especially by girls), such as spreading rumors or enlisting cohorts to reject and exclude the victim. Spreading rumors or enlisting others to reject and exclude a victim is also commonly done through the Internet. Some children, hiding behind the front of a screen name on the Internet, will resort to name-calling and spreading false rumors and lies about other children. Parents should always monitor children’s Internet use to determine that cyber-bullying has not become an issue.

There are some strategies that can help victims deal with deliberately aggressive and potentially harmful bullies. However, parents must also help their children by watching for signs that bullying is taking place and soliciting help from the schools to make them no bullying zones  

Please note that children, parents, and teachers can access effective strategies for addressing such bullying as was explained in the above excerpt from the book by purchasing the book, either in paperback, Kindle, or Nook, through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million websites.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Shining Light on the Bullying Problem


Below is an excerpt from the beginning of chapter 1 of my children’s antii-bullying book, The Bully and the Booger Baby: A Cautionary Tale. The final sentence in this excerpt makes reference to waiting for the morning to come and the darkness to go away. Children being bullied, in a sense, are waiting for the morning to come and the darkness to go away. Bullying can put children in a very special place of darkness because victims of bullying, and bullies as well, need help. We need to shed light on the bullying problem and effectively address it. My book, not only tells a school story about bullying, it also has a couple of researched chapters that offer effective strategies for parents, schools, and children to address the ever-increasing bullying dilemma.
The only thing that could be seen shining brightly in the darkness of the locked closet was Robby’s glistening, twinkling glass eyes. It would be morning soon, and then the closet would be unlocked to let Robby out.
 Robby looked almost like a real little boy, except that he wasn’t a human little boy at all. Robby was a robot. He had a head, face, arms, and legs like a real little boy, but Robby was made of metal, and the inside of his body was made up of wires and computer chips. He wore jeans, a tee shirt and a baseball cap to make him look more like a real boy. And for a robot, he made a pretty cute little boy in his kind of quirky, silly, little robot way. But clothes don’t make the boy.
Unlike most real little boys, Robby didn’t have to go to school to learn. He was already programmed with more knowledge and facts than any real little boy could hope to learn in a lifetime. Sadly though, unlike a real little boy, Robby wasn’t programmed to feel any emotions. He didn’t know what fear, happiness, sadness, anger, or even embarrassment felt like. That is why he wasn’t frightened to be locked inside a darkened closet
Robby waited, still as could be, among the DVD players, the projectors, the projections screens, the cassette recorders, and the soon-to-be discarded outdated computer equipment. Securely plugged in to his charging station, he waited in silence for the morning to come and the darkness to go away.

This book can be purchased online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-a-Million. There are Kindle and Nook versions, as well as the paperback version. Here is a link to the Amazon page for The Bully and the Booger Baby: A Cautionary Tale. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Online Safety: Children and Safe Screen Names and Passwords

I am pleased to post a guest blog today from Keir McDonald, MBE. Keir McDonald MBE is founder and Director of EduCare, an online training solutions company that specializes in child protection, exploitation & online safety, and bullying and child neglect. EduCare is associated with both Kidscape and Family Lives and customers include over 4000 schools and colleges and 12000 pre-schools as well as councils, NHS, charities and more.

Keir McDonald, MBE, of EduCare

Helping children choose safe screen names and passwords
By Keir McDonald MBE

If your child is old enough to be online, he or she is old enough to learn how to choose safe screen names, passwords and protect this personal information. But when it comes to choosing screen names and passwords, many children, especially younger children, need some guidance.
Here are 4 easy tips for parents and educators to help children choose and maintain safe screen names and secure passwords for social media and other online applications.
Do Not Choose Screen Names That Contain Personal Information
Your child should choose screen names that do not include personal information, such as first name, birth date or last name. Begin by helping your kids understand what information should be private so they can make safe screen name choices.
Information such as full given name, Social Security Number, street address, phone number, and family financial information is all private and should stay that way.
Help your child think of a screen name that is fun and impersonal that he or she can remember.
Explain WHY Screen Names Should Not Contain Personal Information
Of course kids should only share content, including what is public via a screen name or profile, that you are both comfortable with others seeing. Encourage your child to think about any and all public information about them online.  Employers, college admissions officers, team coaches, and teachers may view your child’s postings and even a child’s screen name could make a difference.  Encourage children to think about the impression that screen names could make.
Strong Passwords are the Foundation of Online Security
Next, teach children how to choose passwords that are difficult to guess, including making use of capital and lowercase letters, as well as numbers.
A password should be easy to remember but tough to hack. One easy way to remember passwords is to replace a letter with a similar-looking number. For example, using a “1″ in place of an “L” or a “5″ in place of an “S” are easy ways to replace a letter for a number.  Never use “Password” as the password, or things like phone numbers or addresses. 

Encourage your child to maintain a password logbook for both you and your child to have access to, and try to change passwords together every 6 months or so.

Help Your Child Manage Passwords and Keep Them Safe
For younger children, make sure you know all screen names and passwords so you can monitor Internet use. When it comes to young children, knowing their passwords for all social media accounts, email, gaming sites, computer, tablet, and phone is important. This will enable you and your child to be open for communication and to gain trust in technology use over time.
Teenagers should of course be allowed some privacy when it comes to social networking. Regardless of age, it is important to always keep an open line of communication with your child about Internet safety. Talk to your children about the dangers of sharing a password with anyone besides you, even their best friend.  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mean Girls: How Do Girls Bully?

Bullying and negative aggression is as any action that inflicts physical or mental harm upon another person. Girls usually differ from boys in the type of aggressive behavior they exhibit toward others. Boys  tend to inflict bodily pain, and girls most often, though not exclusively, engage in covert or relational aggression. Aggressive girls often gain power by withholding their friendship or by sabotaging the relationships of others. For example, a relational aggressive girl may insist that her friends ignore a particular child, exclude her from their group, form secret pacts to humiliate the child, call her names, and/or spread rumors about her.

Examples of such manipulation from girls can be statements such as, "If you don't play this game, I'll tell Sally that you called her stupid," or "You have to do what I say, or I won't play with you." Preschool children have been observed excluding peers by saying, "Don't let her play!" Sometimes they use retaliation by saying something like, "She was mean to me yesterday, so we won’t let her be our friend." In older girls, the gossip can be more vicious, for example, "I saw her cheating on a test.” Older girls gossip and say unkind things such as, “Her mother is a drunk?" or "She's a slut."

Bullying and aggression from girls is often more subtle than that from boys,, but the nonverbal communication of an aggressive girl is unmistakable. For example, a girl bully may roll her eyes, glare, ignore, turn away, point, or pass notes to a friend concerning the targeted or rejected girl.
Girls often feel pressured to be compliant and not show negative emotions. When they cannot assert their true feelings directly, resentment lingers and their anger manifests itself indirectly. Excessive relational aggressiveness can become a habit that can cause a lifetime of problematic relationships. Therefore, a girl who displays aggressive or bullying behaviors, verbal or nonverbal,  needs adult intervention and guidance. Many girl bullies often have leadership ability, but they need assistance to channel it in a more positive direction.  

Mean girls or girl bullies negatively impact the school environment and culture, and negatively impact themselves as well as their victims. Studies have shown that negatively aggressive or girl bullies are disliked more than most children their age. They tend to exhibit adjustment problems and display higher levels of loneliness and depression. Such girls often have difficulty creating and sustaining social and personal bonds. The targets of their bullying have adjustment difficulties, as well. The rejection and hurt the victims of mean girls or bullies  feel can last throughout their entire lives. They are more likely than their classmates to be submissive, have low grades, drop out of school, engage in delinquent behavior, experience depression, and even think suicidal thoughts.

Child Psychologists and experts on the subject, such as Leah Davies, M.Ed., claim that educators and other school personnel can better combat the negative impact of such aggression on both the girl bullies and their targets by practicing the following strategies:
  1. Increase awareness among school staff so that they understand what relational aggression is and discuss ways to combat it. Consequences for relentless covert aggression will vary depending on school discipline procedures, the action, and the age of the girls. Consequences could include a referral to a counseling group or losing privileges.
  1. Observe children in the classroom, at lunch, in the hall, on the playground, and before and after school, noting students' nonverbal reactions to peers. Ask yourself:
    • Who is alone on the playground?
    • Who is a group leader?
    • How do her followers act toward others?
  1. Discuss relational aggression with your students to make sure they know that starting rumors, ridiculing others, and other forms of covert aggression are not acceptable.
  1. Reinforce student social interaction skills through the use of role-playing exercises, literature, writing assignments, and other means. Emphasize considering the feelings of others, developing listening skills, and exhibiting other character traits that are critical to forming lasting friendships.
  1. Help girls understand that conflicts are a natural occurrence in friendships and provide them with an opportunity to practice being supportive of one another. Encourage them to honestly resolve problems through open discussion and compromise
  1. Believe the victim. Relational aggressive girls are skillful at concealing their bullying. Hence, many educators are blinded by the appearance of a model student who they feel would never engage in covert aggression.
  1. Understand that having at least one friend buffers a child from relationship aggression, so facilitating friendships between girls will help them cope with a relational aggressive child. Encourage girls to choose friends who are considerate and trustworthy, not exclusive or mean.
  1. Model respect and caring. Assist each girl in developing the belief that she is a capable person who has many strengths and who can stand up for herself by reinforcing these attitudes at every opportunity.
Find assistance for the victim and the bully. Contact a parent and/or work with staff to foster better  social and emotional development.