“Up­standers” crit­i­cal to com­bat bul­ly­ing in schools and on­line

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - By Clint Thomp­son

To­day, bul­lies have many more ways to in­flict men­tal and phys­i­cal abuse than they did just 10 years ago, said Ch­eryl Var­na­doe, Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion 4-H Youth Devel­op­ment spe­cial­ist. For­tu­nately, chil­dren be­ing bul­lied also have more out­lets in which to seek help and refuge from the abuse.

Var­na­doe ad­vo­cates stop­bulling.gov, a web­site man­aged by the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices that iden­ti­fies bul­ly­ing, those at risk, how to pre­vent bul­ly­ing and ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponses to a bully.

“Youth need to learn to lis­ten and sup­port their peers and to be­come ‘up­standers’ rather than by­standers. They need to form a net­work of trusted peers and adults who they can talk to and go to for sup­port, as well as serve as sup­port for oth­ers,” Var­na­doe said.

Var­na­doe also ad­vises par­ents to keep the lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion open with their chil­dren. Po­ten­tial bul­lies need to re­al­ize when they’ve gone too far, while those be­ing bul­lied need to be able to con­vey their feel­ings to their par­ents.

“Par­ents can help just by talk­ing to their chil­dren about bul­ly­ing, en­cour­ag­ing them to do what they love, mod­el­ing kind­ness and re­spect, and en­cour­ag­ing them to get help when they are in­volved in bul­ly­ing or know oth­ers who need help,” Var­na­doe said.

Var­na­doe of­fers these tips to par­ents to share with their chil­dren:

•Learn how to han­dle con­flict while treat­ing your­self and the other per­son with dig­nity.

•Take a mo­ment to take a deep breath, then ad­dress the bad be­hav­ior by try­ing to find the courage to voice your feel­ings.

•Ask for help. It is not a sign of weak­ness. Re­port­ing bul­ly­ing is not snitch­ing.

•Don’t ig­nore bul­ly­ing when you see it. Al­though it is scary to wit­ness bul­ly­ing in per­son or on­line, it is im­por­tant to speak out. Re­port it to an ally.

Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments have es­ca­lated the bul­ly­ing prob­lem. As chil­dren fre­quently visit pop­u­lar so­cial me­dia web­sites, like Face­book, Twit­ter and Snapchat, they are more vul­ner­a­ble to bul­lies, and in cer­tain cir­cum­stances, may not know who their bully is.

“That’s what is scary. Some­times the ones be­ing bul­lied don’t know who’s at­tack­ing them. Un­for­tu­nately, there are many phone and web apps now, like Se­cret, Whis­per and Yik Yak, that can en­able the bul­ly­ing of peo­ple anony­mously,” Var­na­doe said.

More than 160,000 chil­dren na­tion­wide miss school ev­ery day out of fear of be­ing bul­lied, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion.

Chil­dren bully be­cause they want con­trol over oth­ers to make them­selves feel bet­ter. Some bul­lies have been vic­tims them­selves, Varne­doe said.

“When you take it away or don’t give into that power, the bully loses their in­flu­ence or lever­age. That is why learn­ing to be an ‘up­stander’ is so im­por­tant,” Var­na­doe said.

For more in­for­ma­tion, con­tact Var­na­doe at 706-5424H4H or by email at [email protected] uga.edu.

Clint Thomp­son is a news ed­i­tor with the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia Col­lege of Agri­cul­tural and En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ences based in Tifton.

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