Many of us can remember a time when someone bullied us at school and how awful and alone it made us feel. Learning how to navigate daily social conflicts independently is an important part of growing up, and overcoming painful playground experiences can make us more confident, kind and empathetic. But when bullying doesn’t stop or goes too far the consequences for children and their families can be devastating. How can you tell if your child is being bullied or is bullying others? How can you best support him/her? And how can we make Maine schools and social media networks safer for all children?
Bullying is a Big Deal in Maine
As parents, we want our children to be accepted and appreciated by their peers. We also want our children to learn how to stand up for themselves and for others. Like many parents, we think that if our kids were really struggling socially—or were singling out another child at school—that we would
know, and that we would know what to do about it. But would we?
Youth surveys tell us again and again that less than 40% of bullying incidents at school or on social media are reported to an adult. Kids and teens who are being bullied are often too scared, depressed or embarrassed to tell someone, or are actively pressured by peers to keep quiet. The more frequent and widespread the bullying the less likely the victim is to tell. And the longer bullying goes on, the more long-term damage it will do. Children and teens who are systematically bullied in their school experience higher rates of anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol use, eating disorders, anger and suicide. Children who bully can end up in court.
As parents and members of caring communities, we all must stop bullying whenever we see it and support all the kids involved.
Bullying and cyberbullying does happen in and around Maine schools. In fact, one 2015 study of the 43 states showed that Maine had the highest rate of cyberbullying in the country with approximately a quarter of all high school students reoporitng that they were bullied in some way online. Cyberbullying is particularly challenging for schools to combat because it takes place off school grounds by email or text or on social networks parents and teachers may not have access to or authority over. To help educators and parents protect kids from bullying, Maine lawmakers passed An Act to Prevent Cyberbullying in Schools in 2012 and followed the law with a Model Policy for Bullying and Cyberbullying. This legislation is designed to make sure that all Maine students learn in safe, secure and peaceful environments, on campus and online. Continue reading