Bullying: A Big Complicated Problem with Many Simple Solutions

If each one of us untangled one string at a time...

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention To Host Cyberbullying Conference

Cyberbullying is SO complicated.   It's a major string in the tangled ball mess of bullying issues.   Even many experts in the field haven't really caught up to what's really happening and what to do about it.  

I often talk to adults about bullying and usually I can sense that the audience is with me.  But when I get to talking about bullying online, the audience turns from looking engaged to looking panicked.  

I have to give a shout out to the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University of Buffalo.  They're hosting Understanding and Addressing Cyberbullying, a full day of speakers and workshops on September 19th (and the price is affordable -- $75 for professionals and $35 for students).  It comes at an appropriate time since the Dignity for All Students Act (DASA)  in New York goes into effect this school year.

(Note:  please notice in their name that it's the Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention.  When Jean M. Alberti, a former teacher turned psychologist started this center through a generous gift, I asked her why.  She said that bullying had turned from something that could be handled as a teachable moment in the classroom to abuse.  She makes it clear that bullying IS abuse. I like her.  She tells it like it is.)

Dr. Amanda B. Nickerson, Director of the Center, answered a few questions for me:

What would we like attendees to take away from the conference?

A better understanding of the complexity of cyberbullying as well as effective prevention and intervention strategies that can be put into practice. Also cyberbullying is just one aspect of bullying, results from our needs assessment revealed that this was an area that respondents wanted to know more about. Dr. Sameer Hinduja, our keynote speaker is a leader in the field of cyberbullying prevention and intervention. He conducts original research on the topic, is co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center , and presents to a wide range of audiences such as businesses, law enforcement, school districts, parents, and youth. 
In addition, we have selected panelists that represent diverse perspectives to address legal issues , school administration issues (from a large urban district as well as a suburban district), mental health issues, and organizations that provide outreach and education about these issues. 

Other work at the center includes ongoing research and evaluation projects where they work to better understand the dynamics involved and the effects of bullying, as well as the types of policies, programs, and interventions that work best. To that end, we have developed a guide to school-wide bullying prevention programs.

What I like about the Center is that it's taking the time to do research. Evidence-based programs are a priority.

In other words, we can't assume that we're on the right path in diminishing bullying if we don't spend time and money researching the truth. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

If You Had To Choose Two Best Pieces of Bullying Prevention Advice

Last week, I spoke to a local Rotary Club (by the way, they do great work for the community) and during the question and answer session, one member asked me what my best piece of advice was for a parent of a child getting ready to start middle school.   He alluded that this child had thick glasses and wasn't the coolest cat in town by middle school standards.

When you only have time to give one piece of advice, what would yours be?  Mine was sharing with him a piece of advice that I had come across a few years ago:

Make sure your kids have a few different groups of friends.  

That made sense to me because although you can't always prevent bullying, you can prevent your kids being devastated by bullying if they feel good about themselves somewhere and with someone.

The other question was similar but this time it was about cyberbullying and it came from the same father.  Smart guy.  He realizes that his son or daughter is about to enter a new expanded neighborhood.  What was the first thing that popped in my head?

Make sure the computer is in a public spot.

I also slipped in the advice about asking your child to take you for a tour of what they do on the computer...and also how to train them to take their hands off the keyboard as soon as they see a message they don't like.  Taking a breath and telling an adult are key things to tell your child to do.

I'm just curious.  Bullying and online safety are big subjects.  If you only had 1 minute to share,  what would be your best pieces of advice?

And if you're already back in school, best of luck for a year full of many smiles.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Where Can You Buy a Refrigerator AND Get Help in Bullying Prevention? Sears.

Sears officially launched its Team Up to Stop Bullying campaign a few days ago.  This is a comprehensive effort to not only address the problem but to offer solutions.

The site is clever and offers resources for all key people:  students, families, educators and even a special section for cyberbullying victims.

I have to say that just three years ago when I started to devote the majority of my time to this issue, many people looked at me like I had two heads but over time, and perhaps due to the horrible bullycides that have plagued our country and our kids, more influential people are coming on board.

Enter Sears.  I was thrilled but curious about why this huge company decided to take on bullying.  Marie Newman, Managing Director of the Team Up to Stop Bullying campaign, talked to me the day after the effort officially launched:
"Sears has stepped up to create Team Up To Stop Bullying to address parents, kids, families and schools' need for bullying solutions. While there is an all-time high in awareness, it is important for parents, kids and educators to know there are many existing solutions that work. Those solutions can be found on our website via our 55 bullying solution coalition members. Find bullying solutions and information at sears.com/teamup."
What I really like about it is that it's inclusive.  There are many great experts out there doing good work but not enough people know about them.  Sears has created a one-stop shopping experience for anyone  -- child, parent or school -- who needs help to address their personal situation.  Bullying is a tangled ball -- complicated and messy -- and I thank Sears for stepping up and being willing to offer many solutions to one big problem.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Help Aurora Shooting Victim Petra Anderson

Please share this with anyone and everyone you know who was stunned, shocked and saddened about the Aurora shootings.  We can help.

If we can ban together and raise $700,000 for Karen Klein, the bullied school bus monitor, we can also step up to prove that what happened in Aurora isn't the shooter's story.  It's the story of people who got hurt and the people who stepped up to help.  Click on the Ready to Believe: Anderson Relief Fund in above box to hear Petra Anderson's story told by her sister Chloe.

If you choose to help, make that the teachable moment for your kids -- not the fear of going to a movie -- but the job we have as a nation and a community to show that kindness is what gets us back on our feet.  Give them the sense that real power is in showing we care.