STOMP Out Bullying™ encourages communities to work together to stop bullying and cyberbullying by increasing awareness of the impact of bullying. It’s a great goal. STOMP Out Bullying
Social media has desensitized many of our kids to certain acts of bullying that occur. Often behavior once considered unacceptable has slipped into the realm of acceptable. Outrageous name-calling or verbal onslaughts for the sake of humor is quite the trend, and verbal attacks causing harm can inflict damage in less than ten words. Reputations ruined. Individuals isolated. Simplest things can be used as a weapon, phones, tablets, and more. Tween and teen language, more like slang bombardments, I’m sure we all find quite disturbing. “Drink bleach.” “Go die.” “No one likes you!” Worse, “Kill yourself.” And when questioned or disciplined the common answer is the same, “I was just kidding.” Alternatively, “I didn’t mean it!” But unfortunately we have tweens and teens that take these words literally. Popular videos, produced by teens, have included kids luring innocent victims to remote locations to beat them with bricks, bats, or shovels for no other reason than to post the incident on social sites. Why? Hoping the post will go viral.
According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year. However, for every successful suicide there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Unfortunately, many of those are related to bullying. Cyberbullying is experienced on some level by many kids today. As a parent, this is shocking to me. Over bullying. Terrible.
Due to the overwhelming kids affected by bullying and cyber bullying, I was inspired to write The Greenlee Project. It is a cyberbullying book specifically for tweens and teens it demonstrates the effect of using social media in a negative way. How it affects the victim, family, friends, communities, and even the one(s) that are sending the damaging texts. So-called good kids, unexpectedly, become the so-called bad kids. How? Easy. Once touch of a button. Send! Kids can’t retrieve those damaging text messages.
During my research for The Greenlee Project, I observed teens, sat in football games, cafeterias, libraries, and interviewed many different types of people. I have teens of my own and my house is often full of kids. But I wasn’t prepared for the things I heard or found out about during my research, and we have great kids in our area. Things such as apps that parents can’t trace, the language and terminology that kids use with each other, secret groups, to name a few. Vicious onslaught of texts and postings when kids get mad or worse, sexual sites of kids barely in their teens. We all know that bullying has existed for years, but today it’s a different world. The exposure, due to social media, has the ability to put the victim on a public platform delivering the maximum amount of damage within seconds. What’s the answer? Clearly we can’t take away nor do I suggest taking away phones, tablets etc., I believe constant communication and teaching our kids not to be fearful of speaking out against the kids that are inflicting harm with their texts. Yes parents are vigilant, I get that, but if you aren’t aware of the app in the first place, you can’t keep an eye on it. I think our kids are too young for some of this technology. It doesn’t change they fact they have it. If you’re looking for a book that will assist with this message, read The Greenlee Project it won a The Mom’s Choice Awards® Please let me know your thoughts, we’ll visit.
If you’re looking for a great bullying book for pre-school and elementary kids, include Shelby the Cat by award-winning author Don W. Winn. Shelby loves to read and tell stories. He makes friends with birds, mice, and even dogs. This makes the alley cats look bad, so they try to force Shelby to be more like them. Shelby refuses. He knows who he is and won’t let anyone pressure him to be different. This is a great book to start conversations about dealing with bullying and peer pressure. The book includes questions at the end of the story to give parents a jumping-off point for starting discussions with their children. I interviewed Don specifically for Bullying Prevention Month. Take a peek.
1) Bullying is a serious issue that kids have dealt with for years; however, technology has magnified the intensity of the situation due to the sharing and spreading of information and terrible threats. We can’t take phones, laptops, and electronics away from kids. What do you propose we do?
Parents and concerned educators can strive to help young people understand the responsible use of technology. All of us, at any age, need to be judicious about how much information we put out on the web. We also need to be aware that everyone has cameras with them at all times, and remember that a sizable segment of the population does not respect personal boundaries when using them.
It’s also important to teach kids how vulnerable their own personal reputations can be, and why that matters. In years past, a person’s ethics and standards were discerned by observing their conduct. With advances in technology and social media, anyone can say anything, accuse anyone of anything, exaggerate anything, and Photoshop or fabricate anything they like against another individual. Sadly there’s often very little recourse against a targeted cyber-bullying campaign, other than relying on the fact that real friends, family, and teachers will know who you really are based on their genuine experiences with you, and that in time, the truth of the matter will come out.
2) As children, we both endured some bullying, and most kids experience verbal or physical bullying at some point during their childhood. What did you do to overcome your bullies or did you?
My family life was comprised of a hardworking dad who was unfortunately away from home much of the time, and a mom who struggled with mental illness. Home was not a place of proactivity in teaching coping skills. Therefore when I encountered bullying, especially because of my difficulty reading and spelling due to my dyslexia, I was unprepared, way out of my depth, and on my own. Some of those early experiences were quite traumatic. This is one of the reasons I seek to help parents to have conversations with their kids about potential problems before they encounter these situations. Kids who are well prepared can cope more effectively.
3) Children relate to words and find comfort in stories. We are fortunate that we can share our experiences through our words. Did you create your character Shelby because of your personal experiences or to prevent children from getting into bullying-type situations?
I wanted kids to see that people (and cats too, I suppose) who know what’s important to them, who have principles they believe in, and who believe in themselves are able to withstand attacks by bullies. When we make sacrifices to share with others, do acts of advocacy, behave honestly, resist the lure of instant gratification or peer pressure, we must also remember the purpose of those sacrifices, or the pressure to lower our standards can overwhelm us.
4) You’re accomplishing some amazing work with your series, Sir Kaye 1 & 2, (reluctant readers), but also with Shelby the Cat, and your anti-bullying message for younger readers. With October being Bullying Awareness month, are you inspired to write another Shelby the Cat message? Maybe incorporate a story with a dyslexic message for your reluctant readers as well?
Shelby’s character is a good stand-alone foundation for younger readers to begin to understand what it’s like to successfully stand up to bullies. I am continuing to go back to the message that we can stand up to bullies in the Sir Kaye series for middle readers. Throughout the stories and adventures, the protagonists in those books also face lots of bullying, scare tactics, and moments where they have to actively decide whether they’re going to do the right thing or not. Reggie, one of the young boys in the series, struggles with dyslexia, reading, and writing, but also discovers his strengths and sees that, though challenged at times, he is a meaningful part of the group. He finds the acceptance he needs and feels good about his contributions to the adventures and solutions to problems the group faces.
5) If you could give any advice to a bully victim, what would it be?
We all crave love and acceptance from our peers and family. The fact that you have been targeted does not mean you are not loveable or acceptable. But having been targeted, one of the best ways you can respond is to love and accept yourself, even if at the moment, you may feel like an outlier. The more comfortable and secure we are with who we are deep down inside, imperfections and all, the more resilient we can be when under attack. Keep sticking to your own code of behavior, and eventually you will find companionship and acceptance among others who value similar ethics and beliefs.
6) If you could give any advice to a bully, what would it be?
Be curious about why someone who looks, acts, or believes differently from you, angers you or makes you want to do hurtful things. Is it possible that there’s a part of you that knows that choices you are making are not true to who you really are inside? Could it be possible that in the search for acceptance and belonging, you are joining in group activities that hurt others? Believe in the possibility that you can become part of a group who accepts you without having to attack those different from you.
7) If you could sum up your feelings about bullying as a whole in one word, what word would you choose?
If you could sum up your feelings for the bullied victim(s) after their incidents, what word it be? Compassion.
Both books are Mom’s Choice Award Winners!