Every seven seconds, a child somewhere in the United States is bullied on the playground, on the bus and/or online (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development).
About 32 percent of students ages 12 to 18 reported having been bullied at school during the school year (2007 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey). The effects of bullying at any age can last a lifetime; it lowers the self-esteem and security of our youth, and has a deep impact in how people view themselves into adulthood. As President Obama addressed to the nation recently, bullying is not a rite of passage and 'No child should feel that alone.'
Bullying goes beyond pushing and shoving. Today's youth are utilizing technology to expand the reach and harm of bullying without any direct consequences. Bullying is also when a child suddenly finds no one will eat lunch with or play with them at recess. It is relational aggression, not just physical aggression. Both are destructive.
There are programs available to help decrease bullying in our schools, such as Kids on the Block Awareness Program through Impact NW. This program helps educate students with puppetry, an effective form of communication with young children. Bullying prevention shows are our most frequently requested among Portland metro schools. Our shows have helped open the eyes of kids to this topic and given them an opportunity to talk about how to respond to bullying in a healthy way, as noted by one of our many elementary school students: 'I learned how to walk away when someone bothers me. I also learned to tell an adult when someone is hurting me. I learned how to not hide from bullies.'
All children deserve a secure, healthy setting for personal growth. Recognizing the problem won't make it worse; ignoring it won't make it go away.
Many children who are being bullied don't tell others out of humiliation or fear. Please, give children a chance to discuss these issues by talking to them honestly and by supporting the local programs they need. Talk to your children about bullying proactively, and give them a safe place to report it if it happens.
Visit http://stopbullying.gov/ to search for tips on how to talk to your child. For more information about Impact NW's Kids on the Block Awareness Program, call 503-988-5961, ext. 238 or visit the website, www.impactnw.org/kids-on-the-block-awareness-program.html. As President Obama said, parents have 'a responsibility to teach all children the Golden Rule: We should treat others the way we want to be treated.'
Lynette Jelinek, Portland, is the program director for Kids on the Block, Impact NW. Reach her at 503-988-6127, ext. 248.