Hello everyone! Welcome to “Overcoming Challenges.” I am Michelle Kaiser, author of a series of children’s anti-bullying books about a real-life special needs calf named Special Ed. My books focus on inclusion, kindness, and acceptance. In the books Special Ed faces many challenges because he is different. Today I want to talk about bullying and the challenges of keeping our children safe. I am giving you tips from resources listed on my website. I encourage you to check them out.
When I go to book fairs or visit schools to talk to kids, I have a poster that describes bullying. It states “when someone does something unintentionally hurtful and they do it once, that’s RUDE; when someone does something intentionally hurtful and they do it once, that’s MEAN; when someone does something intentionally hurtful, and they keep doing it even when you tell them to stop or tell them that you’re upset, that’s BULLYING.” I agree with this distinction. We tend to overuse the word bullying and it becomes a meaningless platitude.
According to the CDC, “bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted person including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm. Bullying can include aggression that is physical (hitting, tripping), verbal (name calling, teasing), or relational/social (spreading rumors, leaving out of group). Electronic or cyberbullying occurs through technology. A person can be a perpetrator, a victim, or both (also known as “bully/victim”).”
Bullies come in all ages, but children and teens are most susceptible. They are still exploring who they are and finding their way in the world. And because they spend a great amount of time in school and at school-related activities, a lot of bullying occurs there. Bullying is among the most reported discipline problems in public schools. Nearly 12% of public schools report that bullying happens at least once a week. Reports show bullying is highest for middle schools (22%). Compare this to high schools (15%), combined schools (11%), and primary schools (8%).
Schools are a place where kids should be able to go to without fear of being bullied. Everyone should be respected and feel safe at school. Kids can help make it that way by accepting and supporting others. They can let others know that they’re not interested in bashing anyone for any reason — not because they’re fat, poor, gay, Asian, wear glasses, have braces, or anything. Parents, you can let adults at school know that you care about this topic. Ask the school to host an assembly on bullying. Listen when your kids complain about being teased or harassed.
Of course, bullying has taken a new twist because so many kids have access to the internet. Cyberbullying is becoming increasingly common among teenagers. A 2022 Pew Research Center study found that “46% of teens say they experienced cyberbullying when online or on their cell phones. While bullying existed before the internet, the rise of smartphones and social media sites has led to a more public forum where bullies can exploit victims online.”
Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to harass, threaten, or humiliate someone. This can include sending mean texts or emails, posting hurtful messages on social media sites, or spreading rumors online. You can stop cyber-bullying with these tips:
- Install parental control software on computers your children use.
- Make a rule that your kids should never interact with people online who they don’t know in real life. Explain that strangers may misrepresent themselves to gain their trust and try to convince them to share private information.
- Explain what cyberbullying is. If your kids come into contact with cyberbullies, tell them to immediately log off the site where the bullying is happening, save any emails or messages and share them with you. Then report the activity to the website where it happened.
- Have your kids check with you before they upload anything on the internet. Photos or videos deleted will always have remnants of the data left behind on the Internet.
These are just a few ideas to keep our kids safe. For more information, check out my website at www.MichelleKaiserLLC.com. Businesses and organizations have shared resources with me on various topics. Deaf children, kids who wear glasses, kids with disabilities and others susceptible to bullying have articles listed there.
Let us put an end to bullying once and for all.
Michelle Kaiser and her husband, Jim, live on a cattle ranch in Cross Plains, Texas. She travels to area schools and libraries to share the story of her real-life special needs calf named Special Ed and the antibullying message his life conveys in her writing. Michelle hopes to teach children kindness, empathy, and inclusion in her book series, The Adventures of Special Ed.