Posts Tagged ‘Friends’

Bullying from a Teenager’s Perspective

August 6, 2014


Courtesy of clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg:


Hello Parents,

Your teens are getting ready to head back to high school and some of them are just beginning as freshmen. All summer long, I have been working with focus groups of teens and they have been talking to me and to each other and have been quite candid about their thoughts about bullying. They have shared their most intimate experiences, their concerns and their very creative ideas about how to deal with bullies.

This is what your kids want you to know about the bullying experience, but might never tell you. You see, they don’t want to upset you, disappoint you, worry you and are even concerned that you might not be interested. They are wrong. I know that but they don’t. Here is what they are not telling you:

1. The majority of your teens report that while they may not have been bullied, they have witnessed a peer being bullied.

2. They have not always been sure how to intervene at these times, but they have ideas.

3. They frequently and in large numbers report that an adult should be told about bullying incidents, but feel that even when they tell adults the adults are NOT likely to intervene effectively. They report that adults look the other way, don’t take bullying seriously enough and even give meaningless consequences to the bully.

4. By and large, the well-spoken and passionate teens feel that the adults are letting them down in this arena. YIKES. I know that no adult in a position to help teens wants to be seen as ineffective and dismissive.

5. Your kids have some very creative ideas about how to handle bullies including:

a. attempting to befriend them in the hope that a bully can become an ally.

b. making the bully laugh so that the bully learns a different style of interacting.

c. letting the bully know the impact that they are having on others. Many teens feel that bullies are clueless about their painful impact on others.

d. asking them about their lives. Many teens feel that bullies are probably hurting. It’s amazing isn’t it that teens feel empathy for bullies?


e. they have even expressed that you raise your kids to have empathy so that they are less likely to act in a socially aggressive and emotionally painful manner. These large groups of male and female teens have been telling me all summer long that they are concerned that some parents may inadvertently be raising bullies.

Your teens would also like you to know that:

1. They see many parents acting as bullying role models for their kids. They worry that you may be encouraging exclusivity, cliquey behavior and even physical aggression. Teens are and always have been watching the adults around them.

2. They think that adults should curtail gossiping because kids mimic them and gossiping is one of the worst and most hurtful forms of social bullying. They are on to something here; aren’t they?

3. They worry that you are bullying your kids in the privacy of your homes and that your kids are going to school upset, frustrated and looking for a place in which to practice what they have learned at home.


4. They are concerned that you might not even have given consideration to the idea that your own kid may be the bully. They think that you should consider this idea and work with your teen to be a kinder and more empathic individual.

I do not want to leave you with the impression that teens all blame the adults in their lives for the bullying behaviors of teens. Many teens reported learning empathic and pro-social behaviors from their parents. Amen to the child-rearing style in those homes. We need more of that. We need parents to realize that you are your teens’ most important role models. I have been saying this for years. Take this important opportunity in your life to teach your kids that their words and behaviors can either soothe and comfort or destroy the hearts and souls of their peers. Do not ever rule out the thought that your own child may be the bully at times and if you suspect this then work with your child to change this behavior.

We all remember own experiences being both the bullies and the bullied. None of us flourished from these experiences. In fact, many of us became emotionally and physically sick during these times. Your kids and I are calling upon you to be aware of your role and power in helping to both raise good kids and to become even more aware of the terrible interactional cycle of bullying that continues to persist in high schools all over.

Good luck.

Own your power.

Help your kids.


Dr. BG


Click on the link to read Girl Gets taped and tied to tree and ‘sexually assaulted’: Where Were the Teachers?

Click on the link to read Start Being Proactive When it Comes to Bullying
Click on the link to read The Real “Mean Girls”

Click on the link to read Anti-Bullying Song Goes Viral

Click on the link to read Some Schools Just Don’t Get it When it Comes to Bullying

Click on the link to read The Bystander Experiment (Video)


Tips for Helping Your Child Adjust to a New School

April 29, 2012

Many parents don’t realise just how difficult it is for children to adjust to a change of school. School cultures can vary radically and the look and feel of a new school (not to mention the rules) can be completely different to what the child has experienced before.

Jason Ladcock from has compiled a list of helpful tips for assisting children in managing the transition to a new school:

• Before the first day of school, make an appointment to meet with the school principal. Introduce your child to the principal and his new teacher. By doing this, you are helping the child feel comfortable because they feel like they already know someone in their new school on their first day.

• When the child isn’t present, talk to the teacher, and discuss your child’s strengths and weaknesses. This will prevent the child from being placed in classes that are too difficult or easy for them. Trying to keep up in a class that is too hard for your child can add extra stress for them at a time when they don’t need it. Being placed in a class that is too easy has its own problems. Your child may become bored and act out or just not fit in with the other children. Talking with the teacher and ensuring proper placement will ease the transition into a new classroom.

• Be positive. The parent’s attitude has more affect on the child than all the other factors put together. If you have a negative attitude about the move or show nervousness, it will affect your child. Be positive and talk about what a good experience it is to have the “opportunity” to move to a new city and school. Explain that it offers all sort new experiences that they will enjoy.

• Acknowledge your child’s feelings and let him express them. Be sure to tell your child that he can talk to you at any time about problems he is having at school or feelings that he is having. Knowing that you’re there for him will take a lot of stress away.

• Make the first day at school as smooth as possible. Prepare everything the night before – clothes, lunches, school supplies, etc. Rushing on the first day at his new school will make the child nervous before he ever enters the school.

• Let your child know that he is welcome to invite new friends home from school.

• Host an activity at your home for your child’s classroom. This is a great way for your child to get to know the other kids.

• Help your child join extracurricular activities at school. When your child has a common interest with other kids, it is easier to get to know them.

I hope these tips prove helpful. I would love to get your feedback about what has worked for you.

Video Game Addiction is Real and Very Serious!

November 27, 2011

I am not one to use therm “addiction” lightly.  Many would dismiss video game addiction as merely a bad habit or a product of an anti-scocial personality, but it is very real.

Video game addiction can take over a child’s life and deeply affect their relationships, schoolwork and daily routine. With role-playing games such as World of Warcraft now in vogue, the video game addiction has become far more serious.  Because these games have no designated end point, the game goes on indefinitely.  This means that kids struggle to put the controller down in order to eat, sleep or even go to the toilet!

It is an addiction which at the moment is relatively hidden:

In fact, in 2007, a Harris poll found that 8.5% of youths between the ages of 8 – 18 in the United States could be classified as video game addicts.

“The excitement, the thrill and the challenge, for some people gets greater and greater, and then it takes on a life of its own.” Dr. Anna Bacher, a therapist in Sarasota, treats patients with addictions — including those who have a hard time putting down the controller. “It can go to the extreme, where they stop sleeping, they stop eating, the person becomes irritable, lethargic, depressed, highly anxious and very difficult to be around.”

It is absolutely essential that parents are aware of the consequences of an addicted child before the odd game of World of Warcraft and games of its type, become an obsession. Parents should not feel that copious hours in front of the computer amounts to innocent fun.

Yes, gaming addiction is better than drugs. But not as much as some parents may think.

Internet Addiction and our Children

October 26, 2011

We all love our internet connections and mobile phones and would find it extremely difficult to live without them.  However, addictions are still addictions, and there is no doubt that our children have grown a deep addiction to the internet.  So bad is the problem, that children have become more addicted to the internet than to TV:

Just 18% of children would miss TV most, compared to mobile (28%) and Internet (25%), finds Ofcom research

A new research by communications watchdog Ofcom has revealed that more young British teenagers can do without TV but not without mobile and the Internet.

Ofcom research found that just 18% of children aged 12 to 15 would miss TV most, compared to mobile (28%) and the Internet (25%). However, the research suggests that the teenagers are also watching more TV than ever before, with viewing figures increasing by 2 hours since 2007.

In 2010, children aged 4-15 watched an average of 17 hours and 34 minutes of TV per week, compared with 15 hours and 37 minutes in 2007. Nearly one third (31%) of children aged 5-15 who use the Internet are watching TV via an online catch-up service such as the BBC iPlayer or ITV Player, said Ofcom.

Ofcom’s research said that 95% of 12-15 year olds now have Internet access at home through a PC or laptop, up from 89% in 2010 and 77% in 2007.

Social networking is still one of the most popular uses of the Internet amongst 12-15s. Ofcom said that children are visiting social network sites more often on their mobiles. Half (50%) of 12-15s with a smartphone visit them weekly compared with 33% in 2010.

Children aged between 8-11 are more likely to use Internet for gaming, with 51% saying they play games online on a weekly basis, up from 44% in 2010. 8-11s are also spending more time playing on games players/ consoles compared with 2010 (9 hours 48 minutes – an increase of nearly 2 hours), said Ofcom.

In my school days television addiction was a problem.  Now we have another addiction which comes with the same side-effects.  It creates tired students who have been up so late they can’t concentrate.  It has compromised our children’s capacity to have healthy social interaction.  Playing with a friend has now become messaging a friend.  It’s just not the same.

As soon as people go from the moderate to the obsessive, they lose control of themselves.  Children today are certainly showing the signs of a lack of control, to the point where they are smuggling mobiles in their bags so they can reply to Facebook messages as soon as they receive them.

Kids require rules for their internet usage.  Rules that outline when, how and where they can use it.


The Motivation of a Bully

October 11, 2011

Recently I wrote about a cyberbully’s motivation.  The same can be true of a conventional bully:

It is my belief that cyber-bullying is often based on “dominance” and “popularity” rather than “hate”.  I don’t think most cyberbullies hate their victims.  Instead, I think they see them as stepping-stones to wider acceptance from their peer group.  Often the victims are minorities or outcasts.  The pressure to be in the “in group” has always been high.  For an “in group” to exist there needs to be a clearly defined “out group”.  It is often seen as a sort of right of passage for someone seeking popularity to kick the easy target.

This view seems to be backed up by a recent study conducted by CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°”:

A new study commissioned by CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360°” found that the stereotype of the schoolyard bully preying on the weak doesn’t reflect reality in schools.

Instead, the research shows that many students are involved in “social combat” — a constant verbal, physical and cyber fight to the top of the school social hierarchy.

“Kids are caught up in patterns of cruelty and aggression that have to do with jockeying for status,” explains Robert Faris, a sociologist whom “Anderson Cooper 360°” partnered with for the pilot study. “It’s really not the kids that are psychologically troubled, who are on the margins or the fringes of the school’s social life. It’s the kids right in the middle, at the heart of things … often, typically highly, well-liked popular kids who are engaging in these behaviors.”

Faris, along with the co-author of the study, Diane Felmlee, also found that bullies, whom they call aggressors, and victims are not defined roles, but in many cases, they can be the same person. The higher students rise on the social ladder, the more they bully other students, and the more other students bully them.

“When kids increase in their status, on average, they tend to have a higher risk of victimization as well as a higher risk of becoming aggressive,” Faris says.

The study was conducted this spring at The Wheatley School, a nationally top-ranked high school on Long Island, New York. More than 700 students at the school were given a survey with 28 questions on aggressive behavior four separate times throughout the semester. They were also given a roster of the entire school in which every student had an identification number and kids were asked to write down specifically who did what.

This is part of the reason why I am so critical of the way bullies are handled at some schools.  So often the emphasis is on the actions of the bully and not on the social environment that encourages bullying behaviour in the first place.  That is why so much of  my energy is devoted to changing the social fabric of my class.

After all, bullying isn’t a priority – it is THE PRIORITY.  As a teacher, I am entrusted not with people’s money or belongings but with the most important and precious things they have – their children.  It is my responsibility to ensure that they are safe and secure.  Sure, I have to teach them and help them grow academically, but even more so, I have to do my best to make sure that the child they dropped off at my classroom is going to come back in as good if not better emotional shape than when they arrived.

When I speak to my class at the beginning of the year, I tell them there is a sure-fire way for them to have to repeat the year a second time.  It’s not if they find the work difficult or are struggling to pass assessments – it’s if they are not treating their classmates with respect.  Because if they are not ready to treat others with respect, they are not emotionally ready to go up a year level.

I’m not joking.  I really do mean it.

There is a lot of talk about ‘child centered learning’ vs ‘teacher centered learning’.  I prescribe to neither.  Instead, I believe in what I call “class centred learning”.  The main focus of my teaching is that everyone in the class must respect each other.  It is the fundamental rule for assessing my own performance.  They don’t have to be best of friends, but they absolutely must respect each other.  And ultimately, it is my duty to empower the class and create an environment of closeness and mutual respect.

Does it mean that there is no bullying in my classroom?  Absolutely not.  I wish.  I’m only an ordinary teacher.  What it means is, I take more interest in the welfare of my class than any other consideration.

On the topic of bullying, I again strongly recommend (not for the last time) this most brilliant anti-bullying film developed by young students in their own free time.  It is the best of its kind by a long, long way!


Should Teachers Have Students as Facebook Friends?

April 12, 2011

My answer to this question is a categorical no.  Whilst my own teachers were generous with their time, even giving out their phone numbers (when I was in 12th grade) to offer help after hours, this sort of generosity is now just plain unprofessional.  Teachers should not accept invitations to be Facebook friends with their students, nor should they be giving out their phone numbers.

It seems that this issue is a concern around the world.  A study was recently conducted in Ontario, which featured the following recommendations:

A report, to be released Monday, recommends teachers neither accept — nor send out — Facebook friend requests involving students. They should avoid texting, and never communicate by email using a personal account, says the advisory from the Ontario College of Teachers, the body that oversees the profession.

Online communications should be via “established education platforms” such as web pages set up for a school project or class, says the report, obtained by the Toronto Star.

Teachers should also only contact students electronically during the same times they’d feel comfortable calling home.

“When we are communicating with students, face-to-face or in more traditional ways, we are trying to replicate that in other media,” said Michael Salvatori, the college’s registrar.

“The informal language of texting is not the kind of interaction a teacher and student would have … there are lots of ways teachers can be available for students without texting.”

The report comes as school boards try to figure out how to create rules around the use of social media, without hampering efforts by educators to engage students by using it.

And, increasingly, just as in their real life, teachers’ conduct online is also coming under scrutiny. Recently, in the U.S., teachers have been suspended for posting inappropriate comments on their personal Facebook pages, on their own time; one said he hated his job and students, another compared herself to a “warden” supervising “future criminals.”

This is only the third advisory the college has ever issued, and it will follow up with information sessions around the province this month and next.

Few school boards have a social media policy as yet, trusting to general guidelines around teacher and online conduct to cover it for now.

That’s because social media has exploded in the past few years, said Paul Elliott, vice-president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which put out a pamphlet for teachers on the issue a while ago.

It’s the newly graduated teachers who tend to have a tough time at the start, he added.

They’ve been active on Facebook, and they are moving into a profession where behaviour that wasn’t considered objectionable before is now inappropriate — such as posting a picture enjoying a beer with friends, he said.

As for texting, it can sometimes prove “a useful tool of communication in the classroom, with the curriculum — but that’s the only time it should be in use,” he said.

The college has also warned teachers that anything they post online can be altered, and that “innocent actions” can be “easily misconstrued or manipulated.” The report cites several disciplinary cases, albeit extreme ones, where emails or other online communications were involved.

There is no good reason for a teacher to be communicating with students through Facebook or any other forms of social media.  While I respect and appreciate my teachers for giving me the opportunity to call on them after hours with queries or concerns, I don’t think the current day teacher should be allowed to do the same today.  Teachers must be responsible and careful in their dealing with their students.  There is nothing responsible about being a Facebook friend with your student.

Our Duty to Stop Bullying Websites

December 23, 2010

It was disappointing, yet not at all surprising, to hear of the new smash-hit website entitled, which promotes bullying behaviour online.

A new website that encourages schoolchildren to write anonymous gossip about their peers, which is then rated as ‘true’ or ‘false’ by other users of the site, has exploded in popularity among Britain’s pupils in the past month.
Many of the comments on Little­ are obscene, while others are homophobic or threatening.

In one post, a student at Eton made the following barely literate contribution about a peer: ‘mate your a ******* wannabe, u spend all of dads cash on your drug addiction.’

Another pupil at Emanuel School in Battersea, South London, wrote of a girl at the school: ‘****** is working her way through the boys, but unfortunately hasn’t made any girl friends along the way, what will she do when she runs out of boys? And who is her next target?’

In my opinion, even if this site gets closed down, it’s only a matter of time before copycat sites appear all over the place.  While it is integral that parents and teachers are proactive in curbing bullying the problem is far too great to have confidence that such measures is going to be near sufficient.  Instead, it’s up to the online community to ensure that all such sites get closed down.  There is absolutely nothing of benefit for sites like this to exist.  We must ensure that we do all we can to stop the proliferation of online bullying.  It is one of the worst types of bullying.  Shame on the creators and users of this horrendous website!

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