Today was one of those days.
I was invited to a powerful discussion about an upcoming CBS News/48 Hours presentation to be broadcast on Friday night at 8pm EST called “Bullying: Words Can Kill”.
I have two very young children, ages 6 and 8, and I have yet to find them suffer from bullying, but I’m fully aware that it goes on in every school across the country. Bullying is everywhere. I grew up with glimmers of it in my own life, and I know how hard it can be on a child.
But we live in a new age. A digital age. My kids, and your kids, are fully capable of using all digital devices, and if you think about it, that kind of use is going to change over the next few years. As my daughter grows up, she’ll go on Facebook; she’ll start to IM her friends. Words that might be hurtful or derisive will not only be verbal, they’ll be cyber. 90% of all middle school students have phones. Technology is more important to our kids than ever. According to the 48 Hours report, reported by correspondent Tracy Smith, this cyber explosions is only making bullying worse, as victims cannot find relief from their tormentors in a 24/7 digital world. The report, with links to the CBS News website, will have important new information for parents, educators and legislators about how bullying affects children and how to address it.
For six months, producers and camera crews were allowed in-depth access to the classrooms, cafeteria and gym at Birchwood, a Rhode Island middle school that is one of the few in the United States that has openly acknowledged it has a bullying problem and has taken action to address it. The 48 HOURS special documents the real lives of students at that particular school, and has the powerful stories of other young people and their families from around the country who have felt the impact of bullying firsthand.
One constantly harassed 13-year-old told Smith, “They got inside my head. They did it because they knew it would hurt.” His mother said dropping him off at school was like “sending him off to war.” Tragically, more than 150 children have taken their own lives in recent years because they were victims of harassment in school and online.
We were introduced to Lisa Cagno, the mother of a victim of bullying who attempted suicide at age 14, who told us that her son was bullied so badly. The bullying got so bad that he couldn’t shake the feelings. In the special, she says:
“He was hurting himself. He was cutting himself, and he would just (say), ‘I hate myself, I don’t want to live anymore. I hate my life. Nobody likes me, no one cares about me.’ And I just – I would just have to constantly just reassure him. I couldn’t get those feelings out of his head.”
We also met her school’s amazing social worker, Lisa Vachon, who has created the Can’t Bully in School Program. She has integrated many helpful experiences into her school’s program including:
– Turning the student’s experiences into a dramatic play in which they act them out.
– Mentoring program
– Support Group
– Post anti-bullying messages around the school.
– Allowing the students to anonymously report bullying in boxes.
The panelists compared middle school to ground zero. Personally, it gave me so much to think about. As parents, we need to teach our children how to defend themselves, but how also not to hurt other children’s family. They are smaller versions of our own selves, so let’s teach them how to be good kids, good friends, good people now. I’m planning a lecture at my synagogue about bullying in the upcoming months to help educate my community. But at the end of the day, we need to keep the lines of communication open with our children and help guide them through these years.
So, don’t miss this program. Friday night at 8pm on CBS and viewers can join the conversation online on Twitter. Prepare yourself so you can help your children now or later. Remember, some kids may be too afraid to tell you what’s going on and you may need to look for the signs. A lot of bullying goes unreported.
Here’s a video clip:
Disclosure: I was invited as a guest of the discussion, but no opinion was asked of me. The ones expresses are my own.