Bullies used to simply shake down the weaker kids for lunch money, but these days, the bully business has gone online, and it's booming.
According to a 2009 survey of 2,000 middle school students by the Cyberbullying Research Center, 9.4 percent said they were recent victims of cyberbullying, while 17.3 percent claimed to be "lifetime" victims of online bullies.
Moreover, according to a recent Harris Interactive Cyberbullying Research Report, commissioned by the National Crime Prevention Council, 81 percent of teens surveyed find cyberbullying funny. Further, recent information on cyberbullying shows that it can lead to depression, anxiety, even suicide.
Jacquie Ream, author of the children's book Bully Dogs from Book Publisher's Network, (www.bookpublishersnetwork.com
"Bullying is present in all children's lives, whether they are male or female, teens or younger, bullies or the bullied," she said. "It reigns on the schoolyard, in the classrooms, in the hallways, on sports teams, even on the Internet. Inside and outside of the classroom, kids are coming face to face with a new enemy, one who's often their age and their size. As parents and educators struggle to reach children who are being bullied, kids often end up dealing with bullies on their own."
Ream believes this is an ongoing issue for today's teens. She believes that parents and educators need to meet this crisis head on and give our kids the tools to deal with bullies. Self-confidence is one of those tools.
"It takes two for a conflict," she added. "If a child is able to boost their self confidence enough so that the bully's words no longer have any affect, that could eliminate a lot of the verbal and cyber-bullying that takes place. After all, a game only one can play is no fun. If the bully fails to have any affect on his victim, he'll likely stop."
Part of the solution is for parents to be actively involved with their children, Ream added.
The key is to find a way to open up the lines of communication for kids who are being bullied, Ream said. It is not easy for children to admit that they are being picked on. Being bullied can lead to loss of interest in activities, even excessive absences from school. It is up to the adults in our children's lives to help them find the tools necessary to stand up for themselves and say "stop."
We wholeheartedly agree.