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Is Your Child Being Bullied?

In response to requests from hundreds of educators immediately following the Feb. 12 episode of the CBS series "Without A Trace," CBS is making VHS copies available to them by request.

The episode, "Wannabe," deals with bullying among children and its disturbing repercussions for a missing boy,

And on Friday, Rona Novick a child psychologist and director of an anti-bullying program, visited The Early Show to offer advice to parents of children who are being bullied.'=

In the TV episode, a missing 12-year-old, traumatized by the bullying he has been through, decides to commit suicide, which Novick notes is not an unusual behavior. Fortunately, those who attempt suicide are the minority.

"It is very common that children who are harassed and bullied suffer severe effects, including depression and suicide," Novick says. In 2001, a federally funded survey of 15,686 students in the grades 6 to 10 found that approximately 3 in 10 students were either a victim, a bully or both.

She notes, "There is a huge veil of silence around bullying. One of the reasons is they're humiliated and embarrassed about their experience. But the bystanders are crucial in addressing bullying in school. If we can create a generation of students who will speak out for their friends, about their friends, when they see danger about to happen, then we can help stop this problem."

According to Novick, bullying peaks between grades 4 and 8. She says teachers see it less frequently in high school, but when there is bullying there, it's more intense and seen in the forms of hazing and sexual harassment.

To those students who are witnessing the bullying, she advises them to let an adult with authority know. "In the same way as if they witness an accident in the street and saw a child bleeding, no one would think it was telling or ratting on someone. They would call 911. We have to convince them bullying leaves scars and wounds just as dangerous if you can't see them."

The anti-bullying program that Novick directs is based on the successful way Norway has reduced bullying. After three boys who were bullied committed suicide, the country's Minister of Education started the first anti-bullying campaign in 1983. Educational material was sent to teachers and parents and a video was made to use for students to role-play bullying situations. As a result, they have cut bullying in half, according to Novick.

The following are some tips for parents of children being bullied:

  • Look, listen and believe your child - She explains, "That's because children will say, 'Mom, dad, someone is picking on me.' And the parents may say, 'You're being too sensitive. Ignore them. Try to be friends with someone else.' We have to look for signs of bullying in our children because they won't tell us directly. Red flags like a child at recess is spending time in the nurse's office."
  • Don't blame your child. Novick says, "It's natural to say, 'They took your lunch money again? Where did you have this money? Didn't you keep it safe?' Making the victim feel responsible."
  • Communicate with the person at school who will be the most responsive. She notes, "Since there is this code of silence about bullying, if parents don't share what they know, schools may not be able to take action."
One thing that was very evident in the "Without A Trace" episode that many parents may be shocked to learn is that their children are bullies. Novick notes that, unfortunately, many parents who do discover this say "Yahoo!" because they taught the child to be like that or to go after what he or she wants.

When a parent finds his child's bullying behavior unacceptable, Novick suggests taking the time to talk about it and insist on appropriate behavior, such as inviting the child who is being left out to a party.

Parents also have to walk the walk, such as not bullying the dry cleaner for not having your dry cleaning ready in time, she says. "You teach by example and watching TV shows and talking about news stories together. You teach them to be a responsible citizen of the world. You not only don't bully, but you don't stand idly by when others do."

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