An Opinion Piece from Assemblywoman Melissa Miller
“The rate at which young adults and children are being bullied in today’s world is unfortunately at an all-time high. The reason? Unlike years ago, the bullying doesn’t stop when our children come home from school. The bullies can now follow them home, harassing through texting or the many social media websites and apps that so many of our children are intertwined with. Taking away our children’s phones and making them deactivate their accounts isn’t going to help. That is punishing them for someone else’s wrongs and can worsen the situation by making them feel like outsiders, giving the bullies something else to pick on. The youth of today can also be ruthless, picking on anyone who is even the slightest bit different from them. This makes things extremely difficult for individuals with disabilities.
“So how do we fix the bullying problem? It starts with the older generation, whether you are a parent, guardian or just a significant adult in a child’s life, you can help. By being reliable and responding to situations of bullying swiftly every time, you can help teach the younger generation that this isn’t acceptable behavior, and research has shown this approach to be effective over time. Kids also rarely ask for help because they want to be independent and think asking an adult for help could make things worse. This is not a kids-will-be-kids situation; we need to teach them they can’t treat their peers like this.
“We shouldn’t be shushing our children when they ask about an individual with a disability, rather, we should explain to them that some people are different, which is okay. By teaching our youth about the different types of disabilities that are out there, we are helping our communities become more understanding, accepting and inclusive.
“There are warning signs that your child is being bullied that you can look out for. If your child or a child you know has a change in eating habits, problems sleeping, slipping grades, injuries they refuse to explain how they got, is constantly losing personal property or having it be destroyed without explanation, avoiding social situations or taking part in self-destructive behaviors, they could be a victim of bullying.
“But these aren’t the only signs we should be looking out for. There are children out there doing the bullying, so while it might be difficult to admit, your child or a child you know may be bullying others. Signs that your child might be a bully include increasing aggressiveness, getting into verbal or physical fights frequently, blaming others for their own problems, sudden acquisition of money or new possessions, constant trips to the principal’s office or refusing to accept accountability for their actions. If you think your kid might be a bully, don’t be ashamed. Take action and try to help your child learn why bullying others is wrong. There are so many resources available to help; it’s time for us to start using them to help our children lead better lives.
“Our children look up to us and it is our duty to teach them the difference between right and wrong. As much as we want to be friends with our kids, we are first and foremost their parents and must behave as such. They look to us as role models and for guidance, so to ensure they have the best life possible, we must teach them to treat others with respect and kindness. Choose kind!”