October is National Bullying Awareness Month, and as we ask our children and our schools to prevent bullying, we ought to take a hard look at ourselves too. Recent attacks on an overweight female Wisconsin TV anchor -- and her response -- illustrate the point.
This week, Jennifer Livingston of WKBT responded on air to a viewer’s email that complained that she was not a suitable role model for the community’s young people due to her large size. She responded to the attack by saying:
"That man’s words mean nothing to me, but what really angers me about this is there are children who don't know better...who get emails as critical as the one I received, or in many cases even worse, each and every day. The Internet has become a weapon. Our schools have become a battleground and this behavior is learned. It is passed down from people like the man who wrote me that email. If you were at home and you were talking about the fat news lady...guess what? Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat."
My article on ParentInvolvementMatters.org this week, How Adults Can Stem the Tide of Bullying, addresses this subject. Children learn what they live, and they pick up disparaging comments and behaviors from the important adults in their lives. Along with various resources, the piece discusses the positive behaviors that adults should engage in to combat bullying. These include:
- Talking to children about both being bullied and about being bullies.
- Being a role model for kindness, caring, and understanding.
- Speaking with children about bullying and cyber-bullying to make sure they are not engaging in it.
- Discussing how hurtful cyber-bullying is, and emphasizing that what is online stays online forever.
- Emphasizing that online misbehavior could affect your child’s future.
- Encouraging your children to tell you if they are bullied off or online.
- Reassuring your child and making sure to remind school personnel that retaliation cannot be condoned.
- Discussing Internet safety with your children, and monitoring what they are doing online.
- Informing schools if there is bullying, and joining with schools to promote bullying awareness and prevention programs.