Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Part 2 Bullying

            One-third to half of American children report being bullied at least once and 10 percent feel continually targeted. More than 40 percent of students admit to bullying a classmate at least once, while more than half have witnesses bullying and not reported it. Bullying can take the form of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or hazing. Recently, cyber-bullying has become another form of victimization. Cyber-bullying can be defined as sending or posting harmful or hurtful messages using the Internet or other digital forms of communication.
            Cyberbullying can cause significant emotional harm. Victims of face-to-face bullying often experience depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, physiological complaints, problems concentrating, school failure, and school avoidance. Targets of cyberbullying suffer equal if not greater psychological harm because the hurtful information can be transmitted to a larger base and instantaneously and can be difficult to eliminate. Aggressors can remain anonymous and are hard to stop. Not knowing who an aggressor is can cause adolescents to be too cautious in terms of examining their social environment to avoid hurtful encounters. Cyberbullying also may be worse than face-to-face bullying because people feel shielded from the consequences of their actions and often do or say things online that they would not in person. In some cases, cyberbullying can lead to severe dysfunction, externalized violence, and suicide.
            Tulsa Public schools has established an online tool that assesses the occurrence of cyber bullying in its school, in hopes of reducing it in the future. In January 2012 the district launched the Threat Assessment, Incident Management and Prevention Services or TIPS, which allows for the anonymous reporting of weapons possession, drug/alcohol use, harassment or intimidation, school vandalism, physical assault, threats of violence, suicide risk, abuse or neglect and other incidents. The school has designated teams at each school and the district office to be automatically notified of certain types of reports. The system allows team members to create a record of recommendations and actions taken, keeping track of which members view and add to the record and notifying members of new information. Staff can set automatic reminders that notify them if it's time to check in with a student who has been recently victimized or other items earmarked for follow-up.
            These struggles and insecurities that adolescents face are a direct result of their culture, which shapes their behaviors and perceptions. The adolescent society is the closest thing to a "closed social system where students seek and value peer status as an indicator of their own worth. Peer pressure wields great power in these individual’s lives.  Students are not preoccupied with academics, but rather popularity, athletics, and physical appearance.
            Rener Gracie, 27-year-old son of UFC originator Rorion Gracie and grandson of legendary Brazilian jiu-jitsu grandmaster Helio Gracie recognized that the martial art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, created by his family, is ideal for combating bullies. So he and his brother Ryron developed a program specifically for kids who have been the target of bullies. Here students are taught the three T-steps: TALK to the bully and ask him to leave you alone. TELL the teacher and your parent that the bully won't stop even after you've talked to him. TACKLE the bully and use jiu-jitsu to gain control of him without resorting to punches or kicks. This program is very similar to the EKP program, of which I am certified.  This is just one of the many techniques that can be used as tools by those who have reached that block in the road.
            It Gets Better is another one of these tools, it is an internet-based project founded by Dan Savage and his husband Terry Miller in 2010 It was a response to the suicides of teenagers who were bullied because they were gay. Its goal is to prevent suicide among LGBT youth by having gay adults convey the message that these teens' lives will improve. The project has grown rapidly: over 800 videos were uploaded in the first two weeks, and the project's YouTube channel reached the 650 video limit in the next week. The project is now organized on its own website, the It Gets Better Project and includes more than 30,000 entries, with more than 40 million views, from people of all sexual orientations including many celebrities.
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