It’s a national problem of epidemic proportions, and it’s right here in Douglas County. Bullying. What can we do to stop it? What are the causes? And how do we help children in crisis? Douglas County School District (DCSD), in conjunction with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, has taken the lead in prevention measures. Together, they are working to prevent bullying before it starts.
Cyberbullying is a relatively new term that began with the advent of social networks and texting. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, children devote an average of 7 hours a day to cell phones, video games and other gadgets. Coupled with constant exposure via Facebook, MySpace, and texting, the challenge for most victims is simply getting away from the relentless harassment.
Did you know? According to a survey of 4,400 children by the Cyberbullying Research Center, one in five youths between the ages of 10 and 18 have been a victim of cyberbullying or participated in cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can cause higher levels of depression in a child than traditional bullying.
What is being done? The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and DCSD created the Youth, Education & Safety in Schools or Y.E.S.S. program that includes deputies teaching middle school health classes, the Text-A-Tip program, Suicide Intervention/Prevention, participation in the Enforcing Under Age Drinking Laws grant, and participation in several Douglas County Youth Initiative coalitions.
Text-A-Tip DCSD was the first school district in Colorado to offer the Text-A-Tip program to District high school students and is not a public program. Students who are being victimized, or know of another student who may be in crisis, can send an anonymous tip to law enforcement in real time. Each text message is encrypted to ensure complete anonymity. For other questions about the program contact Phyllis Harvey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-814-7033.
Is my child being bullied? DCSD has a number of warning signs for parents who are concerned their child may be under attack. Some warning signs include:
• Comes home from school with torn, damaged or missing clothing, books or belongings
• Has unexplained bruises, injuries, cuts, and scratches
• Seems isolated from peers and may not have a good friend to share time with
• Has a poor appetite, headaches and stomach pains (particularly in the morning)
• Chooses a longer, “illogical” route to school
• Shows unexpected mood shifts, irritability or sudden outbursts of temper
• Talks about or attempts suicide
In light of recent media coverage surrounding bullying, CNN has devoted a week to the topic. The coverage contains stories on bullying, interviews with victims and perpetrators, as well as useful links and resources for parents and students. In addition, the National Institutes of Health conducted a study on the effects of bullying that may be useful for parents and students. For elementary school and middle school aged children, www.pacerkidsagainstbullying.org and www.championsagainstbullying.com offer tips and ways to create a dialogue with your child.