Cindy Ellen Russell / firstname.lastname@example.org
Students from the Hongwanji Mission School Choir shared a moment on stage after singing "Voices of Peace" yesterday during the Peace Day Hawaii 2008 celebration at the Hawaii Convention Center. The event featured a forum about peace education in schools, student performances, an awards ceremony and more. In the front row are, from left, Riko Walford, Kody Kikuno, Justin Onishi, Cole Fujimoto, Ashlyn Mashino, Jade Higa, Bailey Urasaki, Marshall Nashima and Taylor Pimenta.
Bulls-eye on bullying
An expert urges adults to step in and help kids who are victimized
Many people believe that bullying is a normal part of growing up, and that kids who are bullied need to stand up for themselves.
But Tricia Jones, a Temple University professor specializing in conflict resolution, says both beliefs are myths. She offered tips on bullying prevention - from the playground to the Internet - as part of the Peace Day Hawaii celebration yesterday at the Hawaii Convention Center.
DEALING WITH BULLYING
To help protect youth online, visit these sites:
TIPS FOR PARENTS
» Google your child's name to track their Internet presence.
» Sign up for a "Google alert" to receive an e-mail every time your child's name is mentioned on the Internet.
» Teach your kids to protect their passwords and never post private information on a Web site.
» Keep computers in the family room, not children's bedrooms.
» Check the site-visit history on the family computer.
TIPS FOR YOUTH
If you are a victim of bullying:
» Confide in an adult
If you are a bystander:
» Speak up to the bully
» Ask an adult for help
» Reach out to isolated peers
Peace Day Hawaii began with bell ringing at places of worship and wound up with a panel discussion, songs and taiko drumming at the convention center. Last year, Hawaii became the first state to officially recognize the United Nations International Day of Peace, which is now marked in more than 200 countries.
"Bullying is not a normal part of growing up," Jones told the audience.
Bullying isn't the occasional fight or spat but rather when a person or a group of people targets an individual repeatedly over time using physical or psychological aggression, she said.
"If there is one message I want to send, it's that kids can't solve this problem by themselves," Jones said. "Adults have to be involved."
Bullying happens on school playgrounds, sometimes right in front of adults. And it has morphed into new forms in cyberspace - through e-mail, mobile phones, Internet chat rooms and instant messaging. Teens can use their cell phones to snap embarrassing photos in school bathrooms, and post them online. Or they can manipulate other photos and pair them with malicious messages.
Jones advised parents and youth to visit Web sites like www.Isafe.org for information on how to safely navigate the Internet and prevent cyberbullying. Parents should keep computers in the family room and monitor their children's use and their electronic footprint, she said. Parents can track any mention of their children on the Internet by signing up for e-mailed "Google alerts." Teens can learn from Isafe.org how to determine if their online information has been manipulated.
"They can be their own first line of protection," said Jones, a professor of psychological studies in education and former editor of Conflict Resolution Quarterly.
Schools need to take a stand against bullying by developing clear policies and training their staff and students, she said. Teachers who witness bullying need to intervene on the spot. They should call out to stop it, name the behavior as bullying, get the target to a safe place and inform the bully of the consequences without engaging in a debate. They should also encourage bystanders to speak out against bullying when they see it.
"You can be very successful in turning around a bullying culture by activating bystanders," Jones said.
Youth who are being bullied risk further harm if they try to fight back, she said, and should instead confide in an adult - a parent, teacher or neighbor, who can help them see that the behavior isn't their fault. Students perceived as gay, lesbian or transgendered are especially at risk of being bullied.
"When victims stand up for themselves, it actually escalates the violence that the bullies use," she said.
Bullying has long-term consequences. Victims can become depressed, skip school or engage in self-destructive behavior. And bullies are four times more likely to have three or more convictions by the age of 24, Jones said.
"So often they end up escalating the type of aggression they use," Jones said. "We're not being kind by ignoring the kids who are doing the bullying."
Carole Iacovelli, executive director of Youth Service Hawaii, lauded the approach taken at one elementary school where third-graders felt the fifth-graders were picking on them. The teacher suggested the third-graders develop guidelines for the playground, and brought in the fifth-graders to advise them.
"The biggest bullies in fifth grade were the ones with their hands up," offering suggestions, she said. Along with the guidebook, the kids decided to appoint one third- and one fifth-grader roam as "safe ambassadors" each recess to ward off potential problems.
"That school created a wonderful environment to let students solve bullying," she said.
Glenn Paige, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii, received the Distinguished Peace Day Award 2008. He is the founder and president of the Center for Global Nonviolence, a nonprofit.