Time Magazine reported yesterday that yet another victim of bullying has killed himself. Thirteen-year-old Daniel Fitzpatrick of Staten Island, New York committed suicide after making a number of futile attempts to get his school to protect him from constant bullying by classmates. His father wrote “No parent should have to bury their child. No child should have to go through what my son went through.”
Despite efforts to curb bullying in schools, the problem not only persists but is actually on the rise nationwide, particularly in grades six through ten. Schools are faced with the challenge that bullying rarely occurs in front of school personnel. Rather, it happens outside of class, and now more commonly, on social media.
Hope on the Horizon
One of the world’s most effective anti-bullying programs has been spearheaded by UCLA psychology professor Dr. Jaana Juvonen. Her findings are particularly relevant for kids who are most frequently bullied. These kids, as well as others, can be significantly helped by teaching bystanders to intervene and offer support to kids being bullied.
As a child psychologist, I’ve seen the impact of bullying and teasing on hundreds of kids. One school contacted me this week about a kid who was drawing pictures of himself jumping off a cliff. He’d been the victim, for years, of being teased about his weight. Kids who have been teased or bullied feel scared, worried, and embarrassed. It’s hard for them to talk about it, let alone deal with it.
Learning New Skills
Just released this month, the new rap song “Stand Up,” helps kids understand the valuable, sometimes life-saving, difference that they can make as bystanders. Sympathetic to Daniel’s sacrifice and the pain of countless youngsters impacted by ever-increasing consequences of bullying, I have written, produced and been inspired to offer this song for free here. This anti-bullying anthem empowers kids to stand up for themselves, as well as for others:
“So don’t be a bystander standin’ by
Just look the situation in the eye
Then don’t be pushy but don’t be shy……just stand up.”
“Stand up, and speak your mind.
Go stand up and say ‘It’s never okay to be unkind.’
Enough’s enough. Let’s draw the line.
It’d do a world of good if everybody could stand up for each other. Stand up.”
Words like these empower kids to see the bully as the one with the problem instead of taking attacks personally. Adults need to take action to help make schools safe for all kids, integrating recent research into their attempts at change.
Never underestimate the upset that a bullied child feels, or the help that they might need to be bully-proofed. All children suffer—those who are picked on, the bystanders, and the bully who lacks the skills to get along. The right tools can make all the difference.