Friday, October 14, 2011

Twelve Bullying Myths: Part 5

Twelve bullying myths: Myths #11-12

What do parents really need to know about bullying? It's not necessarily what you think.
Article from, written by Valle Dwight

Myth #11

When bullies use homophobic taunts they're always referring to the victim's sexual orientation

Increasingly, bullies taunt other kids by calling them “gay,” even though neither party actually knows what the word means — especially in the younger grades. “This is where parental and social modeling come into effect,” Mayer says. Kids hear the word used as a putdown, and they repeat it. “They’re mimicking language,” he says, “it’s not being used in the sexual connotation.”

Even in the later teens, when kids do understand the meaning, it can be used solely as a slur. “It is often used as the sort of nuclear option as it relates to male-to-male social aggression or put downs,” Williams says. “The mere insinuation is enough to cause the social harm intended by the bully.”

But Williams warns that a sexually confused child — of any age — may be a more likely target for harassment and bullying. And although it may be a challenging conversation, he urges parents (with the help and possible presence of a mental health professional) to discuss sexuality and gender with their child. “It is my sense that the child who is struggling with sexuality and gender identity, but who is simultaneously receiving support on the home front, may be better equipped to navigate the treacherous waters known as childhood – particularly in a school environment, where 79 percent of reported bullying takes place.” In fact, research by the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University demonstrates that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth with families who accept their sexual orientation are less likely to suffer depression, use drugs, or attempt suicide than youth who are rejected by their families.

Myth #12

Schools bear no clear responsibility for bullying

Bullying has become a national issue, so much so that 47 states, including Massachusetts and New York, have passed anti-bully laws that define bullying and require schools to act when it’s reported.

Even so, some schools still aren’t taking it seriously, Mayer says. And this is not just a problem but a crisis, since most bullying happens at school. “Teachers have to take these things seriously,” he says. “They have to identify the bullies and tell them, ‘We’re watching you.’”

Parents should check that their kids' school has an anti-bully policy and system in place. If you're unsure what your school’s policy is, talk with the administration or check the school's website. Let the school know that the safety of your child is important to you.


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