New laws, media attention and public awareness campaigns have placed a greater emphasis on bullying in recent years than perhaps ever in the nation’s history.
Yet bullying remains a stubborn problem with far-reaching effects.
More than one in four students, 27.8 percent, report being bullied during the school year, according to a 2103 report by the National Center for Educational Statistics, but most victims never tell an adult.
That’s one reason it’s crucial that everyone – not just school officials – get involved in the battle, says TV personality Cindy “Rodeo” Steedle, who founded an anti-bullying initiative called Imagine No Bullying Now (www.imaginenobullyingnow.com) and often speaks on the subject at school assemblies.
“It’s so important to me because I was bullied as a child,” says Steedle, who rose to fame in 2007 as a contestant on VH1’s “Rock of Love” and subsequently has made numerous other TV appearances.
Steedle recalls as a teenager enduring the taunts of other girls because she couldn’t afford the nice clothes they wore. The bullying didn’t stop with words.
“They would hit me on the bus,” Steedle says.
The impact of bullying can be devastating. A 2012 report by the Centers for Disease Control said students who experience bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties and poor school adjustment.
Bullying is bad for the bullies, as well. The CDC reported that students who bully others are at increased risk for substance use, academic problems and violence later in adolescence and adulthood.
“How many times have each of us witnessed an act of bullying and said little or nothing?” Steedle asks. “After all, it wasn’t our responsibility. If our kid wasn’t involved, we figured, it’s none of our business.”
That’s the wrong attitude, Steedle says. She offers keys to facing up to bullying and doing something about it.
• No one should make excuses for bullies. Some people claim bullying is simply a part of life. If no one is physically hurt, they will say, “What’s the big deal? It’s just boys being boys and girls being girls.” Those people are wrong, Steedle says. “We must make it clear in our actions and our words that bullying will not be tolerated,” she says.
• Parents should monitor their children’s cell phone and Internet use. Bullying takes many forms and it’s not always in person. Text messages and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter can become sources of bullying.
• Schools must be at the forefront of the battle. Too many schools don’t take bullying seriously. School officials need to recognize the depth of the problem, and implement and enforce strong anti-bullying policies.
• But the problem goes beyond the schoolhouse doors. If we want to eradicate bullying in our communities, we can’t rely on schools alone, Steedle says. All public and private institutions need to do more to demonstrate that bullying is simply unacceptable in our workplaces and in our homes.
“This is not a failure of one group of kids, one school, one town, one county or one geographic area,” Steedle says. “Rather, it exposes a fundamental flaw in our society, one that has deep-seated roots.
“Until now, it has been too difficult, inconvenient — maybe even painful — to address. But we can’t keep looking away. We have to stand up and say, ‘No more!’ It’s up to us all to get more involved.”