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Bullying And Being Bullied: A Growing Problem

Bullying has been a hot topic in the news recently as the case of Phoebe Prince was brought to light by the media. For those who have not heard about it, the Associated Press printed the story on May 9th.  In this story, they reported that “Phoebe Prince was a recently arrived Irish immigrant, 15 and emotionally fragile, when high school bullying over two boys she dated apparently drove her to hang herself with a scarf in her Massachusetts home.” While her story is severe, it brings to light just how serious of a problem bullying has become. Bullying was once thought to be a normal part of growing up, but it has come to light that it can also have dire consequences. While there are a lot of states that have laws and schools that have rules protecting victims of bullying, this is simply not enough. Parents, teachers, and the local community must make the prevention of bullying a priority.  Our commitment should start in the elementary school years and extending throughout our formalized education system. Getting involved to stop bullying starts with understanding bullying.

What is Bullying?
Education.com defines bullying as

  • An intentional act. The child who bullies wants to harm the victim; it is no accident.
  • Characterized by repeat occurrences. Bullying is not generally considered a random act, nor a single incident.
  • A power differential. A fight between two kids of equal power is not bullying; bullying is a fight where the child who bullies has some advantage or power over the child who is victimized.

Bullying may take place face-to-face, on the playground, or in the classroom. Bullying behaviors may be physical – kicking, hitting, spitting. The behaviors may be verbal – teasing, name calling, and threats or it can also happen online – this is considered cyber-bullying.

Bullying has no boundaries, it happens regardless of socioeconomic conditions, gender, race, religion.  With that being said, it tends to happen differently between the genders.  Boys, as with most of their interactions, tend to be more physical with their bullying.  Girls on the other hand, tend to be more indirect with their bullying, for example trying to ruin other girl’s reputations.

Even though boys and girls bully differently, the signs that your child may be the victim of bullying are the same. Bullying is something that kids often feel ashamed about so don’t share it directly with parents. As with other problems, parents know their kids and have to trust themselves if they feel something is not as it should be. Some of the signs parents can look for are anxiety and concerns about safety, general sadness, low self esteem, aggression, loss of items with no explanation, physical complaints (headaches, stomach aches etc.), avoiding recess or being at school during free times, and frequent unexplained injuries to self or property.

What can parents do if they suspect their child is being bullied?
  1. Parents need to listen to their child, be supportive, believe your child, and try not to be judgmental about the situation.
  2. Make school officials aware of the situation so they can ensure your child’s safety at school. They can also access information on bullying and add it to the the curriculum to help all students feel empowered to address bullying.
  3. Parents need to avoid aggressive responses and try to maintain a calm emotionally appropriate response. This modeling behavior will help your child to learn how to behave in these difficult situations.
What can parents do if their child is the bully?
  1. Talk with your child and help them to become aware that their behavior is hurting other kids. Talk to them about what they do with their friends, the games they play, how they treat one another. Work with your child to give them alternative ways to show their leadership and strength.
  2. Examine the behaviors in the home, are they aggressive? If so, work on new ways to communicate more effectively. Your child will model the behaviors s/he sees at home. Create rules at home to support this and create a zero-tolerance for bullying policy in the home.
  3. Talk with the school to get a better understanding of the behaviors they are seeing and how it is being addressed. Open communication is the best way to have an understanding so that home and school can send a consistent message.
If your child is bullying or being bullied, Prepare To Bloom, LLC may be able help.
Therapeutic and Educational consultants are professionals who may be able to help to locate appropriate resources for your family. To learn more, check out our website at PrepareToBloom.com or speak with a consultant now by calling us at (650)-888-4575. In addition, there are a lot of resources for parents and school officials on the web to learn more about bullying and prevention. Education.com is very comprehensive with regards to bullying and how to prevent it in your school or community. Also, to learn more about what the California Department of Education has to say about bullying, check out http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/ss/se/bullyingprev.asp.
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Posted by on May 11, 2011 in Families, News, Parenting

 

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Ameliorating loneliness through the use of technology

Loneliness seems to be here to stay. Although western civilization has allowed us to connect with more people faster  and more frequently than ever before, many of us find ourselves suffering from feelings of abject solitude. Perhaps stimulating our sense of community over long distances through text, pictures, and video simply isn’t enough to deliver that feeling of well-connectedness. Shaking hands, giving a hug, or getting a real pat on the back are all impossibilities when we’re sitting at our computers, talking to someone many hundreds of miles away. What if we could use technology to help fill this seemingly impossible chasm pulling us apart?Well, a new Stanford research paper titled “Intimate Heartbeats: Opportunities for Affective Communication Technology” aims to point us in the right direction.

The research attempts to tackle the disparaging lack of a physical connection over long-distance communication by inserting the heartbeat of the communicating partner into the auditory stream. In a way, they wanted to know “What if you could hear how someone else is feeling”.  They used virtual reality to simulate how physically close participants were to each other when they communicated. How close do you stand to someone when you first meet them?  They tracked eye contact as well as responses to questions. They found that self-reported intimacy was higher when the participants could hear the other person’s heartbeat than when they couldn’t. Furthermore, the effect was equal to that of physically looking the other person in the eye.

The heartbeat doesn’t even need to be heard, either. It can be a sensation felt on the skin. The authors mention a ring, but one can also imagine something of a “heartbeat headphones” type of device that might be connected to a bracelet or even be a part of regular headphones. This is very promising research and raises many questions; Does this work equally well for all people? Can this be used as a therapeutic mechanism for people who exhibit antisocial behavior or who may have disorders with symptoms that parallel loneliness? Maybe we’ll know some of these answers soon, as the authors seem to be on the right track.

Here is their conclusion:

In this age of the Internet in which people interact more and more with their computers and less and less with each other,we need new ways to communicate emotions and maintain close connections. Decades of research have shown the importance of physiological signals for our own emotional experiences. This study presents evidence that physiological signals can be important communicative tools as well. Heartbeats are shown to be a powerful intimate nonverbal cue. Because of the intimate nature of heartbeat communication, it could potentially prove to be beneficial for social connectedness. Similarly, heartbeat communication might also improve emotion recognition and communication. This opens up a future in which we augment our natural emotion communication by new technologies that share the biosignals carrying our emotions.

Loneliness is obviously a very important topic for many of us. Google returns over 24 million results for the search term. There are countless blog articles devoted to the subject. Here are some written by people who experience or think about loneliness: Dreaming of Quiet Places, A Poem on Loneliness, Comparing Loneliness to AlonenessThe Complicated Simple Life. And a good professional read by Dr. Booth.

 

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