B4N, CRB, DIKU, PAW: Do you know what these abbreviations mean? If not, you probably haven't been involved in the same online world as the young people you know. It's a universe with a language that can be fun and interactive, but also hurtful and potentially dangerous.
Rosanne Wilson of the Howard County Public School System asked a group of parents at Howard High School if they knew what the letters stood for.
They hesitated a moment. “Before now?” Nope. “Call you right back?” Close. (Bye for now, and come right back). But they all seemed to know “Do I know you?” and “Parents are watching”—potentially important phrases if parents are monitoring what their kids are doing on the Internet.
Wilson, specialist for positive behavior support at Howard County Public School System Student Services, told parents that keeping tabs on kids’ online activities is an important step in the prevention of cyber bullying, whether a child is being bullied or is a bully himself.
She said: “'What’s the big deal?' people ask. 'Kids will be kids, right?'”
Some people think bullying has been around for as long as there have been playgrounds, but the effects of bullying are just as long-lasting, Wilson said, for both the victim and the bully.
About 160,000 students stay home every school day to avoid being bullied, according to the Butler Center for Research at Hazelden. Ten percent of dropouts each year attribute their decision to being bullied.
In a case she dealt with personally, Wilson said a student wanted to drop out, and the student’s parents were close to letting the student do so, because of incessant bullying. In the end, though, she said she worked with the student and parents to figure out a way to deal with the problem, and the student stayed in school.
In addition to the scholastic affects, there are psychological ones. School bullies are more likely to be bullies in adult life, and by age 24, 60 percent of people identified as “former bullies” will be convicted of a crime, statistics show.
Students who are bullied report being depressed and they suffer from low self-esteem and fear, according to experts.
What would you do?
During her presentation, Wilson fielded questions from parents eager to help their children–many of whom had been bullied–feel safer at school.
Many parents were unaware of the Howard County Public School System’s policy 1060, which deals with bullying, cyberbullying, harassment or intimidation. It sets a framework for students, parents, teachers and administrators to deal with bullying.
Anyone who is a victim of bullying or has witnessed an incident can fill out a harassment and intimidation form, also known as a “green form,” found on this page. The form serves two purposes: It forwards anonymous information to the state for the purpose of collecting data about where, when and what type of bullying is taking place. It also sets in motion a school investigation, aimed at resolving the issue.
After going through procedures and protocols, one parent asked, “If it was your child, how would you handle it?” Wilson said simply that she would make her presence known and equip herself with the tools offered by the school system.
Carmen Young, an Ellicott City resident, sat in the auditorium, taking notes and asking questions. Her daughter, she told Patch, had experienced bulling in elementary school. “The staff seems ignorant to bullying,” she said, exasperated. She said that her daughter was called a racial epithet and she told her teacher, but the boy denied it, and “that was it.
“Parents aren’t aware of policies and procedures,” she said.
Being involved is one of the most important ways a parent can help prevent bullying, Wilson said, whether it’s online or at school. She advised parents to support their children and let the kids know they are listening. She said if a parent finds out his or her child is a bully, the child needs to understand the behavior is unacceptable.
Wilson said that the same advice that parents give children in the real world applies online: “Don’t talk to strangers; don’t tell personal things about yourself; let me know who your friends are.”
Wilson stressed that parents should not assume bullying doesn’t happen in Howard County. “No matter what grade level you’re in, no matter what race or gender, everyone is affected by bullying,” she said.
Online resources for dealing with bullying: