Saturday, June 23, 2018
Health

Expert on bullying offers advice for families Thursday in Tampa

Thanks to Facebook, Twitter and cell phones that double as video cameras, there's more undisputed evidence of adolescent bullying than ever before. Disturbing footage of kids being beaten up on school buses and sidewalks and vicious written attacks are routinely posted online or sent via texts. All of it goes viral—distributed to untold numbers of people—in minutes, virtually impossible to fully retract or erase.

In the past two years, two Pasco County students committed suicide and one tried to following apparent bullying. The Zephyrhills teen who survived requires constant medical care.

Judy Freedman became involved in bullying prevention more than two decades ago as a social worker in suburban Chicago elementary schools. She found that students' top concern was being teased. She also learned how easily teasing leads to bullying.

"Kids don't realize the power and impact of their words," said Freedman, a lecturer and bullying prevention specialist. "I spoke at a school once where an 8th grader hanged himself. At the funeral his classmates wrote on his coffin, 'I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings.' "

Freedman, author of Easing the Teasing—Helping Your Child Cope with Name-Calling, Ridicule, and Verbal Bullying, is in the Tampa Bay area presenting two programs, one Thursday for the public in Tampa, and the other Friday in Wesley Chapel solely for educators. She spoke with the Times earlier this week from her home near Chicago.

Bullying and teasing have been around for a long time. Why all the attention now?

Because it's being exposed. Social media has really helped put the focus on it. Plus, it provides a whole new arena for bullying. Adolescents have an overwhelming need to be accepted, especially at school, but now also on Facebook. So it offers new opportunities to exclude kids and to spread rumors. And with some forms of social media it can be done anonymously. The real danger is that it may start out small in the school yard, but once on social media it becomes global and can have dire consequences. Bullying is now 24-7; home is no longer a safe haven for kids with online and texted social cruelties.

Why is it important to understand the definition of bullying?

If a child has been involved in name calling or an incident of teasing, you don't want to label him a bully. Bullying is a power imbalance. The bully is usually bigger, older, smarter, or stronger socially. It's abusive, threatening, persistent and repeated over time. It usually escalates. It can be physical, it can be verbal, it can be exclusion. It is deliberate and is done with the intention to harm. Conflict is not bullying. Being rude is not bullying.

Tell us about your book.

I'm the accidental author. I developed a program to help elementary school children cope with teasing. That led to a newspaper article which led to a spiral bound guide of everything I had been doing to that point. That got the attention of someone in publishing and the book came out in 2002. It's in its tenth printing and has been translated into Portuguese and Chinese. Teasing and bullying are universal problems.

What's your advice for children?

I teach 10 strategies to children to empower them to handle teasing when an adult isn't around. Rather than lashing out or feeling bad about themselves, if they are being teased about being short for example, agree with the teaser. "You're right. I am the shortest kid in my grade.'' If the teasing persists after the suggested strategies are used, the tenth strategy is to ask an adult for help. They need to report what is going on. It isn't tattling.

Kids who hear or see bullying or hurtful teasing can speak out, offer support to the victim or tell an adult. I've never seen bullying stop without adult or peer bystander intervention.

What should parents do?

If your child talks about it, praise him or her for bringing it up. If you suspect it's going on, talk with teachers, counselors, social workers, principals. Ask whether they've seen a change in your child. Don't stop trying to get help. Teach kids that once they post or text something about someone, you can't take it back. And teach your kids about having empathy for others. Give your children a moral compass, teach them what's right and what's wrong behavior.

Comments
ScART program empowers people to explore their scars and express their feelings through art

ScART program empowers people to explore their scars and express their feelings through art

ST. PETERSBURGShyly, 8-year-old Annabelle Brassfield climbed atop a stool in front of a blank easel, grabbed a brush she named Scarlet and prepared to paint her scars. After three open heart surgeries for a severe congenital heart defect, she’s left ...
Published: 06/22/18
Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

Enjoy Israeli Couscous, Swiss Chard and Peppers warm or at room temperature

By Katie WorkmanIsraeli or Mediterranean couscous are tiny balls of toasted semolina pasta that plump up when cooked into toothsome, slightly less tiny balls of pasta. They make a great base for a side or salad. You can make the couscous according to...
Published: 06/22/18
‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

‘BE AWARE’: Pasco mom posts to Facebook after son’s caterpillar sting leads to ER trip

ZEPHYRHILLS — The Pergolas’ Saturday morning volunteer work started like most, at a farm cleaning the property and trimming trees. Andrea Pergola, 38, stood on the driveway of the property when she heard her 15-year-old son Logan scream. At first, sh...
Published: 06/20/18
Moffitt receives $1 million donation from Richard Gonzmart

Moffitt receives $1 million donation from Richard Gonzmart

TAMPA — Runners gathered for the Gonzmart’s Father’s Day Walk and Jog where they raise money to help aid in Moffitt Cancer Center’s fight against prostate cancer. This year the event raised $110,000, but Moffitt had another surprise in store.Andrea G...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

GENEVA — Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health Organization says they now should be on guard for a danger in the real world: spending too much time playing. In its latest revision to a disease class...
Published: 06/19/18
Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

Funded by Alcohol Industry, Federal Study on Drinking Is Shut Down

The extensive government trial was intended to settle an age-old question about alcohol and diet: Does a daily cocktail or beer really protect against heart attacks and stroke?To find out, the National Institutes of Health gave scientists $100 millio...
Published: 06/16/18
More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults take prescription drugs that may increase risk of depression, study says

More than a third of American adults are taking prescription drugs, including hormones for contraception, blood pressure medications and medicines for heartburn, that carry a potential risk of depression, according to a study published in the Journal...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

It’s time to use the stingray shuffle to avoid a nasty sting

Courtney Bilyeu was running toward the murky water alongside a few military officers when it happened.She was an accountant for the U.S. Navy at the time. And on her way to take a swim with some coworkers in a California beach, she saw blood. The wat...
Published: 06/12/18
It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

It’s important to wear sunglasses even on cloudy days, ophthalmologists say

The next time you head to the drugstore to buy sunscreen, don’t forget to pick up some sunglasses, too. That’s because both products work to protect your body from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays.Wearing sunglasses for protection should not be re...
Published: 06/09/18
In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

In St. Pete, kidney patients gather for science and solidarity

ST. PETERSBURG — Kidney disease doesn’t discriminate.The crowd of more than 200 patients who gathered at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort range in age from teenagers to seniors. They are of different ethnicities and come from all over the...
Published: 06/08/18