With the first day of school less than a month a way, now is a great time to talk with kids about more than just school supplies and class schedules. If you are like me, you will probably touch on topics like keeping grades up, making good choices and completing homework on time. But you may want to add one more item to your list - bullying.
While we have no way of knowing if our kids will be targeted by bullies or not, statistics indicate that the chances are highly likely. In fact, research shows that more than half of all children are involved in bullying as a perpetrator, a target or both. And many children who are not directly involved are bystanders. The point here is that no child is immune to bullying. Some kids, especially girls, are even bullied by those they might consider friends.
In fact, people often assume that boys bully more than girls. But in reality, girls bully equally as often. Girls just use different methods. Boys tend to be more physical when they bully, hitting, kicking and shoving other kids. Meanwhile, girls tend to use subtler forms of bullying like gossiping, ostracizing and rumor spreading.
This type of bullying is called relational aggression, which harms another person's self-esteem, friendships or social standing. Relational aggression is sometimes referred to as the "mean girls phenomenon" and is most frequently associated with girls around 11, 12 or 13 years old.
In fact, I just read an article about two middle school girls who were arrested last month for setting up a fake Facebook page. The girls set up the page posing as another student. Then, they used the page for two months to bully her and ruin her reputation among other students.
Unfortunately, this type of incident happens all too often. So as you begin to prepare for back-to-school, you may want to have a few casual conversations with your kids about cyberbullying, sexting and other forms of bullying.
And if you have a young tween girl entering middle school this fall, check out How to Bully-Proof Your Middle School Daughter. You will find tips on how to help your daughter navigate the sometimes-unpredictable waters of middle school.Photo courtesy of iStockphoto