Gretchen Beaman
Bullying Survivor
Female | Rockford, IL   United States
Bullying is prevalent because we’re more socially connected
Bullying Type: Physical / Emotional
Posted By: KnowYou
9/30/13 2:40 AM
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Gretchen Beaman took to the streets to protest bullying because her child was targeted at school.

Her daughter, Alannah, 9, has a stutter and was teased — even pushed to the ground — by other children. Beaman worked with school officials to find a solution.

Unsatisfied with their response, she picketed a Rockford School Board meeting with other parents this year to promote an anti-bullying message. She understood that bullying existed, but she was surprised when it reached her child.

“She didn’t start school with a stutter,” Beaman said. “Kindergarten and first grade, she was fine. To have that stutter develop, it definitely changed the way that kids saw her, even though they had been her friends for two years previous. They started picking her out as a target just because she had something different.

“My child doesn’t let that get in the way. She’s still a very outgoing, vocal child, and it was just sad to see the kids putting her down for that.”

Alannah’s in private school and doing better. Her stress and anxiety levels are reduced, which makes the stutter better, Beaman said.

But lots of other parents reached out to Beaman with similar tales when she went public with her story.

Worsening effects
Experts believe we hear about bullying more and that bullying may be more prevalent because we’re more socially connected than ever.

“Children might have been bullied at school or on the way to and from home in the past, but then they went home,” said Sherry Falsetti, a professor and director of the division of health policy and social science research at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford.

“They felt safe at home, they got a break from it. They felt safe on the weekends. Now bullying can be 24/7 with social media. ... So I think we’re seeing even worsening effects because there’s no safe place for them.”

Technology evolves so quickly that parents and school officials can’t keep up with smartphone applications and websites involved with bullying. The New York Times published a story this month about the increasing use of texting and photo-sharing apps in the wake of a 12-year-old Florida girl’s suicide after being cyberbullied.

Falsetti also noted that social media blurs the lines of responsibility for taking action against bullying.
“Things happen at school, and of course people say it’s the school’s and the parents’ responsibility. Really, it’s everyone’s responsibility,” Falsetti said.

Research shows that 70 percent of middle- and high-school students have been bullied at some point. The American Psychological Association defines bullying as “a form of aggressive behavior in which someone intentionally and repeatedly causes another person injury or discomfort.”

Bullying can involve physical contact, words or more subtle actions, the group says.

One of many reasons bullying is difficult to deal with in schools is that it happens where teachers might not be: in the bathroom, on playgrounds, at the back of a school bus.

That’s even truer with cyberbullying.

Children who are most often bullied are seen as different and vulnerable. Falsetti said people forget that gifted children are also often targets for bullies.

Schools are responding better to bullying, but that’s only been within the past few years, said Carmella Wold, an intensive outpatient counselor at the Rosecrance Berry Campus in Rockford.

“A lot of schools are now noticing these behaviors, but it had been up to the client and counselors, therapists and school social workers to recognize that these behaviors were going on and causing traumatic stress for students,” she said.

Principals getting involved with anti-bullying programming can lead to an all-school approach to the problem.

“Students realize that they can trust the adults in their world,” said Tom Butler, coordinator of Aspen Counseling & Consulting, an affiliate of Rosecrance Health Network. “If it’s an ongoing concern, students feel like they have a chance if (bullying) begins to happen, they can go somewhere where they can get the help they need.”

Setting parameters
Falsetti said parents need to be vigilant about monitoring their children’s Internet and phone use.

“We’re not going to let our children walk down an alley alone at night, so we shouldn’t let them be on the Internet or texting at night,” Falsetti said. “It’s good to set parameters. Tell them to set the phone in a public place at night. Take the phone to make sure bullying isn’t happening at night. Not because you don’t trust your child, but for your child’s protection.

“I always tell parents and kids that you shouldn’t be saying anything your parents don’t want to read. The other part is that kids don’t get that these things can follow them into the future.”

Signs that children are being bullied include depression, anxiety, loss of appetite, crying and not wanting to go to school.

Falsetti discourages parents from saying things like “suck it up” or “let it go” in response to bullying. It’s more beneficial to have an open-ended conversation to figure out what’s happening.

If the bullying is happening at school, get school officials involved in reaching a solution. If it’s happening online, close down Facebook and other sites.

“It’s hard to keep bullying if you never respond to them,” Falsetti said.

Help children learn to be more assertive by saying things like “I don’t like it when you talk to me like that.” And encourage them and their friends to report bullying to teachers, administrators or other parents when they see or experience it.

If children are exposed to aggressive behavior at home, they may be more likely to bully at school. That reinforces the need for parents to be positive role models for their children.

“Talk about the bullying, that it isn’t OK, and emphasize how it makes the other child feel,” Falsetti said. “It’s important to talk to kids about bullying and that it isn’t a good way of dealing with problems.”

Falsetti said research doesn’t support the myth that bullies are always bullied, that they have no friends or have low self-esteem. Bullies, especially in middle school, are perceived by their classmates as popular.

That’s why it’s important to empower children who aren’t being bullied to stand up against it.
Beaman’s daughter is a good role model in that respect.

“She’s a kid who stands up for other kids, and it’s amazing to me that a child who was being bullied was standing up to the bullies. I’m very proud of her.”

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Posted By: LookAtME123 | 9/30/13 2:54 PM
Being so connected enables people act their best, but (unfortunately) it seems to make people act at their worst statistically.
Posted By: MyEyesPurplehaze | 10/01/13 1:49 PM
True... social media seems to bring out the worst nastiness in people, it's sad.
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Name: Gretchen Beaman
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