Her daughter and another child were being bullied. So, she organized with other parents and planned community meetings for parents and students to talk about what was happening. She organized meetings for the public to raise awareness and talked with the school board about steps to take to prevent bullying.
Jacqui Knight, of Moore, Okla., is a mom who got involved when her child was being bullied.
“We just had to say, enough is enough,” Knight said.
About one-third of children experience bullying each year, according to the White House, and it can lead to academic failure, absence from school, drug and alcohol abuse, health problems and even suicide. Now, after a recent string of suicides related to bullying, there are numerous private, nonprofit and federal commitments to stop bullying.
At the White House’s first Conference on Bullying Prevention on March 10, President Barack Obama and the first lady called on other parents to follow in Knight’s footsteps, because parents are responsible for knowing what is going on in their kids’ lives.
“We don’t always know, because they don’t always tell us every little detail,” said first lady Michelle Obama. “We need to get involved in their schools and in their activities so that we know what they’re up to, both in and out of school. And when something is wrong, we need to speak up, and we need to take action.”
This is especially important because now, “bullying doesn’t even end at the school bell – it can follow our children from the hallways to their cell phones to their computer screens,” said President Barack Obama.
“You can be bullied at school, at home, on the way home,” said Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. “Those who are bullied at school are bullied online, and those who bully at school, bully online.”
But, while parents can’t necessarily go to school with their children, they can use the same technology as them.
“If your child is on Facebook, you need to be on Facebook,” Patchin said.
To help prevent bullying, Facebook will launch a new “social reporting” system in the next few weeks that will let people report content that violates Facebook policies and notify parents and teachers about it, so they can address why it was posted.
However, that does not mean that cyberbullying is easier to detect.
Less than 15 percent of those who experience cyberbullying report it, many times because they don’t want their technology taken away or don’t want anyone to get in trouble, Patchin said. “They just want the bullying to stop.”
There are times when parents can actually play a role in bullying, particularly with LGBT individuals, if they don’t support their sexual orientation, said some participants during a discussion group at the conference.
Now, many groups are launching initiatives to help stop bullying and giving resources to parents to help prevent it.
The National PTA is starting a campaign called “Connect for Respect.” The goal is to have PTAs nationwide hold a “Connect for Respect” event in their community to share resources with parents about bullying. Tip sheets will be issued with information for parents about how to talk to their child about bullying and know if their child is a bully.
The PTA will also re-launch PTA.org/bullying to consolidate these resources.
The federal government is also taking steps, and launched Stopbullying.gov, a site with information for parents, kids and educators about bullying.
Bullying is not “just a harmless rite of passage,” Obama said. “Bullying can have destructive consequences for our young people,” he said. “And it’s not something we have to accept.”