You’ve heard the horror stories of children being bullied in school, in cyberspace, on the playground.
Sometimes bullying can even lead to suicide as shown in the documentary film “Bully,” which was released earlier this year.
The stats are alarming: nearly one-third of all school-aged children are bullied each year – upwards of 13 million students, according to PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center. October marks the seventh anniversary of the center’s National Bullying Prevention Month.
The message: The End of Bullying Begins with Me.
As the founder and director of Camp Pocono Trails Weight Loss Camp, I can tell you firsthand what children go through. Most of my campers are bullied and experience a lack of self-esteem and confidence while at home. Some are even scared to attend school for fear of encountering a bully.
But parents should not feel helpless. There are things they can do to help their kids.
Get kids physically and emotionally fit
It’s not enough to tell children, ‘You’re beautiful. You’re great.’ Teach them that they have to do some work to earn that praise. I believe that kids who are physically fit are not going to get picked on as often as out of shape kids. Children who play a sport are less likely to be bullied. Sign them up for a sport at an early age. It’s the kids who go to school and directly home where they sit in front of the computer for hours who are more vulnerable. If your child is overweight, there is a good chance he is going to be bullied. Get him out of the house and involved in some sort of physical activity. Not only will your child become healthier, but it will also put him in a structured environment where they will interact with other kids.
Teach kids to stand up for themselves
By that, I don’t mean teach them how to throw punches. Parents should tell their children to report bullying to a teacher, coach or someone in authority. Administrators are more likely to take a child’s word than a parents. Generally, when parents try to explain what’s happening to their child, a lot gets lost in translation and many administrators feel parents exaggerate situations. This is a great lesson for kids to learn how to speak up and think and act for themselves. If they don’t, the bullying will continue.
Get involved if the situation does not improve, and follow up to make sure it is being addressed adequately. If it is not, don’t hesitate to get aggressive – contact the local newspaper, hire an attorney, go to the police. Too many parents are intimidated by administrators.
Talk to your kids
Warn them about bullies just as you would sexual predators. And pay attention. If you see a bruise on your child or he is acting strange, ask him about it. A lot of bullied children become introverted, which is why you need to establish good communication at an early age. You want your child to feel comfortable talking to you about what is going on.
Bullying is when someone is demeaning your child on a consistent basis. If it happens at least three or four times, you have an issue. Kids tease each other. That’s part of their mentality. Usually children don’t complain unless it’s severe and happening regularly.
Monitor your child on social media sites
A lot of kids will say, ‘This is an invasion of my privacy,’ but you should be monitoring their social media sites. Parents need to understand and learn about the subculture surrounding Facebook. I see everything my son posts on his page. You have to be able to follow the conversations kids are having with each other. If you see your child being bullied online, remove the bully from her friend list and ask her questions: ‘What is happening here? Why are you letting this person talk to you like this?’
Not only can children become victims of cyber bullying, but they can also post something that could be detrimental to them down the road.
Build your child’s self-esteem
We have a class at our camp called “Be Your Best,” which is about feeling good about yourself, not letting people mistreat you or put you down. It’s all about building self-esteem. We see a lot of campers who lack confidence. They suffer in silence. Our job is to get them to feel good enough about themselves so they will speak up.
Resources for parents
About Tony Sparber
Tony Sparber is the founder/owner of two New Image Camps: Camp Pocono Trails, PA and Camp Vanguard, FL. New Image Camps are designed to provide the most comprehensive summer weight-loss program for pre-teens and teenagers in the country.
Camp Pocono Trails has been featured on two MTV documentaries, “Fat Camp” and “Return to Fat Camp,” as well as on Ruby, Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, The Today Show, and in the pages of People Magazine, and The New York Times, among others. For additional information call 1-800-365-0556 or visit newimagecamp.com.