BULLYING has been receiving a lot of attention in the media lately. It’s become almost commonplace to hear about frustrated parents who take matters into their own hands to defend their children against bullies or, sadly, the heartbreaking stories of suicides committed by young people who were bullied and pushed too much and too far.
In addition to the extreme of suicide, there are many other problems associated with bullying that affect both the bully and the bullied. Along with the embarrassment of being bullied, young people who are the targets of bullying may also face: depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, higher rates of substance abuse, eating disorders, fear, loneliness, academic struggles, insomnia, headaches, stomach ailments, and other health problems. Without help, many of these problems can worsen and even continue into adulthood.
Children who are bullies frequently struggle with significant problems of their own. Studies have shown that bullies often don’t do well in school, may come from a troubled home life, and are more likely to be involved in violent or delinquent behavior. Without intervention this pattern of behavior also may continue into adulthood. In this issue of Alert we hope to raise awareness of bullying and its potential side effects and consequences. We are including information about preventing this behavior, as well as what to do when it occurs.
As fellow students, educators, and parents, we must all take a stand against bullying and make it known that this behavior is not acceptable. Along with bullying, other topics we are covering in this issue include: “smart” drugs, underage binge drinking, and marijuana.
As always we want to say thank you to our readers. We greatly appreciate your involvement, your contributions, and your support. As we work together we will continue to make a difference!
Prescription drugs intended to treat problems such as narcolepsy, ADD (attention deficit disorder), and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder) are being abused on college campuses and in high schools nationwide.
These so-called “smart drugs” or “study drugs” are commonly abused by students as a way to help them get an edge in their schoolwork and increase their academic achievement. Somewhat less frequently, they are also being abused as a way to get high. Adderall, Dexedrine, Ritalin, and Concerta are four of the primary “study drugs”. Adderall is typically the most widely used and abused. Slang terms or street names for these drugs may include: “Addy”, “Amps”, “Bennies”,
“Vitamin R”, “Dex”, “Dexies”, “Roses”, “Kiddie Cocaine”, “Uppers”, “Smarties”, “Kibbles and Bits”, “West Coast”, “Pineapple”, and “Skippy”. These prescription stimulants are classified as Schedule II substances (putting them in same category as morphine and cocaine) and are in or related to the amphetamine family of drugs. When used as prescribed
they are legal. However, selling these drugs, giving them away, or using them without a prescription is not legal and could be considered a felony. Surveys show that as many as ten percent of students have tried these drugs at least once without a prescription. These drugs are usually swallowed in their pill or capsule form.
They may also be snorted or injected—methods which increase their danger. Users of “smart drugs” report a noticeable improvement in their concentration and ability to study. The effects can feel like an increase in alertness, attention, and energy along with a sense of euphoria. They might take the drugs to get extra motivation for completing large projects, to help them study for long hours without getting fatigued, or to cram for tests. Taking a brain-boosting drug that helps concentration and academic performance may sound harmless on the surface. It might even seem like a good idea. But the abuse of prescription drugs is risky and can be deadly. Parents and teens need to understand that when prescribed medications are used to get high or for purposes other than what they are intended, they are every bit as dangerous as “street drugs.” And when prescribed drugs are used by or distributed to individuals without prescriptions, they are every bit as illegal. Prescription drugs come with risks and side effects—even when they are used as prescribed for legitimate medical purposes. Hundreds and possibly thousands of deaths have been attributed to the “study drugs”, which have been linked to increases in heart failure and lethal seizures. Other complications and side effects of stimulant abuse include: increased blood pressure and heart rate, constricted blood vessels, heart problems, vision problems, and increased blood glucose. Additionally, taking high doses of a stimulant may result in dangerously high body temperatures and cardiovascular complications. Stimulants can be addictive in that individuals begin to use them compulsively. Taking high doses repeatedly over a short time can lead to feelings of hostility or paranoia. There is also the risk of severe psychological addiction and psychotic episodes (including hallucinations and violent or suicidal thoughts or compulsions).
Abusers who inject the drug risk further complications because insoluble fillers in some tablets can block small blood vessels. They also place themselves at risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis B and C, and other blood-borne viruses.
Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know!
Talking to Your Kids—Communicating the Risks
Why do young people use marijuana? Children and teens start using marijuana for many reasons. Curiosity and the desire to fit into a social group are common ones. Some have a network of friends who use drugs and urge them to do the same (peer pressure). Those who have already begun to smoke cigarettes and use alcohol are at heightened risk for marijuana use as well. And children and teens who have untreated mental disorders (e.g., ADHD, conduct disorder, anxiety) or who were physically or sexually abused are at heightened risk of using marijuana and other drugs at an early age. For some, drug use begins as a means of coping—to deal with anxiety, anger,depression, boredom, and so forth. But in fact, being high can be a way of simply avoiding the problems and challenges of growing up. Research also suggests that family members’ use of alcohol and drugs plays a strong role in whether children/teens start using drugs—making parents, grandparents, and older brothers and sisters models for children to follow. So indeed, all aspects of a teen’s environment home, school, neighborhood can help determine whether they will try drugs. How can I prevent my child from using marijuana? There is no magic bullet for preventing teen drug use. But research indicates that parents have a big influence on their teens, even when it doesn’t show! So talk openly with your children and stay actively engaged in their lives. To help you get started, below are some brief summaries of marijuana research findings that you can share with your kids to help them sort out fact from myth, and to make the best decisions they can based on the current evidence. These were chosen because they reflect the questions and comments that we receive from teens every day on our teen Website and blog—what teens care about.
Following this brief summary of research highlights, FAQs and additional resources are provided to equip you with even more information.
DID YOU KNOW…
Marijuana is addictive. Repeated marijuana use can lead to addiction which means that people often cannot stop when they want to, even though it undermines many aspects of their lives. Marijuana is estimated to produce addiction in approximately 9 percent, or roughly 1 in 11, of those who use it at least once. This rate increases to about 1 in 6, or 16 percent, for users who start in their teens, and 25-50 percent among daily users. Moreover, 4.3 million of the more than 7 million people who abused or were addicted to any illicit drug in 2009 were dependent on marijuana. And among youth receiving substance abuse treatment, marijuana accounts for the largest percentage of admissions: 63 percent among those 12-14, and 69 percent among those 15-17.
Marijuana is UNSAFE if you are behind the wheel. Marijuana compromises judgment and affects many other skills required for safe driving: alertness, concentration, coordination, and reaction time. Marijuana use makes it difficult to judge distances and react to signals and sounds on the road. Marijuana is the most commonly identified illicit drug in fatal accidents (~14 percent of drivers), sometimes in combination with alcohol or other drugs. In fact, even small amounts of alcohol, when combined with marijuana use, can be very dangerous—more so than either one alone.
Marijuana is associated with school failure. Marijuana’s negative effects on attention, motivation, memory, and learning can last for days and sometimes weeks after its immediate effects wear off—especially in chronic users.
Someone who smokes marijuana daily may be functioning at a reduced intellectual level most or all of the time.
Compared with their nonsmoking peers, students who smoke marijuana tend to get lower grades and are more likely to drop out of high school. Longterm marijuana users report decreased overall life satisfaction, including diminished mental and physical health, memory and relationship problems, lower salaries, and less career success.
High doses of marijuana can cause psychosis or panic during intoxication. Although scientists do not yet know whether the use of marijuana causes chronic mental illness, high doses can induce an acute psychosis (disturbed perceptions and thoughts, including paranoia) and/or panic attacks. In people who already have schizophrenia, marijuana use can worsen psychotic symptoms, and evidence to date suggests a link between early marijuana use and an increased risk of psychosis among those with a preexisting vulnerability for the disease.
Want to Know More ?
Some FAQs about Marijuana
Q. What is marijuana? Are there different kinds?
A. Marijuana is a green, brown, or gray mixture of dried, shredded leaves, stems, seeds, and flowers of the hemp plant (Cannabis sativa). Cannabis is a term that refers to marijuana and other drugs made from the same plant. Strong forms of cannabis include sinsemilla (sin-seh-me-yah), hashish (“hash” for short), and hash oil. There are many different slang terms for marijuana and, as with other drugs, they change quickly and vary from region to region. But no matter its form or label, all cannabis preparations are mind-altering (psychoactive) because they all contain THC(delta 9 tetrahydrocannabinol). They also contain more than 400 other chemicals.
Q. How is marijuana used?
A. Most users roll loose marijuana into a cigarette (called a joint or a nail) or smoke it in a pipe or a water pipe, sometimes referred to as a bong. Some users mix marijuana into foods, or use it to brew a tea. Another method is to slice open a cigar and replace the tobacco with marijuana, creating what is known as a blunt. Marijuana cigarettes or blunts sometimes are dipped in PCP or mixed with other substances, including crack cocaine.
Q. How many people use marijuana?
A. Before the 1960s, many Americans had never heard of marijuana, but today it is the most often used illegal drug in the United States. According to a 2009 national survey, more than 104 million Americans over the age of 12 had tried marijuana at least once, and almost 17 million had used the drug in the month before the survey. Researchers have found that the use of marijuana and other drugs usually peaks in the late teens and early twenties, and then declines in later years. Therefore, marijuana use among young people remains a natural concern for parents and the focus of continuing research, particularly regarding its impact on brain development, which continues into a person’s early twenties.
NIDA’s annual Monitoring the Future Survey reports that among students from 8th, 10th, and 12th grades, most measures of marijuana use have decreased over the past decade; however, this decline has stalled in recent years as attitudes have softened about marijuana’s risks. In 2009, 11.8 percent of 8th-graders reported marijuana use in the past year, and 6.5 percent were current (past-month) users. Among 10th-graders, 26.7 percent had used marijuana in the past year, and 15.9 percent were current users. Rates of use among 12th-graders were higher still: 32.8 percent had used marijuana during the year prior to the survey, and 20.6 percent (or about 1 in 5) were current users.
Q. How does marijuana work?
A. When marijuana is smoked, its effects are felt almost immediately. This is because THC (marijuana’s psychoactive
ingredient) rapidly reaches every organ in the body, including the brain. The effects of smoked marijuana can last from 1 to 3 hours. If consumed in foods, the effects come on slower and may not last as long.
Marijuana works through THC attaching to specific sites on nerve cells in the brain and in other parts of the body. These sites are called cannabinoid receptors (CBRs) since they were discovered by scientists trying to understand how marijuana, or cannabis, exerts its effects. THC is chemically similar to a class of chemicals that our body produces naturally, called endocannabinoids, and marijuana disrupts the normal function of this system. CBRs are found in brain areas that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, concentration, movement, coordination, appetite, pain, and sensory and time perception. Because of this system’s wide-ranging influence over many critical functions, it is not surprising that marijuana can have multiple effects—not just on the brain, but on a user’s general health as well. Some of these effects are related to acute intoxication while others may accumulate over time to cause more persistent problems, including addiction.
Q. What are marijuana’s short-term effects?
A. The following are some effects that marijuana use can produce:
• Euphoria (high). THC activates the reward system in the same way that nearly all drugs of abuse do: by stimulatingbrain cells to release the chemical dopamine.
• Memory impairment. THC alters how information is processed in the hippocampus, a brain area responsible for memory formation, causing problems with short-term memory as well as difficulty with complex tasks requiring sustained attention/concentration. Prolonged use could therefore affect learning skills and academic achievement.
• Increased appetite (“munchies”)
• Increased heart rate.
• Dilation (expansion) of the blood vessels in the eyes, making them look red or bloodshot.
• Adverse mental reactions in some. These include anxiety, fear, distrust, or panic, particularly in those who are new to the drug or who are taking it in a strange setting; and acute psychosis, which includes hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and loss of the sense of personal identity.
Q. What determines how marijuana affects an individual? How important is marijuana potency?
A. Like any other drug, marijuana’s effects on an individual depend on a number of factors, including the person’s previous experience with the drug (or other drugs), biology (e.g., genes), gender, how the drug is taken (smoked versus orally), and the drug’s potency. Potency—determined by the amount of THC contained in the marijuana—has received much attention lately because it has been increasing steadily. In 2009, THC concentrations in marijuana averaged close to 10 percent, compared to around 4 percent in the 1980s. This is based on analyses of marijuana samples confiscated by law enforcement agencies. So what does this actually mean? For a new user, it may mean exposure to higher concentrations of THC, with a greater chance of an adverse or unpredictable reaction. In fact, increases in potency may account for the rise in emergency department visits involving marijuana use. For experienced users, it may mean a greater risk for addiction if they are exposing themselves to high doses on a regular basis. However, the full range of consequences associated with marijuana’s higher potency is not well understood, nor is it known whether marijuana users adjust for the increase in potency by using less.
Q. Does using marijuana lead to other drug use?
A. Long-term studies of high school students’ patterns of drug use show that most young people who use other drugs have tried marijuana, alcohol, or tobacco first. That said, many young people who use marijuana do not go on to use other drugs. It is clear that more research is needed to determine who is at greatest risk. For example, the risk of young people using cocaine is much greater for those who have tried marijuana than for those who have not (though teen cocaine use is low overall). We also know from animal studies that when rats are exposed to cannabinoids their brain reward system becomes less sensitive, or responsive, to that drug, which means that they would need more of the drug to achieve the same effect. An important aspect of this effect is a phenomenon called cross-tolerance (the ability of one drug to reduce responsiveness to a different drug). This was only seen if the rats that were given cannabinoids were young (e.g., adolescent) at the time of exposure. Prompted by the results of this animal study, researchers are now examining the possibility that early exposure to marijuana (e.g., in adolescence) may induce changes in the brain that make a person more vulnerable to subsequent marijuana addiction or to the risk of becoming addicted to other drugs, such as alcohol, opioids, or cocaine. It is important to point out, however, that research has not fully explained any of these effects, which are complex and likely to involve a combination of biological, social, and psychological factors.
Q. Does smoking marijuana cause lung cancer?
A. We do not know yet. Studies have not found an increased risk of lung cancer in marijuana smokers, as compared with nonsmokers. However, marijuana smoke does irritate the lungs and increases the likelihood of other respiratory problems through exposure to carcinogens and other toxins. Repeated exposure to marijuana smoke can lead to daily cough and excess phlegm production, more frequent acute chest illnesses, and a greater risk of lung infections. Marijuana also affects the immune system, although the implications for cancer are unclear. Moreover, many people who smoke marijuana also smoke cigarettes, which do cause cancer and quitting tobacco can be harder if the person uses marijuana as well.
Q. Since marijuana is addictive, does it produce withdrawal symptoms when someone quits using it?
A. For many years, this was a subject of debate; but researchers have clearly characterized a set of symptoms that many long-term users experience when they stop using the drug. The symptoms are similar in type and severity to those of nicotine withdrawal— irritability, sleeping difficulties, anxiety, and craving—which often prompt relapse. Withdrawal symptoms peak a few days after use has stopped and dissipate within about 2 weeks. And while these symptoms do not pose an immediate threat to the health of the user, they can make it hard for someone to remain abstinent.
Q. Are there treatments for people addicted to marijuana?
A. Currently, no FDA-approved medications exist for treating marijuana addiction, although promising research is under way to find medications for treating withdrawal symptoms and alleviating craving and other subjective effects of marijuana. Behavioral therapies are available and are similar to those used for treating other substance addiction.
These include motivational enhancement to engage people in treatment; cognitive behavioral therapies to teach patients strategies for avoiding drug use and its triggers and for effectively managing stress; and motivational incentives, which provide vouchers or small cash rewards for sustained drug abstinence. Unfortunately, treatment success rates are rather modest, indicating that marijuana addiction, like other addictions, may need a chronic care approach that varies treatment intensity in line with the person’s changing needs over time.
Q. What are other risks related to marijuana that my child should be aware of?
A. Here are a few that you or your child may not have thought about: As with most drugs, marijuana use compromises judgment, which can mean a greater likelihood of engaging in risky behaviors and experiencing their negative consequences (e.g., acquiring a sexually transmitted disease, driving while intoxicated, or riding with someone else who is intoxicated and getting into a car crash). In addition to psychosis, chronic marijuana use has been associated with an array of psychological effects, including depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and personality disturbances. One of the most frequently cited is an “amotivational syndrome,” which describes a diminished or lost drive to engage in formerly rewarding activities. Whether this disorder occurs unto itself or is a subtype of depression associated with marijuana use remains controversial, as does the causal influence of marijuana. However, because of the endocannabinoid system’s role in regulating mood, these associations seem plausible. More research is needed to confirm and better understand these linkages. Marijuana use during pregnancy may adversely affect the fetus. Animal research suggests that the endocannabinoid system plays a role in the control of brain maturation, particularly the development of emotional responses. In humans, the data are less conclusive in part, because it is difficult to disentangle the drug-specific factors from the environmental ones. For example, pregnant women who use marijuana may also smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol, both of which can affect fetal development. Nevertheless, research suggests that babies born to women who used marijuana during their pregnancies may have subtle neurological alterations and, as children, can show diminished problem solving skills, memory, and attentive processes. Although, the extent to which these effects reflect marijuana use or other drugs is unclear.
Q. How can I tell if my child has been using marijuana?
A. Parents should be aware of changes in their child’s behavior, such as carelessness with grooming, mood changes, and deteriorating relationships with family members and friends. In addition, changes in academic performance, increased absenteeism or truancy, lost interest in sports or other favorite activities, and changes in eating or sleeping habits could all be related to drug use—or may indicate other problems.
How Dangerous is Meth to Teens?
Methamphetamine is an addictive stimulant drug that strongly activates certain systems in the brain. Methamphetamine is closely related chemically to amphetamine, but the central nervous system effects of methamphetamine are greater. Both drugs have some medical uses, primarily in the treatment of obesity, but their therapeutic use is limited. Street methamphetamine is referred to by many names, such as “speed,” “meth,” and “chalk.” Methamphetamine hydrochloride, clear chunky crystals resembling ice, which can be inhaled by smoking, is referred to as “ice,” “crystal,” and “glass.”
Neurological Hazards. Methamphetamine releases high levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates brain cells, enhancing mood and body movement. It also appears to have a neurotoxic effect, damaging brain cells that contain dopamine and serotonin, another neurotransmitter. Over time, methamphetamine appears to cause reduced levels of dopamine, which can result in symptoms like those of Parkinson’s disease, a severe movement disorder.
Addiction. Methamphetamine is taken orally or intranasally (snorting the powder), by intravenous injection, and by smoking. Immediately after smoking or intravenous injection, the methamphetamine user experiences an intense sensation, called a “rush” or “flash,” that lasts only a few minutes and is described as extremely pleasurable. Oral or intranasal use produces euphoria – a high, but not a rush. Users may become addicted quickly, and use it with increasing frequency and in increasing doses. Short-term effects. The central nervous system (CNS) actions that result from taking even small amounts of methamphetamine include increased wakefulness, increased physical activity, decreased appetite, increased respiration, hyperthermia, and euphoria. Other CNS effects include irritability, insomnia, confusion, tremors, convulsions, anxiety, paranoia, and aggressiveness. Hyperthermia and convulsions can result in death. Long-term effects. Methamphetamine causes increased heart rate and blood pressure and can cause irreversible damage to blood vessels in the brain, producing strokes. Other effects of methamphetamine include respiratory problems, irregular heartbeat, and extreme anorexia. Its use can result in cardiovascular collapse and death.
HOW DANGEROUS IS IT TO TEENS ?
While meth use in the U.S. has been declining, widespread media coverage about the drug often raises many questions and causes parents to worry about whether their children are exposed to or using this dangerous substance. Meth is a stimulant drug used for the euphoria it produces and for weight loss and increased libido. The down side of the high is addiction and a variety of toxic short- and long-term effects. One of the most serious and unpleasant side effects is “meth mouth,” where the users’ teeth rot from the inside out. Parents need to talk to their kids about meth and the reality of what it does to the body. Parents also need to know when their teen might be using meth. Some of the most common signs and symptoms are extremely dilated pupils, dry or bleeding nose and lips, chronic nasal or sinus problems and bad breath. Because meth is a stimulant, users also experience hyperactivity and irritability. This includes a lack of interest in sleep and food, leading to drastic weight loss or anorexia. It may also cause users to be aggressive, nervous, and engage in disconnected chatter. Some short-term effects are irritability, anxiety, insomnia, Parkinson like tremors, convulsions and paranoia. Longer-term effects can include increased heart rate and blood pressure, damage to blood vessels in the brain, stroke and even death. Psychotic symptoms can sometimes persist for months or years even after the user has stopped taking the drug. Meth use is declining among youth. The Monitoring the Future study shows that among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders, meth use has declined by 28, 47, and 51 percent respectively in the past three years. It is important to note that marijuana is still the single largest drug of abuse in this country — 15 million current or past month users compared to one million meth current or past month users. Meth is often in the news because of its dramatic effects and consequences. Illegal meth labs often explode, creating danger to communities through fires. Meth labs on public lands create dangers to hikers and tourists, and children of meth users are often abandoned or neglected and are flooding the social services systems in many areas. Meth is easily made with common ingredients and readily available household equipment, making it widely and inexpensively available.
Adult methamphetamine addicts often become so obsessed with the drug that they neglect their children. Twenty percent of the meth labs raided in 2002 had children present. In addition to general neglect, children living in meth labs face a variety of dangers including the usual meth lab hazards — fires, explosions and exposure to extremely toxic chemicals.
Bullying is a widespread and serious problem that can happen anywhere. It is not a phase children have to go through, it is not “just messing around”, and it is not something to grow out of. Bullying can cause serious and lasting harm. Bullying is when a person or group repeatedly tries to harm someone who is weaker or who they think is weaker. Sometimes it involves direct attacks such as hitting, name calling, teasing or taunting. Sometimes it is indirect, such as spreading rumors or trying to make others reject someone. Often people dismiss bullying among kids as a normal part of growing up. But bullying is harmful. It can lead children and teenagers to feel tense and afraid. It may lead them to avoid school. In severe cases, teens who are bullied may feel they need to take drastic measures or react violently. Others even consider suicide. For some, the effects of bullying last a lifetime.
Although definitions of bullying vary, most agree that bullying involves:
• Imbalance of Power. People who bully use their power to control or harm and the people being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves.
• Intent to Cause Harm. Actions done by accident are not bullying; the person bullying has a goal to cause harm.
• Repetition. Incidents of bullying happen to the same the person over and over by the same person or group.
Bullying can take many forms. Different types of bullying include: verbal (name-calling, teasing), social (spreading rumors, leaving people out on purpose, breaking up friendships), physical (hitting, punching, shoving), and cyberbullying (using the Internet, mobile phones or other digital technologies to harm others). An act of bullying may fit into more than one of these groups.
Recognizing the Warning Signs of Bullying
There are many warning signs that could indicate that someone is involved in bullying, either by bullying others or by being bullied. However, these warning signs may indicate other issues or problems, as well. If you are a parent or educator, learn more about talking to someone about bullying.
• Comes home with damaged or missing clothing or other belongings
• Reports losing items such as books, electronics, clothing, or jewelry
• Has unexplained injuries
• Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches, or feeling sick
• Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams
• Has changes in eating habits
• Hurts themselves
• Are very hungry after school from not eating their lunch
• Runs away from home
• Loses interest in visiting or talking with friends
• Is afraid of going to school or other activities with peers
• Loses interest in school work or be gins to do poorly in school
• Appears sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed when they come home
• Talks about suicide
• Feels helpless
• Often feels like they are not good enough • Blames themselves for their problems
• Suddenly has fewer friends
• Avoids certain places
• Acts differently than usual
• Becomes violent with others
• Gets into physical or verbal fights with others
• Gets sent to the principal’s office or detention a lot
• Has extra money or new belongings that cannot be expalind,
• Will not accept responsibility for their actions
• Has friends who bully others
• Needs to win or be best at everything
Know the Risk Factors Before Bullying Begins
There is no one single cause of bullying. Rather, individual, family, peer, school, and community factors can place someone at risk for being bullied or for bullying others. Even if a child has one or more of the risk factors, it does not mean that they will bully or will become bullied.
Who is At Risk for Being Bullied?
Generally, children, teens and young adults who are bullied:
• Do not get along well with others
• Are less popular than others
• Have few to no friends
• Do not conform to gender norms
• Have low self esteem
• Are depressed or anxious
Who is At Risk for Bullying Others?
Some people who at risk for bullying others are well-connected to their peers, have social power, and at least one of the following:
• Are overly concerned about their popularity
• Like to dominate or be in charge of others
Others at risk for bullying are more isolated from their peers and may have any of the following:
• Are depressed or anxious
• Have low self esteem
• Are less involved in school
• Have less parent involvement
• Think badly of others
• Are impulsive
• Are hot-headed and easily frustrated
• Have difficulty following rules
• View violence in a positive way
If you are being bullied or have seen others being bullied you may be wondering how you can get help. Nobody likes to be picked on. If you have been bullied, it may affect you in many ways. You may not want to go to school or may find it hard to do your homework. You may be losing sleep, eating more or less than usual, having headaches or stomachaches, or getting sick more often. Know that you don’t have to feel this way. There are resources that can help. Here are some things you can do to prevent, deal with, and stop bullying.
What to Do When You Are Being Bullied
The first priority is always your safety. Speak up against bullying. Say something like, “stop it.” Walk away. Act like you do not care, even if you really do. Do not let them get to you. If you walk away or ignore them, they will not get that satisfaction. Do not bully back. Do not bully anyone else. Stick together. Staying with a group of people you trust might help. Protect yourself. Sometimes you cannot walk away. If you are being physically hurt, protect yourself so that you can get away. Find a safe place. Go somewhere that you feel safe and secure like the library, a favorite teacher’s classroom, or the office. Do not blame yourself. It is easy to start questioning whether you are the problem but it is not your fault. Nobody should be bullied! Remember that no matter what someone says, you should not be ashamed of who you are or what you feel. Be proud of who you are. No matter what they say, there are wonderful things about you. Keep those in mind instead of the disrespectful messages you get from the people who are bullying you. Find opportunities to make new friends. Explore your interests and join school or community activities such as sports, drama, or art. Volunteer or participate in community service. Talk with someone you trust. You are not alone. Talking to someone could help you figure out the best ways to deal with the problem. In some cases, adults need to get involved for the bullying to stop. Do not let the bully win. Do not hurt yourself. Keep doing what you love to do. Reach out to family members and friends you trust to discuss the problem. Do not be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes it helps to just talk to someone who is not personally involved. Teachers, counselors, and others are there to help. Seeing a counselor or other professional does not mean there is something wrong with you. Talking to a counselor or health professional can help you get through the emotional effects of bullying. Policies and laws may apply to you. Federal, state and local law may also offer you protection if the bullying has risen to a certain level. Many schools, colleges, and places of work also have policies against bullying or other related behaviors. Reach out to representatives in your community to find out more about what assistance is available to you.
What to Do When Someone Else is Being Bullied
Have you seen bullying? Take a stand against it! Everyone has the right to feel safe in school and in their community.
If you see someone being bullied, know that you have the power to stop it. Try one (or more) of these ideas:
Take a stand and do not join in. Do not stand around watching someone being bullied. Set a good example. By standing up for someone who is being bullied, you are not just helping someone else; you are also helping yourself. It is important to help others when you can. If you feel safe, speak up and tell the bully to stop—and get others to do the same. Walk away. If you walk away and don’t join in, you have taken their audience and power away. Make it clear that you do not support what is going on. Give support. Talk to the person being bullied and tell them that you are there to help. Offer to either go with them to report the bullying or report it for them. You can also help the person who is being bullied by being their friend. Talk with them and spend time with them during lunch or after school.
Talk to someone you trust. Talking to someone could help you figure out the best ways to deal with the problem. Reach out to a parent, teacher or another adult that you trust to discuss the problem, especially if you feel like the person being bullied may be at risk of causing serious harm to themselves or others.
Has Someone Called You a Bully?
Think about what you are doing. You may feel pressured to bully others if your friends are doing it. You may think that you will no longer be popular or that you may be bullied yourself if you do not join in. Sometimes you may think that you are just joking around or joining in, but your words and actions may be hurting someone. Others could be hurt by your behavior. Take a step back and put yourself in their shoes. If someone did the same thing to you, would you be hurt? Remember that making others feel bad is wrong. If it seems like you are hurting them, STOP. Ask them how they feel.
Maybe they are afraid or too embarrassed to say something. Do not let your friends bully others. If your friends are bullying others, help them see how they are hurting others. Make it right. Apologize. Saying “I’m sorry” can go a long way. Resolve to do better. Although you cannot change what has happened, you can change how you treat others in the future. Know that everyone is different, but different does not mean better or worse. Try getting to know others who are not like you. You may find out, you are more alike than you think. Ask for help. Speak with friends or family members. They may have good ideas about what you can do to change how you treat others. Talk to a professional. Asking for help from a counselor or health professional may be helpful. Sometimes it is good to talk with someone who is not personally involved to help you find solutions.
People Who are Bullied
Bullying victims have higher risk of depression and anxiety, including the following symptoms, that may persist into adulthood:
• Increased feelings of sadness and loneliness.
• Changes in sleep and eating.
• Loss of interest in activities.
• Have increased thoughts about suicide that may persist into adulthood. In one study, adults who recalled being bullied in youth were 3 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or inclinations.
• Are more likely to have health complaints. In one study, being bullied was associated with physical health status 3 years later.
• Have decreased academic achievement (GPA and standardized test scores) and school participation.
• Are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
• Are more likely to retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.
People Who Bully Others:
• Have a higher risk of abusing alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults.
• Are more likely to get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school.
• Are more likely to engage in early sexual activity.
• Are more likely to have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults. In one study, 60% of boys who bullied others in middle school had a criminal conviction by age 24.
• Are more likely to be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses or children as adults.
People Who Witness Bullying:
• Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.
• Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
• Are more likely to miss or skip school.
Test Your Bullying Knowledge
FACT: People who bully have power over those they bully. People who bully others usually pick on those who have less social power (peer status), psychological power (know how to harm others), or physical power (size, strength). However, some people who bully also have been bullied by others. People who both bully and are bullied by others are at the highest risk for problems (such as depression and anxiety) and are more likely to become involved in risky or delinquent behavior.
MYTH: Only boys bully. People think that physical bullying by boys is the most common form of bullying. However, verbal, social, and physical bullying happens among both boys and girls, especially as they grow older.
MYTH: People who bully are insecure and have low self-esteem. Many people who bully are popular and have average or better-than-average self-esteem. They often take pride in their aggressive behavior and control over the people they bully. People who bully may be part of a group that thinks bullying is okay. Some people who bully may also have poor social skills and experience anxiety or depression. For them, bullying can be a way to gain social status.
MYTH: Bullying usually occurs when there are no other students around. Students see about four out of every five bullying incidents at school. In fact, when they witness bullying, they give the student who is bullying positive attention or even join in about three-quarters of the time. Although 9 out of 10 students say there is bullying in their schools, adults rarely see bullying, even if they are looking for it.
MYTH: Nothing can be done at schools to reduce bullying. School initiatives to prevent and stop bullying have reduced bullying by 15 to 50 percent. The most successful initiatives involve the entire school community of teachers, staff, parents, students, and community members.
Cyberbullying , instead of happening face-to-face, happens through the use of technology such as computers, cell phones and other electronic devices. Cyberbullying peaks around the end of middle school and the beginning of high school.
Examples of cyberbullying include:
• Sending hurtful, rude, or mean text messages to others
• Spreading rumors or lies about others by e-mail or on social networks
• Creating websites, videos or social media profiles that embarrass, humiliate, or make fun of others Bullying online is very differentfrom face-to-face bullying because messages and images can be:
• Sent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
• Shared be shared to a very wide audience
• Sent anonymously
What Kids , Teens and Young Adults Can Do
Be Smart Online and Texting
You can prevent cyberbullying by being careful of what you do: Always think about what you post or say. Do not share secrets, photos or anything that might be embarrassing to you or others. What seems funny or innocent at the time could be used against you. You do not have complete control over what others forward or post. Set privacy settings on your accounts. Make sure that you are only sharing information with people you know and trust. Pay attention to notices from social networks, because sometimes privacy settings change.
Make Cyberbullying Stop
If you or someone you know is being cyberbullied, know that it does not have to be this way. There things you can do to help you and your friends: Talk with someone you trust. Talking to someone could help you figure out the best ways to deal with the problem. Reach out to a family member, friend or another adult that you trust. Do not respond to cyberbullying. Sometimes people post or text teasing or name-calling to get a reaction. If someone has posted or sent a message that could be hurtful to others, refuse to pass it along or respond to it. Keep evidence of cyberbullying. Record the dates, times and descriptions of instances when cyberbullying has occurred. Save and print screenshots, e-mails, and text messages. Block the person who is cyberbullying you. Many websites and phone companies let you block people. Also, cyberbullying may violate the “Terms and Conditions” of these services. Consider contacting the service provider to file a complaint. Report the incident to your school. They may be able to help you resolve the cyberbullying or be watchful for face-to-face bullying. Ask for help. Sometimes, talking to a counselor or health professional can help you get through the emotional effects of bullying.
What Parents Can Do
Although it is difficult for you to monitor your children at all times, it is extremely important to pay close attention to possible cyberbullying incidents involving their children, especially if their kids are younger. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Exit Disclaimer gives parents control over what information websites can collect from kids.
What Schools Can Do
Schools play an important role in ensuring that activities of kids, teens and young adults are in a safe environment, in school or in cyberspace.
Binge Drinking May Cause Greater Lasting Damage to Teens
When most parents think of teen drinking, they unfortunately remember their own adolescent adventures with alcohol. They errantly conclude that it could not be that bad because they turned out alright. New scientific research is casting doubt on the appropriateness of teen drinking. However, each was impacted with a lasting handicap that can occur with only a few occurrence of binge drinking depending on intensity. Even teens that only binge drink occasionally may be impacted. However, the longer teens binge drink regularly, the greater the long term impact on neurological and emotional development and maturation. In her research, Dr. Susan Tapert of the University of California at San Diego established a long term baseline of teens starting in middle school that committed to not drinking. She then followed their mental development over a course of almost a decade. She then examined the mental development of teens engaged in binge drinking over the same period. The pre-test for this experiment had middle school students tested with a wide variety of analytical tools and all students at the beginning were non-drinkers. The alcohol had immediate impact on brains of the binge drinking teens, but also showed lasting impact compared to the non-drinking teens Teen binge drinking also poses a number of other dangers. Obviously, heavy drinking can lead people to engage in high-risk behaviors, and teenagers tend to be more likely than adults to take reckless risks. Scientists have also long been concerned that the still-developing teenage brain is more vulnerable to damage from alcohol than a fully mature adult brain. Findings suggest that discernment, or choice making and risk taking may be permanently impacted by binge drinking. The binge drinking teen may make dangerous choices long into adulthood. One of the key findings from Tapert’s study is that teenagers who began binge drinking (defined as having four to five alcoholic drinks per occasion, two or three times per month) wound up performing more poorly on intellectual tests as they got older. It is important to clarify that this was a prospective study, which confirms that the results did not occur because kids who drink heavily usually aren’t so bright to begin with. The study examined the students before they started drinking and the exact same kids scored about as well as their peers who didn’t go on to become binge drinkers. In other words, there’s a direct correlation between taking up binge drinking and declining intellectual performance. The difference in performance, according to Tapert, is about the equivalent of going from an “A to a B.” The researchers also looked at brain scans of some of the teens, and found that the heavy drinkers had blemishes that indicated damage to the brain’s white matter. White matter is one of two categories of brain tissue (the other is gray matter). The gray matter consists of nerve cell bodies, while the white matter is the wiring between the cells. White matter is vital for learning, which involves forging new connections between different parts of the brain, and unlike gray matter, it continues to develop well into middle age. If the white matter damage in teenage binge drinking is permanent, it could limit their capacity for learning in adulthood. Other statistics show us that binge drinking directly affect teen drinkers and their communities. NIAAA, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s Underage Drinking Research Initiative, suggest each year, approximately 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking; this includes about 1,900 deaths from motor vehicle crashes, 1,600 as a result of homicides, 300 from suicide, as well as hundreds from other injuries such as falls, burns, and drownings. Finally and perhaps most importantly, a survey of 43,000 U.S. adults, showed that early alcohol use, independent of other risk factors, may contribute to the risk of developing future alcohol problems. Those who began drinking in their early teens were at greater risk of developing alcohol dependence at some point in their lives, and they were also at greater risk of developing dependence more quickly and at younger ages. The findings were reported in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Volume 160, pages 739-746. We need to take a fresh look at teen binge drinking with these new scientific insights in hand. What was once considered as an acceptable behavior has been revealed as something quite different. Everyone used to smoke in the 1960’s, but we see and address smoking much differently today. It only took 50 years to achieve this new way of thinking about smoking. Let’s be courageous enough to clearly share that teen binge drinking is not acceptable. It is dangerous for our teens and our communities and may pose lasting damage to those teens who succumb to the ever present temptations.