The Lakeland, Fla., suicide of 12-year-old cyberbullying victim Rebecca Sedwick has touched a nerve all across the country -- causing outrage and sadness that bullying to the extreme can lead to someone so young taking their own life.
"It's incredibly painful whenever kids are hurting each other or kids are hurting," says Russell Shaw, Head of School at Georgetown Day School in Washington.
Georgetown Day School was recognized recently for its emphasis on fostering empathy among its students.
"I think there's some very important things for parents and schools to do," Mr. Shaw suggests in an interview with FOX 5 News on Thursday. "First of all, we need to stay connected to our kids. And we need to stay connected to our kids in particularly anonymous spaces."
Like the ever-alluring internet -- where cyberbullying has become almost an epidemic.
"Kids are breathing this social media world all of the time," Shaw says. "Even if your child doesn't have online access, they can be on somebody's iPhone in the bus line: sending text messages, going on Facebook, etc. And so it is not a world that we can entirely shield them from. And so it's incumbent on us to give them the tools to engage in this world in a healthy way."
Be your child the bullied or the bullier.
"So our job is not to completely smooth out all of the bumps," says Mr. Shaw. "But our job is also not to allow the bumps to become so treacherous that kids end up getting hurt."
According to a variety of health experts, these are five signs your child may be the victim of cyberbullying:
- He or she is skipping (or unwilling to attend) school
- Feeling sick or faking illness
- Having difficulty sleeping
- Is avoiding social situations
- Engaging in self-destructive behaviors (including talking about suicide)
Educator Shaw says kids doing the bullying are often raised in homes where the parents may say "be nice" but are themselves unkind people.
"Probably the most important thing that we can do," he says, "is model for our kids the way we want them to engage in the world. And if that's in a thoughtful, empathic and kind way, well that's how they're going to go out and engage in the world."
Experts on bullying suggest you visit the following websites to learn more:
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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