Bullying has gone from fists to fingers, counselor says

Bullies used to use their fists to hurt others. Today they most often use their fingers.

How to recognize the newest form of bullying and what to do about it was the topic of three seminars sponsored by the Enterprise City Schools Sept. 23.

Bullying can be verbal, physical or social, Laurel Oaks Behavioral Health Center Counselor Brent Cosby told students at Dauphin Junior High School and Coppinville Junior High School and later that evening, parents and community members at programs hosted by school Parental Involvement Specialist Destiny Hudson.

Cosby called cyber bullying the newest and fastest growing form of bullying, and defined it as “the willful and repeated harm inflicted on others through use of electronic devices on the Internet and social media sites,” to include Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and gaming networks. “You should hear some of the language used on those gaming networks,” he told adults attending the evening seminar.

Whereas “traditional bullying is right up in your face,” Cosby said, cyber bullying can be anonymous. “You can’t get away from cyber bullying as long as you’ve got a phone, you’ve got a computer —and you can turn them on.”

Cosby said more than 33 percent of the teachers surveyed said social networking websites have disrupted their school’s learning environment. “About 95 percent of all the garbage that happens at school happens between the hours of 3 p.m. and 8 a.m.” Cosby said. “All that garbage gets stirred up and then they bring it to school where they physically do something about it.”

One in four sixth graders have become friends with a stranger online, Cosby said. One in 10 have attempted to meet an online “friend” face to face. “That should scare you,” he said.

“My message to people is stop putting all your personal information online,” Cosby stressed. “Even those innocent photos that they are posting online can be viewed by that ‘creeper’.”

Twenty six percent of students surveyed admitted to having fake personal websites for their parents to look at and 87 percent of those between the ages of 12 and 17 say they use the Internet daily.

“Our kids are communicating in ways we don’t understand, “ Cosby said, suggesting a visit to websites such as www.netlingo.com to find a glossary of the acronyms being used in electronic communication.

Of the teenagers using social media surveyed, Cosby said, 95 percent have witnessed bullying through name calling in chat rooms or the posting of demeaning photos and 75 percent have visited a website bashing another student.

Ninety percent of middle schoolers surveyed reported that their feeling have been hurt through cyber bullying and 40 percent report having had their passwords stolen and changed by a bully.

Warning signs that a young person is being bullied include declining grades in school, withdrawal from friends, increasing complaints about physical aliments and nightmares.

Cosby said 52 percent of students don’t report bullying because they are concerned about retaliation and 61 percent of teens think they can handle it on their own.

In the end, Cosby said, his message to people of all ages is that people are going to say things about you and call you names. “It’s not what people call you, It’s what you answer to,” he said. “You can’t make me feel bad without my permission.”