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Bullying is not OK

Rosie Allen Ryan
For the Salisbury Post
Teachers, parents and concerned citizens are talking about it. The news media covers it almost daily. Even elected officials are weighing in. Bullying has become a topic of everyday conversation, and everyone wants to know what can be done to stop it.
Bullying is not a normal part of growing up. All children involved in bullying ó the bully, the child who is bullied, and the witnesses ó are affected. Bullying creates an environment where children donít feel safe and interferes with childrenís healthy development.
Children need safe, stable, nurturing environments to thrive. Just like when we build a house, childrenís brains develop in a sequential manner with each phase building on another. Positive, nurturing experiences build a strong foundation for future growth and development. Negative experiences such as bullying can derail development and cause short and long term harm for everyone involved.
Chronic bullying causes a toxic stress reaction in the child who is bullied, releasing harmful chemicals into the childís brain and body. This results in negative short and long term social, emotional and mental health consequences. Victims are at a higher risk for poor health, depression, anxiety and thoughts of suicide that persist into adulthood. Bullies themselves are more likely to adopt risky social and health behaviors such as drinking, overeating, smoking and sexual promiscuity at an early age. They are more likely to get into fights, vandalize property and have criminal convictions as adults. Even children who witness bullying are more likely to adopt risky social and health behaviors at an early age and suffer long term health problems, depression and anxiety.
We know bullying is less likely to occur when people speak out and work to prevent it. We also know when children have supportive relationships with the adults in their lives they are more likely to turn to those adults for help dealing with bullying.
Parents play a critical role in helping children handle bullying. They must let their children know they support them and are there to help them deal with the situation. One of the best ways to do this is to take time on a daily basis to talk to children and listen to what they have to say. This creates a nurturing, supportive home environment where parents and children can team up to deal with any bullying situation ó when the child is bullied, when the child witnesses bullying, or when the child is bullying others.
We all have a role in supporting the families in our community and ensuring childrenís well-being. Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina has created an online resource center to help communities work together to stand up to bullying. The resource center offers free tools, tips and information for parents, educators, teens and children. I encourage you to visit our website at www.prevent childabusenc.org to learn more and share the information with parents in your community. By working together we can empower children to stand up to bullying and build strong, successful communities where all children thrive.

Rosie Allen Ryan is the president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina.

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