This is a sad case of another young life wasted because of the mean and cruel acts of others, so I feel the need to reflect for a moment on the topic of bullying. Many of you may not know that In addition to all I do as a licensed mental health professional and as a person in the media, I’ve also been a school counselor for the last 17 years. So there is literally nothing that I haven’t dealt with in regards to kids, including bullying.
In the State of New Jersey, legislation was passed requiring public schools to follow new protocols with regard to harassment, intimidation and bullying. New Jersey schools now have the strictest anti-bullying laws in the nation. As someone in the center of all this, I can say that the schools play an important role in the identification, intervention and prevention of bullying.
In my experience over the years, the public schools have handled acts of harassment, intimidation and bullying in a swift, zero-tolerance manner. With smart-phones and computers now the weapons of choice for bullies, schools are confronted with an even greater challenge because the majority of bullying no longer occurs in the schoolyard playground; it occurs in the playground known as a bedroom, fully equipped with an assortment of toys like smart phones and computers for bullies to play with.
Just about all of the tragic stories we hear with regard to bullying suggest putting more pressure on schools to do more but I think the real solution to this problem lies elsewhere—at home. Parents will need to rethink how they allow their kids to use media and technology, such as smart phones, social networking sites and television content. Whenever I present to parent groups on the topic of media use among today’s kids, the first thing I tell parents is to immediately remove televisions and computers from their child’s bedroom and to reconsider the allowance of a “smart phone”. Schools will need to continue enforcing strict rules with regard to the use of electronic devices during school hours.