With the advent of technological advances such as text and instant messaging and e-mail, there are even more ways for bullies to inflict their behaviors on others -- which makes it more important than ever for parents and their children to learn how to cope with the situations should they be affected.
On Tuesday, Mental Health America of Putnam County will present "Bullyproofing Your Child," part of the organization's Education Series.
The session will take place at the Putnam County Museum, 1105 N. Jackson St., Greencastle, and will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
The program, which will be sponsored by the Putnam County Community Foundation, will feature a panel discussion with Dr. Bill Nunn, director of the Hamilton Center, Dan TeGrotenhuis, Tzouanakis Intermediate School principal, and Cloverdale Elementary School counselor Christy Schmekebier.
Nunn said the program would be valuable for parents of children who being bullied or who are bullying others.
"We get a lot of referrals that deal with bullying," he said. "They're typically for kids who are doing the bullying, but we also see kids who are being bullied and don't want to go to school because of it."
TeGrotenhuis said electronic bullying is a big problem, and that children who are victims of bullying often have a sense of isolation.
"A lot of bullying now is done electronically, and it can be very hurtful," he said. "It's starting now even in elementary school. It hurts how the kids feel about themselves."
TeGrotenhuis stressed that a child doesn't have to beat other children up to be a bully.
"We probably see a lot more verbal bullying than physical," he said. "Kids will say, 'We don't like you' or they tease ... and teasing is a form of bullying. What you have to try to do is take away the power that the bullies have."
TeGrotenhuis said teachers at his school would start a training program for dealing with bullies in January. Teachers at Greencastle Middle School had training on the subject this past fall.
"Dealing with bullies effectively really requires the teachers seeing and addressing what's going on," he said.
Schmekebier said her part of working with children who bully is mostly educational.
"I have a unique role," she said. "I don't handle a lot of the discipline; I do a lot more with educating kids. For instance, a lot of times they aren't really aware that name-calling and excluding are bullying behaviors."
Something Schmekebier stresses with children who are being bullied is the importance of "breaking the code of silence."
"One of the things that empowers bullies is that other kids will quietly do what they want, like exclude others," she said. "All it takes is one person to say no for that power to be removed."
"My goal is to first prompt a discussion," he said. "We talk about exactly what bullying is and what the options are. What are their choices, and is there something they're doing to elicit the attention, whether it be positive of negative, that they're getting?"
Often, answering those questions can help children learn how to cope with bullies.
"I don't think most of the kids in a bullying situation need professional help," Nunn said. "What they need are strategies."
Schmekebier echoed that sentiment.
"Kids who are being picked on by bullies are going to see them at school and on the bus," she said.
As an educator, TeGrotenhuis said dealing with bullies can be difficult because children are reluctant to tattle on their peers.
"The worst part sometimes is trying to figure out who did what," he said. "It's a moving target; you have to go through the chain."
One of the most important components to help children on either side of the bullying issue is parent involvement.
"Parents need to listen," TeGrotenhuis said. "They need to be aware if their child is having trouble making friends or getting along with peers, if their child is feeling sad or excluded."
Nunn cited several possible red flags for parents who think their children might be being bullied.
"Kids who are being bullied may try to avoid school," he said. "They may have vague, chronic complaints like stomach and headaches. They may complain that nobody likes them and they don't have any friends."
For more information on the program, call MHAPC at 653-3310.