Traverse City Record-Eagle

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October 22, 2013

Bullies don't just haunt the playground

Two Florida girls, ages 14 and 12, were arrested and charged with third-degree felony aggravated stalking after a 12-year-old schoolmate, Rebecca Sedwick, hurled herself to her death from a tower. Rebecca was repeatedly bullied at school and online. Police say the girls — and perhaps a dozen others — were responsible for that bullying, The Associated Press reports.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said he moved to charge the girls now — more than a month after Rebecca’s death —- because of a Facebook post by the older girl that admits to bullying Rebecca and says she didn’t care that the girl killed herself.

“We decided that we can’t leave her out there. Who else is she going to torment, who else is she going to harass?” Judd told AP.

People used to think bullying was just part of growing up. Today bullying and cyber-bullying are more commonly acknowledged for what they really are — physical violence and mental torture.

It’s a mystery why adults who surround these bullies don’t work harder to stop them. In this case, the older girl’s father has said he is “100 percent” sure that what the police say about his daughter is untrue. Such attitudes — even when faced with proof of a child’s actions — helps keeps the bullying cycle alive.

Children often say hurtful, hateful things one minute, then innocently take them back the next. What’s concerning are parents who don’t instruct their children on the differences between innocent reactions and a bully’s willful mental or physical torture.

Parents should pay closer attention to what their children text, tweet, post on Facebook and otherwise digitally say. Parents also should sit down with their children to have a serious conversation about bullying and its consequences, whether their children know someone being bullied, if their children are being bullied — or if their children is the ones bullying someone else.

The web site www.stopbullying.gov holds a wealth of information about what bullying and cyberbullying are, who’s at risk, prevention and how to get help. Parents and children should check it out.

Don’t think the old stereotype of a mean kid on the playground is what bullying is all about. It isn’t. Take action and help stop the bullies.

The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.

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