Diane Buford, a Certified Counselor and Owner of New Life Counseling Services PLLC, Talks to NoBullying.com about How to Help Stop Bullying.
Diane: My name is Diane Buford. I am the owner of The New Life Counseling service (TNLC). I live in The United States in Auburn, Washington. I have 2 private practice offices. One is located in downtown Seattle on Pioneer Avenue and the other one is located in Auburn, Washington. I am a certified counsellor. I deal primarily with adolescents and their families as well as marriage counselling and family rebuilding and I love what I do. I work well with teenagers and this is a passion of mine.
Ciaran: Excellent, thank you very much for joining us today, Diane, and giving us some of your time and insight on bullying as an issue. So, you think bullying today is as big an issue as it was maybe 10 or 20 years ago?
Diane: I think bullying today is a greater issue than it was 10 or 20 years ago. 10 or 20 years ago, people just were learning how to use cellphones, they were very expensive, and they were not as accessible. Since everybody has a cellphone, the bullying has gone to a whole new level. The kids that I work with, some of the issues we deal with as far as bullying at school and their neighborhood obviously are…Facebook is a big issue. There has been a lot of teen suicides surrounding Facebook bullying rumors and Myspace which Myspace isn’t as popular as Facebook is now but it is still being used. Text messages. E-mails that the kids use for cyber bullying is really prevalent right now.
We see it starts with one kid or one girl or one boy having a problem with another kid and then they kind of tag their friend and it kind goes like a wildfire out of control to where we have seen an epidemic of kids literally committing suicide because instead of having one or two kids passing notes in class or after school making fun of them, now we have hundreds of kids or even thousands of kids that don’t even go to their school or live in their neighborhood or never met them, saying things online and texting them or harassing them via e-mail and literally telling them “Why don’t you go ahead and kill yourself because nobody likes you?” and all various other things I have heard and seen. So, I think that 10 or 20 years ago we had no idea what was about to explode and it is out of control now.
Ciaran: As you said, it is easier to deal with bullying if there are one or two bullies involved but when it is hundreds or thousands of bullies, it does feel out of control. How would anyone face a problem like that? Is it going to authorities or school or parenting service? How could a parent and the child who is facing thousands or hundreds of people bullying them online? What should they do?
Diane: What I would suggest is: if your child has a Facebook page, I would highly recommend that that parent would create a Facebook page just to friend their own child so that they can monitor what is going on their child Facebook page. Also, there is a feature on Facebook that you can make certain people your favorite. So, anytime there is a post from them, anytime there is a comment or a like or anything that they do, the parent will get a text message, an email and also an alert on their Facebook page on any activity that their child is doing on their Facebook page. I would do that day one because you can see what is happening the minute it happens and be proactive. Also, too, I would make sure that the child’s Facebook page is on private because if it is on open or public, anybody or everybody can go there and put whatever they want and be there pictures. So, if it is on private, only specific people that they friended have access to their page. If there is any suspicion of any bullying going on or any rumours, it is very easy to un-friend that person so they would no longer have access.
How to Help Stop Bullying?
Then also too, I will make sure on the security features on the child’s Facebook page that their cell phone number, their hometown phone number, their address or even their home or school is not listed because a lot of times in the profile, the kids will put their personal information and that gets out. So, people get their telephone and above and beyond that, there are pedophiles and different predators that will find their home phone number, their address and even another feature that I didn’t mention earlier are the webcams. They have laptops, they have IPads and all of these devices have built in webcams. Beware of what your kids is looking at, who they are talking to, because on the other side of that webcam. I would have their computer in a public area in the parents’ house so whatever they are looking at at any time, anybody in the house can see what they are watching, who they are talking to and what they are listening to because kids will go on there and they will do webcam conversations and they will pick on other kids from there or they might be cries for help; “I’m so lonely. I’m depressed. Nobody understands me. I might as well even not exist anymore.” Those are warning signs that something is happening that may have not been detected but pro-actively can be helped.
Ciaran : Some great and practical advice for anyone who is listening to this audio. So, thank you for that. Do you think with the current media coverage on bullying and cyber bullying, things are improving in that respect in the last few months and year? How do we Help Stop Bullying?
Diane: I think there is more awareness around it. I do call a lot of high schools, a lot of middle schools in my area and offer seminars on bullying and the reason is because it is not taken as seriously as it should be because obviously there are greater things they worry about, academics and budget and stuff. I think that it is very important, it is very relevant and I have actually had kids in my office that I counsel that were bullied because there was a rumour. One girl didn’t like another girl because she had her eyes set on her boyfriend and everybody in the school hated this girl and then there are girls from other school that would come to her school before or after school, they’d follow her home to the point where her parents would have to drop her off or pick her and she’d have a chaperone during the day because various groups of girls were trying to beat her up throughout the day and trying to beat her up and jam her as she was walking back from the school. So, it is in suburban areas, it is in inner-city and it is in private schools. So, even if you homeschool your kids, they’re still going to have access to computers, they are still in online chats rooms, they are still on webcam. So, I think that as parents, as educators, as community leaders, it is vital that we remain vigilant, that we remain aware of what our kids are doing, they are sane, who they are hanging out with and what they are into because it is there, it is real and it is only getting worse.
Ciaran: You have mentioned some severe cases there. Do you know or have you seen long-term effects on a child who has been bullied? Do you see or do you believe that there could be potential long term damage to someone that is bullied in person or even on cyber space?
Diane: Yes. I mean low self-esteem is a huge thing because that will carry over into their college life, to profession and marriage, who they choose to marry, where they live. I mean, their whole life will be surrounded by their self-esteem. I have seen girls get pregnant in high school because they just want somebody to love them and I have seen girls drop out of school. I have seen boys literally have to transfer to other districts because of bullying and then they are terrified that they will get to the new school. Then, somebody from Facebook or from somewhere would spread the word and say that they have moved to another district and they would say that the new school is miles and miles from their old school district.
Ciaran : Do you think this kind of bullying impacts girls or boys more or both the same?
Diane: I think it is equal. Anything that a kid does that makes them stand out from the rest of crowd is how bullying starts. Whether how they dress, what their gender is, who they like, who they don’t like, if they are straight, if they are gay, if they are a jock, if they are in music or a choir; it doesn’t matter. It is just one thing that is different than the rest of the crowd. It opens them up for bullying. There are things that educators and teachers…there are measures that we can do to minimize it and of course education surrounding the effects of bullying. Sometimes the kids don’t realize that these things cause children to commit suicide. These things cause children to OD on drugs. These things cause children to become alcoholics. These things cause children to drop out of school or to make poor choices and so what I do is I make a slideshow, a powerpoint video, and I go on YouTube and various network sites and I compile real life stories of kids who committed suicide because of bullying or depression because it leads to depression and leads to drug abuse and leads to sexual promiscuity, it leads to alcoholism. There is are so many avenues those kids take.
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