Jessica Stebbins, MS, Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern
Discovery Institute, P.A. Rockledge, FL
Serving Brevard County
I’m not sure which would feel worse, knowing your child is being bullied or knowing that your child is bullying others. Bullying has become a real problem in schools today. It can have life changing consequences not only for those being bullied but for those who are the tormentors. Take for instance the story of Phoebe Prince, who was harassed until she committed suicide on January 14, 2010. Her tormentors face charges including assault, violation of civil rights resulting in injury, criminal harassment, disturbance of school assembly, and stalking. This story may seem extreme due to the end result being suicide, but how about other stories of bullying, are charges made against teens in other cases? Exactly one year after the suicide of Phoebe Price, it was reported that in Florida two teenage girls received felony charges of aggravated stalking after starting a fake facebook account for another girl and posting a fake nude photo.
I don’t know anything about the mental health or mental state of these individuals involved in the bullying but assuming they are not psychopaths or sociopaths (which is a real but unlikely possibility) the amount of guilt these individuals will feel may last a lifetime. Anyone who has experienced extreme guilt will know that it can haunt you in your everyday activities. Guilt is not the only thing that will haunt these individuals for the rest of their life. They will also have a reputation that will follow them for some time and legal charges that may not go away. In the state of Florida, juvenile charges can be sealed or expunged, but it is a lot of work to have this done, and depending on what future job the teen would like to have and the security clearance needed, these steps may not prevent their employer from finding out about the incidents. With the popularity of the internet, future employers will be able to find information even by searching the internet if names were released in the event.
So how can we help to prevent our children from becoming swept up in wanting to improve their social standing or boost their own self-esteem by picking on others? We can start at a young age by helping them to develop empathy for others, help them develop relationship skills, self-esteem, and problem solving skills. More information to come on each of these in future blog entries!
If you are in the Merritt Island area and looking for a counselor, please give me a call to see if I may be able to help.