Today is Spirit Day, and October is National Bullying Prevention Month. As part of an effort to raise awareness of the issue POPSUGAR Moms and Google+ cohosted a Google Hangout today. Among the participants were Julie Hertzog of Pacer, a disabilities' rights group and anti-bullying advocate, Lynz Lenz, a new mother who experienced bullying herself as a teenager, Katy Butler, a freshman at George Washington University and former GLAAD intern, and Tina Long, who was featured in the film Bully and who tragically lost her son to bullying.
Each of the guests brought a unique perspective in discussing ways in which to limit bullying and ensure that, when it does occur, it is addressed before long-term damage or death result. One of the first points the panel agreed upon was that parents play an integral role in the prevention of bullying, and that they must be aware of the facts and their own child's circumstances. Long and Hertzog suggested using resources on their websites in order to ensure that the issue is not ignored. However, as both Lenz and Butler pointed out, direct confrontation is often the worst method parents can take if they suspect there child is being bullied, as youth are often embarrassed and unwilling to talk. The most comforting thing her own mother did for her when she was being bullied in middle school, Butler said, was providing a secure environment to encourage her to talk when she ready.
Of course, as Long pointed out, parents cannot monitor their children's lives around the clock. School administrations and staff are a vital component of any anti-bullying initiative, and one of her goals is to actively promote more awareness and involvement among them. Hertzog extended this even further, saying that it is necessary to involve entire communities, from the medical establishment to law enforcement.
Children themselves have a role to play in discouraging bullying of their peers, because they are often the most likely to witness bullying and it can often be easier for bullied youth to talk about it with friends their own age. Butler said that when she was younger, others students sticking up for her would have been made it easier to cope with being bullied; Lenz felt less intimidated after finding a secure network of supportive friends.
All of these are issues that GLAAD hopes to address on Spirit Day, as we encourage everyone to show their support for LGBT youth to show them their experiences are not singular and that they are supported by millions around the world.
Everyone has a role to play in opposing bulling. Watch the hangout below to learn more and find out ways you can get involved!