WASHINGTON - Some parents joke that raising kids would be easier if children came with instruction manuals.
When it comes to addressing the very serious issue of bullying, a new smart phone application might be just what's needed.
Created by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration the KnowBullying app has easy to follow tips to prevent, recognize and stop bullying.
"Not just information, but good information," says Masami Stratton, who teaches social studies at Howard County High School. Advice included in the app is supported by research findings and is well vetted.
Stratton say parents will find particularly helpful the fact that the app provides age-appropriate conversation starters.
Information and advice on the KnowBullying app specifically targets teenagers, children ages three to six and ages seven to thirteen.
One theme that's universal for all the age groups is to get kids talking.
Research shows "that if you're able to engage in at least 15 minutes of regular conversation on a daily basis with your children you're going to see some very significant outcomes later on -- including reducing the impact of becoming involved in bullying," says the administration's expert on bullying, Ingrid Donato.
Donato says asking questions about things that seem innocuous and are easy for kids to talk about "will open up a world of dialog for them, so that they're regularly engaging with you."
Examples of conversation starters:
- 3 to 6 years: What was the best thing that happened to you today?
- 7 to 13 years: Share one person you met or played with.
- Teens: Share one thing that happened today, or talk about the day's schedule.
Warning signs of bullying include:
- Changes in eating habits such as skipping meals or coming home especially
- Not wanting to go to school or loss of interest in school work
- Sudden loss of friends or avoiding social situations
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Stomach aches, feeling sick or faking being ill
- Damaged or lost clothes, books, electronics or jewelry
Bullying can be harmful and traumatic for victims, aggressors and witnesses. Potential long term consequences include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, criminal activity and even suicide.
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