It's My Life PBS Kids Go!

Recently in Bullying Category

Expert thoughts on cyberbullying
| No TrackBacks

bully6.jpgAre you sick of the word "cyberbullying"? We hope you are, because we hope you're hearing it a lot. We hope you're learning about it and talking about it and thinking about it. Because it's not simple, and it's not going away any time soon. Here at IML we're always trying to figure out what can be considered cyberbullying on our You Said It pages, so we were glad to have the chance to speak with Ryan Moreau, an expert in cyberbullying from KiwiCommons.com, a website that offers advice and information about Internet safety for young people. He has some great advice to help all of us better understand cyberbullying and protect ourselves -- and others -- against it.  

IML: What counts as cyberbullying these days? Sometimes the line is a little blurry!

Ryan: Cyberbullying comes in many forms but typically includes harassing, hateful, or threatening messages, posts or material through the use of digital media.  So what does this really mean? It means that a computer, mobile phone, digital camera, or any other Internet enabled device can become an avenue for cyberbullying if they're being used to potentially harm or make someone else even uncomfortable.

IML: If you think you're being cyberbullied but aren't sure, are there questions you can ask yourself to help figure out exactly what's going on? For instance, if someone is responding to you on a message board and they've hurt your feelings, what's the difference between them simply expressing a conflicting opinion or actually bullying and being cruel?

Ryan: The most important things you can ask yourself are: (1) is the behavior directed at me or another individual specifically, and (2) is it repetitive or a onetime occurrence? These two questions can also help us better define what counts as cyberbullying. You can also think about the question, is this person just generally cruel to everybody in the way they act online, or are they specifically acting this way towards me? Sometimes people act differently on the Internet because they feel it gives them the cover of anonymity. If this is how they act to everyone, they may be simply expressing themselves in a bad way; but if it is only towards you, then you may be being cyberbullied.

The other key thing to consider is whether or not the behavior or messages are being repeated. One mean message could just be a misunderstanding or misinterpretation, or even unintentional. But if you find that they keep doing it over and over, it's likely an attempt to be a bully or make you feel bad on purpose.

IML: How can a tween avoid being cyberbullied in the first place?

Ryan: It's extremely difficult to avoid being cyberbullied because you really can't control what other people on the Internet choose to do.  One of the best things anyone can do is to be kind and courteous to the people they interact with on the Internet. Young people should practice positive digital citizenship in all of their online activities. Treat everything you do as if you were face to face not only with those people but also their close friends and family. Consider questions like, "Would I want my Grandma to see me saying these things?" Avoiding bullying is also a matter of not escalating situations to the level that they are cyberbullying.  If we see or receive a cruel message or something that hurts our feelings, we shouldn't reply with a nasty response, since this could cause things to get much worse.

IML: If you find yourself a target of cyberbullying, what are your options for help? What can you do if you don't want to involve an adult?

Ryan: The best thing to do if you find you're the target of cyberbullying is to tell an adult; but even if you don't want to talk to an adult, there are some things we can do to help stop the problem.  First, we should inform the bully that we feel they are bullying us and would like them to stop -- this should be done simply and nicely.  All conversations, messages, or images should be recorded along with dates, times, and links to the websites so that we can prove there is a problem.

No matter how much we may want to be mean back to the bully, it's important that we don't become a bully ourselves.  Instead, let the websites, message boards, or chat services know you think you're being bullied and provide a sample of what you recorded, and if you think the issue is serious you can report it anonymously to an organization like CrimeStoppers.

IML: Can you be cyberbullying without really intending to or being aware of it? Why does this happen so easily?

Ryan: It's actually very common to engage in cyberbullying without intending to or being aware that we are being a bully; in fact, most cyberbullying happens by accident.  This happens so easily because people don't consider how others may interpret what they say or do online.  When we don't consider that the people who see what we post on the Internet can't see our face or hear the tone of our voice, we forget that those things help people tell when we are joking.

We need to be very careful about everything we do on the Internet, especially what we say to and share with other people.  We should always think twice and consider if that's something we would want said to us -- if not, we should take the time to rethink and reword our posts.

IML: That is great advice! Thank you so much for sharing these words of wisdom with us -- hopefully they'll help a lot of young people out there.

For more of IML's advice and information, check out our section on Online Bullying.





Celeb Scoop: Josh Flitter
| No TrackBacks

image001.pngSeventeen-year-old Josh Flitter has been acting most of his life, starring in comedies such as "Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet Detective" and the "Buddies" films (playing the voice of Budderball). Recently, Josh took on a role in the upcoming movie "Snowmen" that asked him to step away from being a Funny Kid and try something less than appealing: a bully.

We had fun talking to Josh about this challenging role and his take on the issue of bullying.

IML: Hi Josh! Tell us a little bit about "Snowmen" and about the character you play. It looks like a great movie.

Josh: "Snowmen" is a family film that deals with some elements that aren't typically shown in family films. It really tugs at your emotions. It'll make you laugh and cry. Billy, the main character, is diagnosed with cancer when he's very young, and when he turns about ten or eleven, he beats it, and is in remission. And then, when he becomes sick and assumes he has cancer again, he decides that he wants to be remembered in some way. So he and his friends decide to set the world's record for the amount or snowmen built in one day.

So the character I play in the movie, Jason, is actually the bully, and he doesn't want Billy to be remembered. My character thinks that he's the only person in the school who should be respected and cared about, so when the other kids are building the snowmen, I destroy them, and insult the kid. But this is all just a front, and I have deep inner emotions and characteristics that make Jason much deeper. Usually the bully in family movies is shown is a sort of "PG rated" way. And there's nothing wrong with that. But this movie is special, because there's so much more that this kid is going through. There's one scene that gets very edgy, and it's really scary, but in a good way. In a way that some kids will need to see to know that bullying is bad. And that's why it's so great to have this movie, because anti-bullying is huge right now. And it's so important in the lives of so many people. You get to see what some of the repercussions of bullying are.

IML: It sounds like the movie explores the motivations behind bullying, and why your character acts the way he does. How did you prepare for that?

Josh: It's funny, because at first the director was reluctant for me to audition, because he'd seen me in other things, and he thought I was the "funny guy" and didn't know if I could pull this kind of thing off. So when I went and auditioned, he was really kind of taken aback. I just took from the feelings I'd get if I was really angry at my brother or something, but to a point where you're almost saddened by how angry you are, instead of just being enraged. So I actually have multiple emotions happening at once. So it was more about that than about research. I just dove into my own mind and picked out little things here and there.

IML: Have you ever had any personal experiences with bullying?

Josh: I'm seventeen and I'm five-foot-two, and most of my friends are taller than I am, so I was picked on for that. But luckily, in my school system, and where I've grown up, everyone has been great. I don't think we've had many accounts of bullying. It used to be that schools would just allow that to happen...it was common. But now they've realized what some of the real repercussions are, and how teen suicides are skyrocketing, and they need to do something. So they really dove into it and are teaching kids that what you say really could affect someone.

IML: It sounds like your school's policy is working. What are they doing right?

Josh: We would have these school assemblies that were like tough-love sorts of things. Instead of sugar-coating it and saying things like "bullying is mean," they would really show us. When you hear real true stories of kids who were teased, and were always laughing it off, and never had any problem with it, and then one day, they're gone...I think of stuff like, "What if that happened to one of my good friends? What if we found out that he just couldn't take it anymore?" That really affected us. We'll still poke fun at each other here and there, being friends, but in the end, we say, "We were just kidding, we don't really mean that. We all love you." But what's really bad is talking behind someone's back. People will always do that and just say, "It's just gossip." But what happens when someone just doesn't come to school one day?

IML: You're definitely passionate about that issue! We hear you're also passionate about animal welfare issues and pet adoptions.

Josh: I am! I have two dogs of my own, and I've always asked myself, "Why not show love for animals?" Because they will always love you, so why not help the ones that are helpless? The ones that have nothing to live for? When animals are beaten and abused, given up and thrown out on the street...these animals need you. I'm trying to use my celebrity status to connect with other kids and tell them how they can help. I volunteer to help with animal adoptions, and young kids will walk up to me and ask me about my movies, and I'll say things like, "Yeah that movie was good, but you know what's a lot of fun? This dog!" And the feeling I get when I see someone adopting a pet that I was showing them...It's the greatest feeling in the world, because I just gave another pet a house to live in, and a family to wake up to, rather than a cage. And people have to realize that it's not about getting a specific breed... it's about getting a dog or cat that loves you, and a pet that you love. Knowing that I've saved as many pets as I have, it really helps me feel good about myself. We all see cats and dogs every day, but we forget about the ones that don't have homes. So I encourage other kids to help out with local organizations that adopt out dogs and cats, or to adopt one themselves!

IML: Thanks for talking with us, Josh! Good luck with everything!

Josh: Thank you!

"Snowmen" opens in theatres as part of a limited engagement on October 21. For more info, check out www.snowmenmovie.com.

What's your school's policy on bullying? Tell us on our new You Said It page on this subject!


  
Book Review: "Dear Bully"
| No TrackBacks

Bullying is such a big part of life growing up that if you ask any adult, they'll surely have a story from their past to tell you about getting bullied, being a bully, or witnessing it. When you hear these stories, do they help you feel less alone or help you understand the situation? Do they help you think past the here-and-now and instead, consider the consequences and lasting effects?

dear-bully-cvr_catalog1-345x500.jpgA new book from HarperTeen called "Dear Bully," edited by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones, hopes to do just that, with the help of 70 popular YA authors who have contributed their stories about bullying from every possible side of the experience. These stories are funny, sad, horrifying, and thoughtful. They may make you angry, and they're very likely to make you think of something that has happened, or is happening, in your own life.

Our favorite tales include: the one from R.L. Stine, who discovered he could use his talents for being funny to turn the tables on his bullies; Kieran Scott's letter to the queen bee girl who made life miserable for a group of friends; and Lisa Yee's regretful memories of standing by while one girl got picked on by her entire school.

The thing that comes through in these stories is that whatever the experience, no matter how terrible or haunting or scarring, these writers have overcome it to be self-confident and successful adults. In many cases, the authors used the pain from their pasts in their writing, and to become stronger people.

We highly recommend this book to all tweens and teens -- whether you're being bullied or not. It's a great read that will help you better understand what counts as bullying, why people might do it, and how to deal with it while being true to yourself and what you need.

A portion of the proceeds from "Dear Bully" will be donated to the organization Stomp Out Bullying. Learn more at www.DearBully.com, which features a blog and one new story each week.


Anti-Bullying Campaigns: What works, and what doesn't?
| No TrackBacks

Thumbnail image for bully2.jpgRecently, we got an email from an IML'er named Ellora, 12, who asked us: "Bullying is a huge issue and you hear all the time about people committing suicide. Why do people still do it?"

Ellora, that is possibly the best question we've heard in a long time. We wish the answer were simple, but it's not. Sometimes just thinking about that question, and the fact that people will be asking it for years and years if not forever, makes us really sad. But then we thought about the reverse of the question, which would go something like, "Bullying is a huge issue. What gets people to STOP doing it?"

Everyone's trying to make that happen, right? You've probably seen tons of anti-bullying PSA's and had people come speak at your school, or read articles and books and blah blah blah blah blah. So we'd like to know, is any of it WORKING? Was there anything that made you say to yourself, "Wow, I did something that was wrong, and I'll never do it again," or "OMG, the next time I see someone getting teased, I'm going to stand up for him," or "You know, if someone forwards me an embarrassing pic of someone, I'm not going to pass it on."

Maybe it was part of a school campaign or something you saw, read, or heard. Or maybe it was a situation that happened in real life, the kind of thing that nobody plans. If you've bullied in the past and changed your ways, IML would like to know; you can post your story on our I Bullied Someone You Said It page. If you've found the courage to stand up to a bully, we'd like to hear about that too on the I Stood Up To A Bully page. We want to know what you think works and, more importantly, what DOESN'T work (because it seems like there are a lot of anti-bullying efforts out there that are ineffective).

The more we talk and think about the issue, the closer we'll get to being able to answer Ellora's question. We hope we help people do that a little on IML. Recently we watched the new video of AHMIR's cover of "Perfect," which sort of gave us chills (it was shot by a teen and includes real teens who have been bullied), and we think that does it too. Check it out.




Help "Glee" star Lauren Potter disable bullying
| No TrackBacks

A boy with cerebral palsy gets tripped, pinned down, and dog food forced into his mouth by other kids at school. Another boy, who has developmental delays from being born prematurely, gets taken to the hospital with a dangerously high blood alcohol level because his classmates have been "spiking" his lunch drink with alcohol. A girl who has trouble walking gets teased, knocked off her crutches, and hit in the head by some fellow students.

Did we get your attention? Good! These are all stories that we recently read in a report called "Walk A Mile In Their Shoes," which studied the types of bullying experienced by kids with special needs. These stories shocked and saddened us, along with some of the statistics:

  • 60% of students with special needs or disabilities report being bullied, compared to 25% of the general student population.

  • 40% of young people with autism, and 60% of those with Asperger's syndrome, are bullied on a regular basis.

  • 85% of kids who witness this kind of bullying walk away and do nothing about it.
laurenpotter.jpgAsk 19-year-old actress Lauren Potter about all this, and she'll tell you about how a group of boys used to force her to eat sand and walk behind her, calling her names, because she has Down syndrome. And even though she appears on TV's "Glee" as Becky Jackson, Sue Sylvester's loyal sidekick, sometimes she still hears other teens mutter the word "retard" when she passes by and has had people post cruel comments on her Facebook fan page. 

That's why Lauren has gotten involved with a new campaign called "Disable Bullying" from AbilityPath.org, which aims to make people aware of what these kids deal with and what we can all do to help change that. IML spoke with Lauren and her mom, Robin, about the campaign and why it's so important that tweens educate themselves about this type of bullying.

IML: Lauren, what's your advice for kids with special needs who experience bullying?

Lauren: I just encourage kids to speak up! Telling our stories is the only way people will know what we've had to go through. Believe in yourself. Someone once told me that being different isn't bad...different is just different.

IML: Why are young people with special needs so often the targets of bullying?

Robin: I think people bully out of fear. We fear things we don't understand, such as a person who's different in some way. With Lauren being on "Glee" right now, a whole world that didn't really understand people with Down syndrome are seeing it in a new light, saying, "Hey, this is a kid. This is a girl who can be tough and be funny, she can be whatever." It is educating and letting people see that kids with special needs are just kids. The more people understand and learn that we're all different in one way or another, the more they'll be kind...and realize there's a problem. The gay community has had a big voice in this but the disabled community hasn't so much yet, and we all need to bring it to light.

IML: What should you do if you see someone with special needs or a disability getting bullied?

Lauren: Say, "Stop! Enough is enough!"

Robin: You can also tell somebody about it. That's why we made the video for the AbilityPath website. We would love it everyone reading this would share the video and visit the site, because it has so many tools for everybody to use -- kids who are witnessing, kids who are being bullied, parents, educators, siblings, friends.

IML: Since Lauren's been on "Glee," what kind of feedback have you received from other young people with special needs?

Robin: Kids we talked to said they loved seeing Lauren on there because it made them feel like they could stand up and say, "I have Down syndrome too, just like her." It gives them a voice they may not have had before, and people are starting to see them in a new light. People say, "Oh, you have Down syndrome, just like Becky Jackson on 'Glee.'" It's almost cool! It gives them somebody to look at and think, "That person's like me, and look what she's doing."

IML: We love "Glee" and we're always thinking, we'd like Becky's character to be fleshed out a bit. She seems like she has an interesting story. Do you think that will happen?

Renee: We always hope so! That's where the fans come in. They need to make their voices heard if they want to see that. I think from the very first time they put Lauren on the show as Becky, her character has evolved so much. We'd love to see her have a relationship at school, maybe even address this whole bullying issue. They addressed it with Kurt, but maybe they can address it with Becky, and have the glee club stand up and come to her aid and show other kids that you can stand up. We would love to see something like that!

IML: Lauren, we're so happy you and your mom could talk to us about this!

Lauren:
I just really want people to watch the video and share it...and help disable bullying!

Sounds good to us! Here's the video:




Michael and Marisa debut their music video for "The Same"
| No TrackBacks

Last summer, we met the tween bro/sis musical duo Michael and Marisa, who had recently recorded a song called "The Same." It's a song about bullying...or rather, standing by and watching bullying happen to someone else, and realizing you and that person are not all that different. Now the talented sibs have just released their music video for "The Same" and we think it's sort of great.

Says Marisa about the song: "It's important that, as kids ourselves, we stand up and defend our friends.  We have the greatest power, and the biggest responsibility, to come together as a group and let bullies know it's not okay to treat others this way. We have the strength to make a positive change to make the world a better place."

Read our interview with Michael and Marisa, and check out the new video:




You can learn more about these guys and their music at www.MichaelandMarisa.com. Go MIchael and Marisa! (And BTW, we love the beret.)


Bullying by any other name...
| No TrackBacks

Sometimes, we experience something and we're not sure what to call it. Bullying is one of those things. You might be learning in school or other programs what it is, exactly, and what counts as "bullying" (we talk about that on IML too) . But even if you know the facts, you still may not want to use the B word. Giving it a name can make it more real and often, more serious.

bully2.jpgThis week in our Advice section, we tackle questions from two people who seem to be feeling that way. One is a boy named Robby, who wrote to us about how he's picked on for everything but doesn't think he's actually being bullied. We showed this question to our expert, a school social worker, and we decided to pass it on to our IML Mentors to see what kind of wisdom they could share. The Mentors are a group of teens, aged 14 to 18, who respond to advice questions sent in by IML'ers; they're chosen for this job because they have experience helping other young people and are great at writing and expressing themselves. The Mentors didn't disappoint with Robby's question! They came up with some terrific advice. The whole idea behind the IML Mentors is that you're getting some input from people who are a little older than you and have just gone through all the stuff you're going through, and have lived to tell the tale!

We also have some responses to last month's Parent Advice question, from a Minnesota mom named Jean. Although she didn't use the word, Jean's daughter is experiencing a type of bullying that involves excluding and ignoring someone. IML'ers just like you wrote in with lots of wonderful advice for Jean, and we chose some of the best ones to feature on the site.

If you or someone you know is experiencing something similar to what Robby and Jean's daughter are going through, we hope this advice helps you!


Webonauts Internet Academy on PBS KIDS GO!
| No TrackBacks

We spend a lot of our time reading through each and every You Said It post you guys send in. Not because we're nosy (well, we are, but that's beside the point) but because it's our job to make sure our little IML community is respectful, safe, fair, and free of online bullying. Not an easy task! Because we also want everyone to be able to express themselves, whether it's an opinion or a silly idea or venting frustration about something. When does someone's point-of-view become hurtful or mean? That's a good question. If only there were some kind of fun online training that would help all of us learn where the line is...

Oh, wait. Duh. There is one!

webonauts.jpgRecently, our buds at PBS KIDS GO! launched the Webonauts Internet Academy, a really cool site that lets you get your game on while also exploring what it means to be a citizen in this web-is-everywhere, too-much-information world we live in. In the game, you become a new recruit to the Academy and get sent on a training mission (after learning the WIA motto of "Observe, Respect, Contribute" and picking out a uniform) to planet Bambu. During this mission you'll get challenged with issues that are important to being a good cyberspace citizen, like identity‚ privacy‚ credibility and web safety. Check it out!

As our online experiences change with new technology, everyone's sort of making up the rules as we go along. But in the end, how we behave online shouldn't be much different than how we behave in person. When you keep that idea in mind, navigating the wild blue yonder should be just a little bit easier.

Tell us about your experiences: have you ever been bullied online?



 
"Vladimir Tod" author Heather Brewer talks books and bullies
| No TrackBacks

heather_new.jpgHeather Brewer is the author of the five-book series, "The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod." Starting with "Eighth Grade Bites" and ending with the just-published "Twelfth Grade Kills," this fun and frightening saga tells the story of a teenage vampire struggling with typical (and not-so-typical) problems of surviving middle school and high school. IML had a great time talking with Heather about her books, her experiences as a tween, and how young people can take a stand against bullying.

IML: Hi, Heather! Congrats on the success of the Vladimir Tod books!

Heather: Thanks!

IML: Your main character, Vlad Tod, is a vampire. Why do you think the gothic and paranormal genre appeals so much to tweens and teens?

Heather: Personally, I've always been a fan of darker things. I've always loved horror, and Stephen King is my favorite author. I was twelve when I read his novel "Carrie." So for me, it's very natural to be drawn to those things. But I think that there are different reasons for other tweens and teens to be drawn to it. For girls, I think a lot of it is that vampires are the eternal "bad boy." I think that it's something dark and dangerous, but you can experience it in a safe little world. Because when you close the book, it all goes away.

IML: If you were to take away the supernatural angle, do you think your books would still work in the real world of middle school and high school?

Heather: Absolutely. Because I didn't set out to write a vampire story. I set out to write a story about a boy who feels like he doesn't belong...and he just so happens to be a vampire.

twelfthgrade.jpgIML: What part of the books has been the most fun to write?

Heather: The most fun to write has been inventing new and creative ways for Vlad to get his blood, like hiding his blood in Twinkies, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and spaghetti. That's been the most fun, like, "How can I feed Vlad this week?" And also the conversations between Vlad and his best friend Henry, because they're just really fun, and they're very typical teenage boy conversations.

IML: What was hardest to write?

Heather: The most difficult thing was confronting a horrible thing that happened when Vlad was younger. His parents died in a mysterious fire, and that's based on my own childhood. Between the ages of five and twelve, I experienced five house fires, and no one knew what caused them. Growing up with that was very troubling. So dealing with those emotions was absolutely the most difficult thing about writing the books.

IML: How much or yourself do you put into your books?

Heather: Well, I'm a big fan of wearing black, and of reading banned books. And even though Vlad has a very close friend in the character of Henry, he's very much a loner and deals with things in his own quiet way, and that's very much me. Plus, his sarcastic sense of humor is absolutely me!

IML: How has communicating with your fans changed the way your story has progressed from the first book to the final one?

Heather: As the readers have really grabbed onto the characters, I feel a duty to make sure that the characters are absolutely true to themselves, and to include special little things I know the fans will enjoy. There's a small group of characters referred to as "the Goths" and because of the fans, they ended up being a much larger part of the series. So I do try to listen to my readers, and see what they want more of, and still stay true to my vision. They are a part of this, and like I've told them many times before, "I write the stories, but once they're written, they're yours now."

IML: The idea of being an outcast or outsider is central to your story. Vlad is terribly bullied at school. Did this come from your own experience?

Heather: Actually, I think I had it worse that Vlad. I was picked on from Kindergarten all the way through my senior year. I was pinched, and punched, and kicked, and spit-on. I had rumors spread about me; I had things written on my folder. It was awful, going through school. So I withdrew into myself, and I wrote a lot of stories to get those feelings out. I also read everything I could get my hands on, because I could live those different lives if I was reading stories. I would become the characters I was reading about and live with their problems, which seemed so much smaller than my own. Everything in the stories ended happily, but my life just wasn't that way at the time. And that's one of the reasons I started writing the Vlad Tod series, because those feelings of being picked on and bullied really followed me into my adulthood, and they wouldn't go away. So I decided to confront those feelings head-on and write this book and deal with exactly what it felt like, to feel like a freak who didn't belong. And I'm happy to say that by the end of writing this series, I didn't have any of those feelings anymore. Because I got them all down on the page.

IML: How did the bullying begin? Was there anyone you reach out to for help, or did you feel completely alone?

Heather: I did feel completely alone. It began with a boy who pulled my hair when I was going down the slide. And that same boy was in my class, and he put a tack on my chair. Everybody laughed, because I sat on the tack, and then, every single day, someone in my class would put a tack on my chair, and try to "get me" again. It became a clear message of, "You don't belong here. You're not one of us. We don't accept you, and it's okay for us to pick on you." And that's just something that followed me all through school.

IML: Why do you think your schoolmates singled you out for this kind of bullying?

Heather: I really don't know. Maybe it was because I've always been very outspoken and I've always had my own opinion about things. I've never been one of those people to follow the crowd. But in the end, I really have no idea what it was that made them do that.

IML: Did it have a snowball effect? Like, once you were the victim, you became the permanent victim?

Heather: Absolutely, because it became acceptable. They thought, "That's Heather... we're allowed to pick on her." I don't know what was worse, the kids picking on me, or the other kids who wouldn't stand up and say something. When I was trying to defend myself, they wouldn't say, "Hey, she's right. You shouldn't be doing this to someone. It's not nice."

IML: Were any teachers or guidance counselors able help to you?

Heather: Oh, no. They were actually part of the problem. I would be in the hallway at school, being bullied, and I'd see teachers snicker, or turn their heads. They thought it was acceptable, like "Oh, that's okay. It builds character. You can pick on her, because she's THAT girl." And now, I've toured all over this country, and I've asked my readers:  "In your school, what is working and what isn't working when it comes to anti-bullying efforts?" And they all say the same thing: the teachers are part of the problem. They're not helping stop the bullying. And that's sad because you should be looking for people in authority positions to step in and stop something like that. I don't know if they feel like they can't do anything about it, or that it builds character, or that it's just part of being a kid, or something.

IML: What do you say to teachers when you have the opportunity to talk to them?

Heather: The biggest thing for me is, if you are a teacher, and you see another teacher acting in a way that is supporting bullying, then you need to say something to that teacher. Because it has to stop with someone.

IML: Bullying has been in the news a lot lately, and we've all heard of the tragic cases where young people have taken their own lives because they couldn't cope with taunting, teasing and abuse. What do you want to say to teens and tweens who feel desperate and alone?

Heather: It is really terrifying when someone feels like they've reached a point where no one can help them. I wish that somehow we could get through to them to tell them that there is hope. That things will get better. That things can change...but that you can't let the bullies win. When someone thinks, "No one is there for me, no one cares about me," they should know that really, there are many, many people who would love to reach out to them. And I hope that if anyone is thinking of doing something like hurting themselves, that they won't. Because, really, in the end, that does let the bullies win. And you can't let them win.

IML: What about the kids doing the bullying? What do the bullies need to hear?

Heather: I don't think that a lot of teens who bully actually realize that they're doing it. When I do appearances, I always tell young people that if someone is making you feel like you don't belong somewhere, or that you're inferior, or makes you question your self- esteem, then you are being bullied.  So if you are the one making someone feel that way, then you are bullying. If you're doing something that makes someone so upset that they don't feel like they can come to school, or they have to dodge or avoid you, then chances are you're bullying. And you can stop. Don't fall into the group mindset, where a couple of kids are picking on someone, and you laugh along with them. Because then you're part of the problem.

IML: What advice do you have for tweens and teens who want to be professional writers?

Heather: There are two things that every writer has to do. You have to read a lot, and you have to write a lot. And when it comes to writing, the best thing to do is write something every single day. A sentence, a paragraph, a chapter...whatever it is, write something every single day. That's the only way to get better. I call this the formula for writing a book: "butt" plus "chair" equals "writing." If you keep doing that, eventually you'll finish a story!

IML: And have you finished the Vlad Tod story?

Heather: No, I'm actually writing a spin-off series called "The Slayer Chronicles." They take place during the summers between the school years of the Vlad Tod books. They'll end with one book beyond "Twelfth Grade Kills," and I really think of them as a continuation of the series.

IML: Thanks for sharing all this with us, Heather, and good luck with your future books!

Heather: Thank you!

For more about bullies, check out IML's advice on this subject.

For more about Heather Brewer and Vladimir Tod, visit http://www.vladtod.com



Asher, Billy, Seth, and Tyler
| No TrackBacks

asher.jpgIt's October 1. We're kind of glad September is over, because it was filled with news of four teen boys -- in Indiana, Texas, California, and New Jersey -- who committed suicide as a result of being bullied. It doesn't matter why they were bullied. These boys felt so much pain at the hands of their peers that they must have thought there was no way life could ever get better. That's a lot of pain, and it makes us hurt just to think about it.

We urge IML'ers to take a look at our Bullies section, even if you've read it before. We all need to remind ourselves of how our actions (and inactions) might affect other people. It's important to ask these questions:
Then please share your thoughts and experiences -- about these headlines, about bullying, about what you've done to get through it -- on our Bullies You Said It page.

We know things can change, and that change can start right away, and it can start with you and the people around you. There's power in compassion!