Teen’s Fictional Story of a Bullied Child’s Suicide: Did it go too far?

Hailey Bennett is 12 years old – her mother died when she was three and her father is abusive. She’s been bullied for years – in school and on her Facebook page where she admits she wants to die and is ignored – and eventually she commits suicide. At least that is the fictional story being told by Jessica Barba, a 15 year old high school student from New York who created a video called “The Story of Hailey Bennett” as a class project to make a point – that bullying is real, that it happens every day and could be happening to the child who on the surface is living a happy life – and that each and every one of us can and should make a difference in putting an end to this.

To tell Hailey’s story Jessica created a six-minute video and a fake Facebook page. Both had disclaimers to let viewers know that Hailey was a fictional character. A concerned parent however saw “Hailey’s” Facebook page with the update that said “I wanna be dead” and called the police who contacted the school. Despite multiple disclaimers that this was a fictional story, Jessica was suspended from school for 5 days.

“I just created the video in order to raise awareness of the major issue that’s bullying,” 15-year-old Jessica Barba told Matt Lauer on TODAY. “I don’t understand why I’m being punished for it.”

And really when it comes down to it, that is the question. Should she have been? Jessica created a fake Facebook page – that violated Facebook’s terms of service – but the unfortunate truth is that happens every day, often with intent to harm – to bully or deliberately hurt or humiliate others – not to raise awareness of that behavior and encourage others to take a stand against it.

Here is Jessica’s video:

It’s amazing the world technology allows us to create. 10 years ago Jessica Barba could only have submitted this as a paper – I doubt it would have created this much uproar. But not today. Today, she brought us into Hailey’s world and it was real enough to frighten a parent into calling the police. Real enough to frighten the school administration into suspending her. But should they have? Too often what we don’t see is exactly what we need to see…and Jessica Barba certainly opened our eyes.

But did she go too far? Or did the school officials? What do you think??

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 05-21-2012 to 05-27-2012

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 15 news-worthy events.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

Behavior Problems in Your Kid? Consider checking for Sleep Apnea http://t.co/w2aLaLDR

How to Talk to Your Kids About…Lying

Most kids at some point in time, will tell a lie. As a parent, handling the situation correctly will help put a stop to the lying before it turns into a habit.

When your child tells a lie…

  • Don’t yell, raise your voice, or overreact. Stay calm. Overreacting will scare your child and they will be afraid to come and tell you the truth next time. If your child knows you are going to stay calm, they are more likely to tell the truth.
  • Don’t call your child a liar, or accuse them of lying. Accusing will make them feel trapped and make things worse. Instead of ‘I know you broke the window”, say…”Looks like there was an accident, do you need some help cleaning things up, what happened”.
  • Only talk about the facts. Stick to the things you saw or heard firsthand. “I can see the blinds are broken, please tell the truth, what happened?” Or, “your coach told me a different version. Please tell the truth.”

Enforce consequences

When your child lies, there should be a reasonable consequence. Help them understand that there are in fact two sets of consequences. A consequence when you do something wrong AND another for lying…and make the consequence fit the crime.

For example: maybe your child cheats on a test and then lies about it. Two sets of consequences….

  1. They have to right the wrong by telling the teacher they cheated, and deal with whatever consequences come from the teacher.
  2. For lying, they lose a privilege, such as not going out with friends for two weeks. If they hadn’t lied, you might be comfortable just expecting them to write the wrong by telling the teacher they cheated.

Help them to understand why lying is bad

Beyond just the immediate consequences for their actions, it is important to help our children understand why lying is wrong. Explain to your child that when we lie we get into trouble. Lying will also give us and our families a bad reputation, and it hurts other people. Others will not want to be your friend and they won’t be able to trust you when you lie.

We should also talk to our children about our own “honesty policy”. Make it clear that in your home you will always tell them the truth, and you expect them to always do the same.

Above all, we need to demonstrate honesty in all WE do as parents, and be sure to praise our children when they tell the truth.

Help Your Kids Beat Summer Camp Homesickness

Leaving home, even for a short while, can create a lot of anxiety for kids — not to mention their parents. But you can reduce your child’s fears by sending her off with two essential items: a sense of independence and a vote of confidence.

“Kids need opportunities to take care of themselves, and parents have gotten a lot worse at that over the years,” says Bob Ditter, a child and family therapist in Boston, Mass., who consults camps nationwide. A big part of separation anxiety is wondering, “How am I going to be successful?”

To boost your child’s confidence and minimize homesickness, Peg Smith, CEO of the American Camp Association, suggests these six steps:

1. Practice separations throughout the year.

Set up sleepovers at relatives’ and friends’ homes, and use those experiences to build confidence. When it’s time for camp or a trip with another family, remind your child that she’s spent the night away before. She’s already seen that you can go away and then come back.

2. Teach independence.

In addition to creating opportunities for independence, you need to call attention to the small steps your child takes. Tell her you liked the way she handled a conflict or how she approached the salesperson for help. She may not see those moves as accomplishments if you don’t acknowledge them.

3. Involve them in decision-making.

Giving your child choices will help her feel that she has some control over what happens to her while she’s away. Once you’ve set the parameters and made your own short list of camps, let her make the final call. Give her the ability to choose her own activities, and accept what she picks. “You have to be open-minded,” says Smith. “We are not our children, and they aren’t us. It’s part of learning how to make decisions.”

4. Minimize surprises.

Part of homesickness is being unfamiliar with your surroundings, so the more information your child has about logistics, the easier her transition will be. Explain how camp is laid out: where her cabin is located, how the bathroom is set up, how far away the dining hall is. Tell her where she’ll be sleeping in Grandma’s house, what the neighborhood is like and how close the playground is.

5. Avoid making an escape plan.

The minute you tell your child she doesn’t have to stay if she’s unhappy, you’ve prepared her to be unhappy. Instead, if your child calls you weeping and begging to come home, listen to her, but then move past the anxiety: “What did you do that was fun? Is there something you’re doing tomorrow that you’re looking forward to? If you’re still feeling this way next week, we can talk about it.”

6. Don’t wig out.

Severe homesickness is very rare, according to Smith, so the unhappiness you’re hearing probably doesn’t characterize your child’s entire experience. Keep reflecting your confidence that she’ll have a great time, and remind yourself of the goal: to help her learn new skills, build self-esteem, and gain confidence and independence

Child Health & Safety News Roundup: 05-14-2012 to 05-20-2012

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world.

Each day we use Twitter to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and other caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we may miss something, but we think overall we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for our friends and colleagues who are not on Twitter (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of the past week’s top 25 news-worthy events.

PedSafe Headline of the Week:

New lead poisoning guidelines: What parents should know – it’s recommended to test children at age 1 & again at age 2 http://t.co/b5q4A8Hg

How to Relax the Rules for a Fun but Sane Summer

Rules are made to be broken, but when it comes to summertime, many parents wonder: Which ones to break? You don’t want your home life to become a free-for-all for three months, but you also don’t want to create a police state that takes the “break” right out of summer break. So where do you redraw the lines?

“Rules are always based on need. You should rethink them based on the necessities of summer,” says educational psychologist Michelle Borba, author of The Big Book of Parenting Solutions. “Push the pause button and ask yourself, ‘What are the three rules we need to have during the summer?’ Don’t let it all go; just take a step backward and loosen one thing at a time.”

If you’re having a hard time letting go, Borba suggests asking yourself what memories you want to make this summer. The answer probably won’t be “no freedom” or “no fun.” Still, no matter what rules you loosen, you need to make sure you’re not so flexible that you end up creating more work and stress for yourself. After all, you need to know how to relax and have fun too!

Consider the following when rethinking the rules for the laziest days of the year. …

Remember what summer means

For kids, summer is a break from all the pressures and demands of school, activities and homework. It’s also a relief from the strict scheduling of the school year. Breakfast doesn’t have to be at 7 a.m., because there’s no 8 a.m. school bus to catch. So does it really matter if they stay up — and sleep in — an hour or two later than usual? Will your schedule allow for it? How much will it disturb your evening or morning routine?

One solution: Keep yourself sane by letting the kids stay up an extra hour, but limiting them to quiet activities in their rooms.

Consider the consequences

What will happen if you relax a given rule? For example, if you abandon the no-shoes-in-the-house rule, you’ll have a parade of flip-flops leaving trails of water, mud and grass clippings. If you let your kids watch TV before they clean up their toys, you’ll have to walk around the mess for the evening. What consequences can you live with, and which ones will drive you batty?

One solution: Choose one rule to enforce and let the other one go: So if kids still have to wear their shoes in the house, maybe let the tidy-up wait until after TV time.

View each situation separately

After making the rules, be flexible enough to break them on an as-needed basis. Weigh the benefits: If your kids are outside playing flashlight tag with the neighborhood kids, will they gain more by staying and playing or by leaving the game early to get to bed on time?

One solution: Tell kids they can stay out for an extra half-hour, but then they’ll have to come in even if the other kids don’t.

Put it on paper

Once you’ve thought of the must-have rules for summer, call a family meeting. State your expectations, but ask your kids for their input. “You can negotiate, but only let go of the rules that don’t make a difference,” says Borba. Then write down the new rules and put them up where everyone can see them. “Don’t make a big deal out of it,” says Borba. “Just make it clear.” Then, when the kids break a rule, you can just point to the paper and say nothing more.