Hopefully, more children won’t have take their own lives in 2011 in order for us to remain vigilant about bullying prevention.

Three years ago after going to my first Family Online Safety Institute conference in D.C. and then the International Bullying Prevention Association meeting in Indianapolis, I came away with several thoughts:

• There should be one conference that discusses both: bullying offline and online. Kids see it as all one seamless community. For those being bullied in the schoolyard and then online, it’s all one big heartache.

Good News: This year I noticed a shift. Experts are starting to talk about kid’s online and offline lives as one life. It’s a concept that’s a little hard for adults to understand but is key for prevention.

• Bullying Prevention messages need to be mainstreamed to the general public. There are great experts doing fantastic work but not enough people know about the tools that are available. Are any of those tools the entire solution? Absolutely not. But if we can help a handful of kids in every school in America, we’re talking about thousands.

Here’s my pick of the day: Steps to Respect. Check out their materials. I believe in early prevention and also involving the entire school community, including teachers and parents, so I was impressed. Pre-K through elementary school is where it’s at if we want to nip some of the abusive behavior in the bud.

In a recent study, researchers found that Steps to Respect helped lower incidences of bullying, such as gossip and spreading rumors by 72%.

According to the study:

When students’ playground gossip was observed in the spring, children in the Steps to Respect classrooms had 234 fewer instances of gossip per class of 25, or a 72 percent decrease in gossip among students who had gossiped before participating in the anti-bullying program.

Even if it was half that percentage, it’s worth a shot. (Anecdotally and surprisingly, spreading rumors is one of the top reasons given when I ask kids in fourth and fifth grades what bothers them most.)

I’d really like to hear from teachers and/or parents who’ve used the Steps to Respect materials. My goal is to share any and all tools and information that will make a difference.

Here’s to a happy, healthy…and lighthearted 2011!

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