By Chelsea Hutt, Contributing Writer
OSWEGO, NY – Bullying has risen to new heights in the past few years.
And, the finger of blame is pointed at the technology of the younger generation, according to one local expert on the subject.
Jon Gilmore, support coordinator for Catholic Charities of Oswego, spoke at this week’s Oswego Neighborhood Watch meeting at the Oswego Library.
His lecture was “It’s Not Cool to be Cruel!”
He gave the audience handouts to follow along in the meeting and the discussion on this topic stirred interest among the crowd.
“Bullying is an important topic that needs to be addressed in our school and our community,” he said.
Having worked in the human services field for the last 17 years, Gilmore gave insight to the topic.
“Often times, we see behaviors before we realize what’s going on,” he confided to the room as he talked about his own children and how they were the targets of bullies.
He has seen firsthand how bullies behave, he said.
“We could be the best parents in the world, but the negative is going to get through,” he warned the crowd.
“The internet and texting are a means for kids to become exposed to things their parents may not be aware of,” he continued.
When Gilmore citied texting as detrimental at a young age, much of the crowd agreed with him.
Gilmore offered parents some good suggestions to keep track of their children’s activities.
“Talk with them regularly. It is essential to spend time with your children, but even more so to communicate with them,” he advised.
During the meeting it was also mentioned that coaches having the potential of becoming one of the biggest bullies for kids and that teachers are texting kids in class and during school hours.
“These people are role models for our children,” Gilmore said, noticeably frustrated. “They are there to teach life skills.”
The crowd was also disturbed to hear that more and more schools are reporting that teachers are contacting students by cell phone.
Many would like to assume that schools are safe for our children, but with technology advancing so rapidly it is apparently becoming more and more difficult to keep track of children’s activities, Gilmore noted.
Bullies are looking for power and they get it by making others experience sadness, fear, and/or anger, he explained.
The best way to prepare kids is to educate them before they experience these kinds of situations,” he said.
As many may be aware, bullying can also be learned within the home from parents.
“In the last few years, bullying has come to a forefront with families I have worked with,” said Gilmore.
As coordinator of the Kinship Program, offered through Catholic Charities, Gilmore works with grandmothers and grandfathers as well as great-grandparents to “re-educate those stuck in that behavior.”
“Our society is based on learned behaviors,” Gilmore said, meaning children learn from the behavior of their parents and others around them.
Catholic Charities’ Kinship Program provides support to kinship caregivers; people who, through a variety of circumstances, have taken on the responsibility of raising their relative’s children.
Gilmore explained that he meets with families once a month to assess their relationship, offer assistance with any issues the family may be experiencing and work closely with them to provide emotional support, recreational opportunities, and advocacy.
“My goal is to assess their relationship so that I can offer assistance with any issues the family may be having, make it a comfortable fit, and help them eventually function as a happy and productive family unit,” Gilmore said.
He concedes that it is best to transform behavior when people are young, since they are likely to change their ways.
“The education of people is really important. We hope to get the word out on this issue,” Gilmore said.
For more information about the Kinship program or ways to fight bullying, contact Gilmore or Kinship support clerk Judi Flisakowski at 598-3980.