Australian student Casey Heynes just became the unofficial anti-bully YouTube sensation. Heynes was hit in the face and taunted while other students laughed and videotaped him. Heynes snapped, picking up the perpetrator and slamming him into the concrete.

Bullying is a topic many of us want to ignore. We want to believe our kids are not being subjected to it. But, the Invest in Kids Fight Crime survey "shows that 3.2 million youths were victims of bullying nationwide, and 3.7 million were bullies."

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, "Research indicates that as many as half of all children are bullied at some time during their school years, and at least 10 percent are bullied on a regular basis."

Bullying behavior can be physical or verbal. Bullies can be male or female, aggressive or reserved. And bullying exists in inner-city schools as well as schools in the suburbs, like Ahwatukee Foothills. Boys tend to use physical intimidation or threats, regardless of the gender of their victims. Girls who bully are more often verbal, usually with another girl as the target. Bullying can happen anywhere; at school, at home, online chat rooms, texting and through email. Bullies have several characteristics in common; they dominate, focus on getting their needs met, have poor social skills and have no feelings of empathy or compassion.

Kids who bully lack boundaries, respect and integrity. They have far too much power and they will not change unless there are consequences for their behavior.

"Being bullied is not just an unpleasant rite of passage through childhood," said Duane Alexander, M.D., director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). "It's a public health problem that merits attention. People who were bullied as children are more likely to suffer from depression and low self esteem, well into adulthood, and the bullies themselves are more likely to engage in criminal behavior later in life."

Research by Fight Crime/Invest in Kids, a non-partisan organization based in Washington D.C., indicates that nearly 60 percent of boys who bullied from first grade through ninth grade were convicted of at least one crime by age 24 and 40 percent had three or more convictions by age 24.

As parents and as a community, we must prevent bullying. We cannot ignore the devastating effects that bullying has on our kids. We must keep our children safe and make sure that criminal behavior and future criminal acts are prevented. We should demand that our schools commit to providing a safe and nurturing environment and that our kids are protected from mental and physical torture from bullies.

• Kristina Welker is a doctor of psychology and a licensed counselor in private practice. Reach her at drkristinawelker@cox.net or (602) 448-7444.

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