Everyone has heard the age old saying "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me."

I'm convinced the author of that quote was desperate to come up with something. He had been picked on. I hope the saying worked for him. In today's world, good ole' sticks and stones doesn't quite work like it used to. Bullying is not simply just giving someone a hard time. It can be painful, it can be life-changing, and it affects everyone in some form or fashion.

A study was conducted in October by the Josephson Institute, the Center of Youth Ethics, and out of 43,000 high students surveyed; over 50 percent admitted they had been bullied in the past year. Forty-seven percent admitted they had been bullied in a way that seriously upset them. According to Ted Zeff, Ph.D. in a recent article on education.com, approximately 160,000 children miss school every day in the U.S. because of bullying. Eighty-five percent of school shootings stem from revenge against bullies as a major motive.

Forty-seven percent is no small number! It's half.

In the sports world half (50 percent) would be a great shooting percentage or batting average, but in bullying data… not so much. Everyone has seen the news stories and newspaper articles about teens taking their own lives. This is a real problem, folks, and I don't see it going anywhere.

The thing about bullying is it can shatter anybody's self confidence. Confidence is no small thing to take away. Without confidence everything about a person is altered. Appetite can disappear, homework can suffer, and overall health can be affected.

A child's gender does not have a significant data change associated with it. In the Joesephson study, 47.8 percent of those surveyed said they did not feel safe at school. That number was split in half between males and females. Bullying should be a topic for every family, regardless of how you think your child is doing. Addressing these issues so children know how to deal with them will greatly improve your child's youth and demeanor. They will be in contact with bullying one way or another, but it is up to a parent's guidance to see what the end result will be.

The story is not much better for bullies either. School bullies many times do not understand that their behavior can victimize other youth. They do not relate giving one student a "hard time," to them feeling hurt, dejected, and upset. Bullies must learn that their behavior doesn't make them respected by others. Instead of respect, the only thing they cause is intimidation. Most bullies end up failing in their school work and being alone and rejected by their peers. Twenty-five percent of youth bullies end up with a criminal record by the age of 30.

Bullying is not just kids giving each other a hard time, it's more than that. In addition to verbal abuse, cyberbullying, emotional and physical bullying are other instruments that are used. Have you ever felt out-cast by your peers, or maybe you just didn't get an invite to that party you wanted to attend? Students go through this everyday on the bus, in the lunch room, on the playground and on weekends.

Prepare your children and come up with a plan to address this growing youth issue. It could be something small like spending a day participating in a hobby your child enjoys, setting a good example with your friends, or going over ways to deal with bullies when the situation arises. In the coming weeks, we will be discussing ways to prepare your child for the aspect of bullying, and identifying bullying in your child's life. We will go over the types of bullying and ways to combat every one.

In today's time we need something a little more than good 'ole sticks and stones.

Zach Davis is the Nueces County 4-H Agrilife Extension Agent. Readers may reach him at (361) 767-5220.