When I was in school, there is no question that bullying existed, just as it probably had for generations before me. However, it was generally confined to the school grounds, and I don't recall it ever leading to someone dying. Today, we are inundated with stories about kids who are viciously bullied to the point where they take their own life or the lives of others. These events are shocking and unthinkable in any parent's eyes.

The reality is, bullying occurs everywhere, and the situation has gotten out of control, especially with technology and the internet. Smart phones and social media have created an environment where kids can bully each other 24 hours a day, and the anonymity that it offers can make the attack particularly vicious. The consequences can be devastating, negatively affecting a child's self-esteem while hurting their social interactions, school performance, and emotional well-being. For the bullies, studies have shown that these kids run a greater risk of being child or spousal abusers as adults. They are also more likely to use drugs and alcohol and have criminal records.

Unfortunately, bullying is not going away anytime soon, but we can hopefully temper the problem by teaching our kids to treat others with respect and decency. Many aggressive behaviors begin at home, whether by modeling parental behavior or living in a toxic home environment. One of the first steps toward addressing this problem therefore must begin at home. Here are some ways to help.

1. Demonstrate Proper Behavior

How parents treat other people, including their own children, can have a significant influence over how our kids interact with their peers, making it all the more important for us to behave properly. Teach your children to respect others but lead by example.

2. Teach Empathy

Empathy is the ability to identify with and understand another person. It can be learned through volunteering, helping others, and even reading books to your children. Kids who feel empathy display more compassion and respect, and less aggression.

3. Create a Warm and Loving Home Environment

Kids who feel comfortable at home and know that they are loved have fewer insecurities and less anxiety, both of which can contribute to aggressive behavior. Create a home environment that is consistent and familiar to your children.

4. Communicate With Them

As our children get older, they may not want to listen, but that doesn't mean they don't hear us. Continue to promote the message of treating people decently while respecting their feelings, and communicate this idea by doing the same.

5. Be There for Them

Adolescence is a challenging time, and having a strong support network can be vital for a child to navigate these turbulent waters. Even if they seem to disdain your presence, the reality is they need you to be there for them whether they overtly express this or not.

6. Become a Volunteer

People who give their time to help others have more empathy and compassion toward their peers. Being aware of other people's needs and knowing that they can make a difference builds confidence in our children and helps them to discover what they are capable of.

7. Travel and Explore New Situations

Experiencing new situations is humbling and a great way to build resiliency. Traveling is a good example of this: it can be exciting and scary, forcing us to operate outside our comfort zone while introducing us to people who are different and yet, in many ways just like us.

8. Encourage Them to Include Everyone

Encourage your kids to include everyone in any given activity and try to get them to understand how unpleasant it is to be excluded. Teaching acceptance is a good way to encourage empathy and tolerance, which will reduce the risk of bullying.

9. Challenge Them

Nothing builds self-esteem like challenging your kids and allowing them to overcome these challenges on their own. This helps to build character and self-esteem, as well as pride. Kids with strong characters are less likely to peak on people who are weaker than them.

10. Keep a Watchful Eye

Our kids love us, but at some point they just don't want to confide in us, regardless of whether they are on the giving or receiving end of bullying. Be aware of any changes in their behavior and go with your gut feeling. Sometimes they will let you know without even trying.

11. Get to Know Their Friends

It's beneficial to have some sense of who your kids are hanging out with, and intervene if necessary. Kids are profoundly influenced by their peers, and you can get some sense of what they're up to by the company they keep. Try to meet the parents of these kids, as well.

12. Get a Pet

Having a pet has countless benefits to the entire family, but for children in particular, they are a great opportunity to learn firsthand about friendship, loyalty, and responsibility. A love of animals also teaches respect for all living creatures.

Bullying has been around for generations, but today the stakes have been raised and it has become a crisis that we cannot ignore. Though there is not an easy solution this vexing problem, one step in the right direction begins with creating a loving and supportive environment at home.

If you suspect that a child is being bullied, whether it is your own or someone else's, talk to your children, talk to other parents, or consult the proper authorities. Whatever you do, don't ignore it.

For more information about National Bullying Prevention Month, visit the website for Stomp Out Bullying. To learn more about bullying, check out StopBullying.gov