Bullying and cyberbullying is on the rise in America. It is running rampant among our youth, down the halls of their schools as well as on their phones and computers. There is also an alarming increase in teen suicides, school violence and depression.

What can we do to help our children not succumb to — or become involved in — bullying?

Each one of us should participate in providing our children with aid, not only with increased awareness and education, but with our own public behavior.

We are using mean, nasty and bullying words to describe another and believing it is okay to do so in a public forum. Well, obviously some folks didn’t grow up with me! If I disrespected anyone by calling them disparaging names, oh my, I probably would still be sitting in a corner today, that is, if I could even sit!

Many of our government leaders, as well as ourselves, are openly using words which mock, undermine, belittle and slander. And no matter what political side we may stand, we should all steadfastly stand on the side of our children. After all, they are America’s future, and right now, 1 in 4 have experienced some form of bullying in school. Over half of all young people have received intimidating, threatening or nasty messages online, most of those being on their cellphones. Bullying victims are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide. I could keep writing the statistics, but there are too many. All are staggering.

Who is listening when we call someone a loser, ignorant or a moron? How would you feel if you were called one of those names in front of your peers, your coworkers or friends? What if you were a mere child and heard or read those words describing you?

Children who are struggling with acceptance and peer pressure need to hear someone call them a “loser” or other cruel words like most of us need to listen to the news. We have a fatal illness.

When I was a young, insecure teen, I overheard a bully talking to a group of his friends. He pointed to me and told the others, “She is such a loser!” I had no idea what I had done to be labeled as such, but the hurt was so profound it required more strength than I knew I possessed to return to school. I was an innocent child dealing with undiagnosed depression, and my mind wasn’t mature enough to realize life ebbs and flows over a long period. I didn’t understand that time can heal wounds and increase courage.

When we openly use demeaning and mean-spirited statements concerning a person, how many unwise young folks are listening? They unconsciously believe, “Well, he/she uses those words, so it is OK for me to do the same, right?” If we think it is OK, then we probably just created another bully.

We can disagree, we can debate and we can speak our piece without calling someone a name. We can get angry, we can shout from the tallest building how we feel without belittling another. If we set this type of example, we teach those listening civility and control.

If any of us causes a person to feel less valuable or less important to society than ourselves, we should feel extreme guilt and sorrow. If we use bullying tactics or mock another, then we must realize we just slapped God in the face and hurt those children we say we love.

Our children are under so much pressure today to achieve, to be competitive and become winners. We try to provide our young ones with the best we can offer, but are we offering them our best examples of ourselves?

We should, first and foremost, educate our children to win in life requires good behavior. We need to not only be involved in their schoolwork, their ball games or their dance recitals but actively, daily, teach them how to treat others with respect and dignity. It is our job to instill in them kindness, fairness and empathy by our example.

Parents must bear the responsibility of showing each child the value of each and every person.

Some feel they have a license to write offensive words to anyone on the internet because they believe it is acceptable. Cyberbullies hide in the halls of hate using abusive language and exercising their freedom of speech. However, when they do, who are they impressing, who are they benefiting and who are they pushing off a cliff?

If the future of America is in the hands of our children, then we need to lay down our bullying words, take their hands and lead the way.

Lynn Gendusa of Roswell is the author of “It’s All Write with Me!” Essays from my heart. She can be reached at www.lynngendusa.com.