Beware of Bullying
Bullying is a sad reality for too many school-aged children. Find out about the various types of bullying and the affect it has on the victim. Learn the best ways to deal with a target of bullying and with a bully.
What is bullying?
If you suspect that bullying is taking place, it probably is.
A bully uses words or actions to cause another person distress. This can be a one off instance, but most often it is repeated and sometimes escalating behaviour.
Bullying is not an argument or a misunderstanding - it is one-sided physical or mental attack.
Acts of bullying can range from leaving someone out of a group activity, to making hurtful comments, to starting rumours about a person, to acts of physical abuse.
What do bullies do?
Bullies generally choose targets who are smaller and younger than they are. In many cases, bullying is the result of insecurity as it is a way to vent frustration and bring another child, who may be perceived as receiving more attention, down.
Common bullying behaviour includes:
- Spreading rumours
- Deriding and ridiculing efforts
- Issuing threats
- Physical violence
Reactions to bullying
Because bullying can take many forms, it can make the bully's target feel a number of emotions and react in different ways. If you are concerned that you child is the target of bullying, look for:
- Frequent changes in mood
- Poor posture
- Noticeably increased or decreased appetite
- Anti-social behaviour such as swearing or hitting out at others
- Signs of anxiety in public
- Academic underachievement
Every child has the right to feel safe and happy. When bullying occurs it is important for the target of the bullying to know that there is support for them. Parents, teachers, and other figures of authority can make it stop.
How to deal with bullying
If your child, or a child you know, is being bullied there are some important steps to take.
- Listen- children who have been bullied are often hesitant to speak up, so when they decide to tell you about it listen in silence. Listening is the first step to reassuring them it will be OK. Try not to react in an emotional way, just be calm and supportive.
- Talk- verbal support, such as letting a child know that bullying is not their fault and that you know how to put a stop to it is invaluable.
- Wait- giving a child time to process everything is important. Don't take action without them agreeing as in some situations this can make the bullying worse.
- Plan- make strategies for avoiding certain situations or facing them head on.
- Act- inform authority figures like teachers about what is happening, help your child with coping tactics and boost their confidence.
How to deal with a bully
- Listen- try to find out why the child is acting out in this way. Doing this without judging them is the best way to find out how to make it stop.
- Talk- let the child know that their behaviour is hurting someone else and there are much better ways to deal with their feelings.
- Wait- let the information you have given the child sink in. They may think about their bullying in a new light and see why it is so unacceptable.
- Plan- help the child to identify bullying behaviours and stop them.
- Act- if the bullying continues, let a figure of authority know and get as much help as possible. Measures may need to be reinforced at home and school, as prolonged bullying can have serious consequences on the target and the perpetrator.
Types of bullying
Bullying is repeated aggressive behaviour that is intended to hurt another person mentally and/or physically. It can be acted out in many ways:
- Through other people/channels
All methods of bullying intend to create embarrassment, discomfort, or fear through intimidation.
There are many types of bullying and sometimes a bully begins with one sort of bullying and then progresses to another. Here are some of the behaviours to look out for:
Leaving someone out of group activities such as sports, excursions, or even conversations, can be very hurtful for any child. If the pattern of exclusion continues, it can be extremely damaging to a child's sense of self-worth.
Harassment or abuse:
Verbal harassment, such as name calling or threats can make a child feel unsafe and alone. Depending on the personality of the child who is targeted, the impact can vary between increased stress to deep anxiety and fear.
If threats of violence are acted on and the abuse becomes physical, the level of fear and guilt a child feels can increase dramatically which typically impacts on their home and school life.
Starting rumours about another child behind their back, with the express purpose of those rumours creating embarrassment and discomfort is generally the modus operandi of females. This can create feelings of isolation for the target as well as a sense of injustice which is often very difficult for a young person to reconcile.
The newest channel for bullying is online and via phone. Here the target receives threats through social media or text/SMS or, more commonly, is the subject of a malicious campaign. Examples of cyber bullying include fake profiles on Twitter or "hate pages" that are started on Facebook. These groups are a forum where disparaging remarks are made about a person, or doctored photos are posted. Often fake accounts are set up to leave hateful and negative comments on the target's online profiles, including status updates and photos.
When a child uses domination to bully another child they exert their power over them and make them feel weak. This kind of bullying is more typically acted out by males who have developed faster than their classmates. It results in the target feeling inferior and frightened for their safety. Many children also feel guilty when they are the target of domination, and are hesitant to ask for help.
Bullying can have an impact on other people who are around the primary bully and their target. Sometimes, out of fear of being victimised themselves, bystanders will respond by allowing the bullying to continue or even by joining in. This can result in the target feeling as though there is no one they can reach out to or trust.
Prolonged bullying can lead to psychological stress. Schools have anti-bullying programs in place to take action against bullies and help people who are the target of harassment. If you do not feel this is sufficient, there are a number of government and external organisations with information, resources, and counsellors to assist.
- Kidsline - www.kidsline.org.nz 0800 54 37 54
- Youthline - www.youthline.co.nz 0800 37 66 33
- Lifeline - www.lifeline.org.nz
- NZ Police 'No Bully' - www.police.govt.nz/nobully
- Netsafe cyber bullying info - www.netsafe.org.nz
Content supplied by DryNites New Zealand.
Published 26 February, 2013