Bullying can affect anybody and is a frequent problem at school, at work, at home and even online (cyber-bullying).
Bullying is not a one-off incident. It is something that people say or do repetitively and intentionally.
Types of Bullying
Bullying can take different forms:
- Verbal: putting people down, calling them names and making threats are examples of common verbal bullying.
- Physical: kicking, punching, pushing, following the victim around the playground so that they feel intimidated.
- Social: ignoring the victim on purpose and leaving them out of the group, spreading rumours or lies, breaking secrets, gossiping, criticising clothes/personality. This is often referred to as “’covert bullying’’. The Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (2009) surveyed more than 20 000 Australian students aged between 8 and 14 and found that 27% of year 4 to year 9 were bullied every few weeks and also, that girls were more likely to bully in covert ways. Covert bullying can also include repeatedly:
- using hand gestures and nasty or threatening looks;
- whispering, excluding, turning your back on a person;
- blackmailing, threatening, stealing friends.
- Cyber-bullying: with technology, bullying does not stop once your child comes home from school, sport, or work. Bullies use social media, group discussion, online forums, chat rooms, emails and text messages to torment their target. Cyber-bullies can post pictures of your child or teen, spread lies and rumors, pretend to be you, threaten, or expose personal information or secrets online.
Why do people bully others?
This is an interesting question with many different possible answers. It could be that the bully has a desire to control others; or it may be used as a way to become more popular and respected by others at school (a way to improve social status). Bullies may also have been the victim of bullying themselves in the past or it may be their way of coping with family issues.
The Impact of Bullying
Bullying can have a negative impact on people of any age (not just children), damaging their self-esteem. The victims of bullying may experience feelings of hopelessness, sadness, loneliness, rejection and fear.
Victims can start to lose motivation and concentration at school or may become shy or socially isolated. Symptoms of depression are often observed as well as suicidality and self-harm.
If you are worried that your child could be being bullied there are several signs that you can look for:
- Unexplained injuries;
- Doing poorly at school;
- Needing extra money or extra supplies;
- Damaged belongings (books, bags etc);
- Lost or missing belongings;
- School refusal;
- Difficulties sleeping;
- Less friends;
- Low self-esteem;
- Not wanting to be part of social events.
What can I do to help my child?
- Take bullying seriously;
- Listen calmly to your child. Note that many children feel embarrassed about being bullied and therefore may find it difficult to come back to you, if you did not listen in the first place;
- Discuss with your child how to problem solve;
- Do not encourage your child to fight with the bullies. Instead, teach your child non-violent ways to deal with bullies;
- Praise your child for doing the right thing;
- Talk to the teacher about the issues and if the problem persists, make an appointment with your school principal (most schools have anti-bullying policies).
Remember that solutions can be found and the best thing to do is to talk about it with your child to explore possible ways to address the problem. Everyone has the right to study and go to school without feeling intimidated, discriminated against, or unsafe.
Cyberbullying occurs when the internet, email or mobile phones are used deliberately and repeatedly to engage in hostile behavior in order to harm someone. This happens typically between older children and teenagers (11).
Tips for Parents to prevent cyber-bullying:
(Adapted from the National Crime Prevention Council)
- Refuse to pass along cyber-bullying messages. Do not participate in cyber-bullying.
- Block communication with cyber-bullies; delete messages.
- Never post or share personal information online (including full name, address, telephone number, school name, parents’ names etc) or your friends’ personal information.
- Never put anything online that you wouldn’t want other people or classmates to see.
- Never share any password.
- Do not post any messages or share any pictures while you are angry or upset.
- Always be as polite online as you would be during a real conversation.
Tips to help your Child/Teenager deal with Cyber-Bullying
(Adapted from the National Prevention Council website and the Australian Government website)
- Keep your home computer in a busy area of your house.
- Monitor internet use closely.
- Make sure that you know your child’s screen names and passwords, and that they don’t include any personal information in their online profiles.
- Ask your child who their Facebook friends are or who follows them, and how your child knows these people.
- Block senders of offensive material.
- Print this list of commonly used acronyms in instant messenger and chat rooms from the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children and post it by your computer (see reference number 10 and click on “What do online abbreviations/acronyms mean?”).
- Discuss cyber-bullying with your children and ask if they have ever experienced it or seen it happen to someone.
- Tell your children that you won’t blame them if they are cyber-bullied. Emphasise that you won’t take away their computer privileges – this is the main reason kids don’t tell adults when they are cyber-bullied.
Bullying is not OK
If you believe that your child is being bullied and is in need of psychological support, I would love to meet with you and your child to provide counselling support, as well as strategies to deter the bullies and develop your child’s self-esteem and confidence.
Author: Meggy Delaunay, PG Dip Psych Practice, PG Dip Dev Psych, M Genetic Psych, B Psych, MAPS.
Meggy Delaunay is a psychologist who primarily works with children, adolescents and young adults. She is a registered Psychologist in Australia, New Zealand and France, and can provide therapy sessions in English and French.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.
Here are some websites and books that you may find useful.
- Campbell, M.A. (2005). Cyber bullying: An old problem in a new guise? Australian Journal of guidance and counselling, 15(1), pp 68-76.
- Campbell, M.A. (2007). Cyber bullying and young people: Treatment principles not simplistic advice.
- Jackson, J.S. & Alley, R.W. (2003). Bye, Bye, Bully! A kid’s guide for dealing with bullies. Kindle edition
- The Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study’ (2009) can be accessed online. http://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/australian_covert_bullying_prevalence_study_executive_summary.pdf
- The National Crime prevention Council http://www.ncpc.org (click on ‘resources’)