Bullying is ongoing physical, emotional or verbal aggression by one or more people against others. It is widespread and commonly found where children gather. It can have detrimental effects on all involved, including the bully.
Bullying is more than just physical aggression. Bullying is the deliberate desire by one or more people to hurt, threaten or frighten someone with words, behaviour or actions. Bullying can vary in its severity. It can include threatening, teasing, name calling, excluding, preventing others from going where they want to or doing what they want to, pushing or hitting, and all forms of physical abuse.
Bullying affects everyone involved. It is now recognised that long-term bullying can be very damaging for all involved. There are three groups involved in bullying who are affected:
- The child being bullied – who may experience effects on their health and wellbeing, including their sense of self and place in their world.
- The bully – who needs to learn more appropriate ways of interaction and peaceful problem solving.
- The audience – who witness bullying.
We are now learning the power of the audience. They are the ones who can stop the bullying from occurring by telling responsible adults what is going on. It is important that all children recognise that bullying is not acceptable, even if they are not involved, and that they can make a difference to help prevent bullying from occurring.
Victims of bullying
The bully can pick on anyone around them. Sometimes, though, they will choose children who seem easy to hurt and who they can successfully intimidate. They may pick on children who:
- Look or are different in some way
- Are loners
- Are stressed, either at home or at school
- Have a disability
- Struggle with schoolwork or other tasks set for the group
- Are not good at sport
- Lack social confidence
- Are anxious
- Prefer books to people
- Are academic
- Are unable to hold their own because they are smaller, weaker or younger.
Occasionally, children provoke other children to bully. Very competitive environments can contribute to bullying.
Adults may not be the first to know. Children who are being bullied may not always tell adults first. They usually tell a friend or sibling before they will confide in other family members. Most children will not tell those in authority at the place where the bullying is occurring. They may be afraid or ashamed, or they may not have any confidence that those in authority can do anything about the bullying.
Look out for signs and effects. Some signs of a child being bullied may include the child:
- Not wanting to go to the place where they are being bullied and finding excuses to stay at home (for example, feeling sick)
- Wanting to travel a different way, rather than the most obvious or quickest way, to avoid the children who are bullying them
- Being very tense, tearful and unhappy after attending the place where they are being bullied
- Talking about hating the place where they are being bullied or not having any friends
- Being covered in bruises or scratches
- Wearing torn clothes and not being able to explain how this happened
- Going without lunch as lunch or lunch money has gone missing
- Refusing to tell you what happens at the place where they are being bullied
- Changing in behaviour and demeanour
- Gaining or losing weight
- Suffering from an eroding confidence
- Producing varied academic achievements, with poor results in a particular area where previously these were much better.
Your child may show other signs such as unhappiness, being teary or withdrawn, or changes in behaviour. These may include problems with sleeping, bedwetting and general regression. These signs may not necessarily mean your child is being bullied, but you need to check out what is worrying your child. You can do this by spending time encouraging your child to talk to you about their worries. This means listening (without interrupting) and believing your child.
Source: Australian Psychology Society