How to recognise bullying and do something about it

A survey* of schools in 40 different countries found that Australian Primary Schools have one of the highest bullying rates in the world. Survey results show that 25% of year 4 students are affected by bullying, with the number rising to a shocking 35% in the final two years of primary school.

Considering this, it's critical we are aware what bullying is, how to recognise it, how to take action and what others can do to go as a ‘bystander’ to an ‘upstander’.

Types of bullying

  • Verbal -  including name calling, ignoring, or ridiculing someone,
  • Physical -  poking, hitting, punching, kicking, pushing or destroying someone’s property,
  • Covert - including lying or spreading rumours, deliberate exclusion from friendship groups, or playing horrible jokes on somebody, and
  • Cyberbullying - using technology to send hurtful messages or pictures on mobile devices, PCs and via social media.

Signs of bullying

Although bullying is not rare, it is important to acknowledge that some conflicts between children are to be expected. Single episodes of rejection, nastiness, random acts of intimidation, hostility, or mutual disagreements are not considered bullying.

Recognise the signs: is your child being bullied?

There are, however, some clear signs to recognise if someone is being bullied; mood swings, becoming withdrawn, frequent tears, bursts of anger, unexplained bruises, cuts, scratches, missing or damaged belongings. Other signs could include avoidance of school, fall in academic results, becoming upset after going online, hiding the computer screen and hiding mobile phones when around other people.

What to do if you  suspect your child is the victim of bullying behaviour

1. listen calmly to what your child wants to say

2. reassure them that they are not to blame and ask open and empathetic questions to find out more

3. ask your child what they want to do next and what they would like you to do

4. discuss strategies to help your child handle the bullying

5. contact the school (if the behaviour occurred there) and stay in touch with them

6. make sure to check in regularly and remind them that resources like the Kids Help Line are available when they need them.

Bystanders to bullying

A bystander is a person who has seen another being repetitively hurt by a bully, yet stand and watch in silence or simply turn their back on the whole situation.

Even if your child is not experiencing bullying themselves, they can help peers around them who may be experiencing it. Although a bystander is not actively taking part in the bullying, knowing about it and doing nothing about it can be just as harmful.

The change from bystander to upstander (someone who recognises when something is wrong and acts to make it right), can be a simple one. Speaking to a teacher, school counsellor or trusted adult about what they saw can often the best first step in stopping the cycle of bullying.

* Mullis, I.V.S., Martin, M.O., & Foy, P. (with Olson, J.F., Preuschoff, C., Erberber, E., Arora, A., & Galia, J.). (2008)

Help tackle bullying in your school

At Life Education, our modules; bCyberwise, Growing Good Friends and Relate Respect Connect, equip students with helpful age-appropriate strategies to manage bullying behaviour in their lives.

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