Your kids and bullying – What you need to know

Bullying is something we all worry about when dropping our kids off each day at school, and it’s completely normal – As parents we have a right to worry about our children’s happiness. Bullying runs rampant in the schoolyard and it’s not something any of us want our kids to be exposed to.

With the rise of social media and online communications apps, however, it’s become easier than ever for teasing and bullying to be elevated and transferred to your child’s screens. Now, we’re not telling you to be a helicopter parent, but this is certainly an important topic to understand as your kids grow up. Knowing the signs, what to do and how to act in tricky situations can help your child in the long run.

Bullying can have very harmful effects on young people, including significant mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, prevalent feelings of loneliness and decreased motivation to do well in school.

 

😡 Bullying – Is it really that common?

The definition of bullying for Australian Schools explains the concept as:

“… An ongoing and deliberate misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that intends to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.”

Even with all the educational resources on bullying and teachers explaining why it’s such a negative thing in the classroom, the truth is that bullying is still prevalent for many people growing up. One in four (27%) Year 4 to Year 9 Australian students have reported being bullied every few weeks. One in five students get bullied online, which may slowly start to rise with the increase of technology used in school curriculums.

There are many different types of bullying and these can affect your kids in different ways. They can occur within a combination of these categories:

  • Verbal: Relates to name-calling, teasing and putting people down.
  • Physical: Involves physically harming others through violence.
  • Social: Involves leaving excluding people on purpose, spreading rumours and lying about others.
  • Cyberbullying: Using technology and social media to harm others with hurtful messages and posts.

 

🚏 What are the signs to be aware of?

As a parent, it’s our job to recognise and understand some of the warning signs that might indicate bullying. Less than half of bullying incidents are actually reported to parents by their kids, so recognising the signs can be beneficial for if your child doesn’t want to talk about it or admit it’s happening. These are some ways you can recognise if your child is either being bullied, or bullying another person. If you notice more than a few of these signs in your child, it might mean it’s time to have a serious conversation about whether something is going on.

 

Signs of being bullied:

  • Frequent, unexplained injuries such as bruises or cuts
  • Damaged clothing
  • Headaches, feeling ill or faking sickness
  • Lack of interest in schoolwork
  • Avoiding going to school
  • Asking for extra lunch money or food
  • Avoiding social situations/avoiding friends
  • Changes in diet, such as skipping lunch or binge-eating

 

👨💻 Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a more recent development in the world of nastiness, and it involves using technology to repeatedly bully, hurt and coerce others online. Sending spiteful messages continuously, harassing others online, humiliating people through posts, videos or images, or even making fake profiles to talk to someone online are all forms of cyberbullying.

It can be particularly hurtful to our kids since online content spreads so quickly on social media platforms. Before you even know it, an embarrassing post can be seen by dozens of people in just a few minutes. Imagine if someone posted an embarrassing photos or mean statuses about your child online, for everyone to see – how would you feel as a parent?

Taking action against cyber-bullying can be difficult, but here are some of the ways your child can protect themselves if they are being cyber-bullying:

  • Tell the user their behaviour is not okay
  • Report the user and blocking them
  • Report relevant images and posts on the app
  • Talk to parents, teachers or trusted friends about the issue
  • Take screenshots of abusive posts and messages
  • Report the cyberbullying to the government/authorities if the issue doesn’t get resolved

 

Cyberbullying happens most often on social media. (Source)

🙅 Preventing bullying and taking action

It’s necessary to teach your kids not only to understand cyberbullying, but to be prepared for any form of bullying. Having open conversations with your child about whether they are being bullied, understanding what it is, and what behaviour is or is not acceptable is key. Teaching them the importance of reacting properly to threatening behaviour and what to do is also beneficial. Talk to your kids about:

  • What they think bullying is – Ensuring kids have a proper understanding of what bullying is can be helpful so they can recognise dangerous behaviours.
  • Why they think people bully others – The motivation behind bullies can help kids feel less ashamed if they find themselves in such a situation.
  • Who they would talk to if bullied – Encourage them to talk to an adult and ask for help if the bullying continues.
  • Whether someone has bullied them recently – Learning about your child’s safety at school is essential so you can intervene if something is wrong.
  • Building a relationship – Ask with interest about how your child’s day was and what they did, encouraging a stronger relationship. This will make them more open to discussing their lives and any issues they might have.

 

🤬 What if my child’s the bully?

Although we all hope this isn’t the case, the reality is that with each bullied child comes a bully to hurt them. It’s not something we’d like to learn about our kids, but if you find your child is a bully it’s essential to rectify their behaviour before it becomes more common.

Here are some of the signs and risk factors of whether your child might be bullying other children:

  • Gradually develops more aggressive attitudes
  • Getting in trouble at school more often
  • Low self-esteem
  • Defensive attitude
  • Wanting other to like them
  • Moody or angry
  • They have things that you didn’t buy them
  • They talk negatively about other kids

If you’re worried your child is bullying others, communication is the key to confirming it. These signs could relate other issues as well, so talking to them can help clarify what’s wrong. Finding out why they are bullying and reinforcing that the behaviour is not okay is the next step. Asking questions like ‘how would you feel if someone said that to you?’ can help get the message across. Finding out why your child might be bullying others is also important.

Some common reasons include:

  • Your child is being bullied themselves and is acting out in retaliation
  • Your child sees bullying at home or in their role-models (including television and YouTube)
  • They are bullying to feel more in-control (low self-esteem)

Taking action immediately and teaching them the correct behaviour is the best thing you can do. This can be done by being a good role-model to your children and raising their self-esteem. Giving your child positive attention, like encouraging them to try new things and being supportive of their achievements can go a long way in raising their self-esteem.

Obviously, punishment or discipline is necessary as well to teach children that bullying is a bad thing. If your child has been bullying other children, setting limits, temporary bans and consequences are effective ways to ensure it doesn’t happen again.


If you’re worried about your child’s safety or bullying in general, you can find more tips and advice at www.ncab.org.au. For cyberbullying specifically, visit Office of the eSafety Commissioner.

You can combat cyberbullying or help prevent it from happening with our parental control app, FamilyEye. With the ability to check internet usage and filter inappropriate websites and apps, you can ensure your child’s time online is safe and sound. Try it for free here.

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