FROM practical jokes to name-calling, classroom secrets to online taunts. When does seemingly harmless teasing cross the line to become bullying?
It’s a problem plaguing young people across the nation, and parents are often left with the difficult task of figuring out how to tackle the issue. What can they do if their child is the target? What should they do if they discover their child is the perpetrator? What role do teachers play? When should police get involved?
Oscar Yildiz, the executive director of Bully Zero Australia Foundation said bullying was a multi-faceted problem which came in several forms.
“Bullying is when an individual or group uses its power and strength to repeatedly, deliberately and intentionally use words or actions against another or a group that hurts, threatens, excludes, harasses, humiliates verbally, physically, psychologically or electronically making the victim feel oppressed, traumatised and powerless,” Mr Yildiz said.
“Hurtful teasing is the most common form of bullying followed by lies that occurs among young school children. Often one-off incidents are not considered bullying, however if they are not nipped in the bud then things can escalate, get out of hand and lead to physical and or other forms of bullying. As a former primary and secondary teacher I have personally seen mucking about or jokes that go too far and have caused the victim much emotional pain.
“Often children will resort to teasing, name calling and laugh at mistakes of others with the intention to damage one’s self esteem. Some use words to taunt, threaten, insult, embarrass, put down, swear, mock or intimidate the victim.”
The rise of Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat and more than one million other mobile apps has led to new forms of bullying over the past decade. Mr Yildiz said that social media in the wrong hands could be deadly.
According to statistics provided by Bully Zero Australia Foundation, 65 per cent of teenagers have admitted to participating in online bullying . The impact of bullying on these forums could be significant because the size and reach of the audience could reach in the thousands, if not millions.
Besides bullying, children were also exposed to predators, stalking and intimidation and several other worrying behaviours on social media.
Australia’s leading cyber safety expert Susan McLean stressed the importance of parents monitoring their children’s internet use.
“Be aware of what your children are doing and be involved. Keep the lines of communication open and know the sites they are one. Make sure they don’t engage with people you don’t know. Make sure they do not have accounts on age restricted sites and make sure they don’t have any internet activities in the bedroom (or in unsupervised areas),” she said.
“Don’t put your head in the sand and think it won’t happen to your child. Even the best kids are at risk. You have to educate yourself and be willing to parent in digital space. Parenting in cyber space is parenting in the 21st century- it’s non-negotiable.”
Mr Yildiz said parents and children should read the Licence agreement on the site or app they are using, ensure that privacy settings were updated and ensure default settings were set to safe mode.
While parents should monitor their children’s internet use, teachers and principals also play a role when the cyber bullying extends to the classroom.
“Cyber bullying often occurs outside school hours, however if issues are brought into school then the principal will take action,” Mr Yildiz said. “The office of the Children’s ESafety Commissioner now has extensive powers to take down and prosecute those that behave inappropriately online.”
Parents should pay particular attention to their children’s behaviours if they think they may be getting bullied, online or elsewhere. Victims were often left scarred or anxious, had low self- esteem, had problems at school or home, felt confused or guilty and were emotionally withdrawn. Other signs include children coming home with ripped clothing, children apprehensive to go to school, a lack of friends, a decline in results, a decreased appetite, nightmares or sleeping disorders, mood swings.
Mr Yildez said there were also signs parents could watch out for if they thought that their child could be the bully. He said many perpetrators had been bullied in the past, acted out of jealousy, or wanted to feel a sense of power, control or popularity. They targeted students who were shy, performed poorly in sports or school work, were new, had noticeable differences or were minorities.
“Bullies will often take out their own problems, issues and frustrations on others. Some come from low socio economic backgrounds while others are not provided with the freedom to develop as children and are ridiculed or subjected to emotional and physical violence in the home. Being exposed to aggressive behaviour or overly strict environment makes children more prone to bully at school. Popular and well-liked children can also have mean tendencies,” he said.
“Bullies lack empathy and often underestimate their actions. No one is born a bully, there is no bullying DNA but rather it’s behaviour that is learned from home, social group, sporting club or community group. Often serious/notorious bullies have other anti-social conditioning issues and or suffer from relationship issues.”
So how do we get it to stop it? Early intervention was key. Mr Yildiz said parents should also advise their children to ensure the behaviour fit the definition of ‘bullying’. They should then consider intervention based on the severity and history, address the problem early and approach the perpetrator if it was safe to do so, using assertive “I“ messages to convey how they feel. Children should also be encouraged to talk to a parent, teacher or close friend they trust and keep a record of each incident.
If their children are being cyber bullied, they should be told not to blame themselves, get help from a parent or teacher, spend time offline, keep copies of the abuse, don’t reply and report the problem by contacting the host or Internet Service Provider.
Another key way to stop bulling is through bystander intervention.
“The most powerful person in any bullying situation is the bystander. If the bystander becomes the upstander and does something about the bullying, then it can stop in under 10 seconds most of the time,” Mr Yildez said.
“The bystander should help the victim, support the victim and tell the bully to stop.”
In severe cases, police can also get involved. They can assist through a variety of measures including search warrants, surveillance activity and monitoring computer or mobile use.
For further information about bullying, visit www.bzaf.org.au. To find out more about Susan McLean, visit her website www.cybersafetysolutions.com.au
The National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence is 18 March.
What is bullying?
– Name calling
– Spreading rumours or lies, misrepresenting someone (i.e. using their Facebook account to post messages as if it were them).
– Exclusion- keeping someone out of a group (online or offline) deliberately
– Threatening or harming
– Saying nasty things about others
– Not talking to individual/s with the intention to cause isolation or hurt
– Making someone feel uncomfortable or scared
– Taking or damaging belongings
– Touching or hitting
– Making or forcing someone do things they don’t want to do.
– Acting in an unpleasant way near or towards someone with the intention to hurt
– Giving constant nasty looks, making rude gestures, calling names, being rude, impolite and constantly negative teasing.
– Harassing someone based on their background, race, sex, religion, gender or disability
– Intentionally stalking someone
What isn’t bullying?
– One-off incidents – (not repeated).
– Bad mood or disagreement
– Apologising for behaviour immediately
– Accidently bumping into someone
– Expressions of unpleasant thoughts or feelings.
– Social rejection/dislike, not playing with someone, choosing different students or groups to play with.
– 160,000 school children don’t go to school every day because of bullying
– Bullying is learned behaviour often from the home.
– In 2014, Australia was the third most searched country on the topic of cyber bullying.
– Children bullied consistently at school are three times likely to show depressive symptoms
– One in four Grade 4 to Year 9 students report being bullied every few weeks
– Bullying happens to around one in eight young people but it affects one in four
– Bullying is most common in Grades 4 to 6. It peaks at Year 9 and 10 while declining at VCE level
– Most Year 11 and 12 students prefer cyber and covert bullying
– Those bullied consistently at school are three times more likely to show depressive symptoms
– Bullying can seriously damage the victims’ self-esteem, confidence, health and well-being and leave permanent psychological scars
– Bullying is intra and intergenerational i.e. those who bully at a young age often take that behaviour into their adulthood, workplace and marriage.
– Those that bully at a young age have been linked to violence, criminality and anti-social behaviour later in life
Bullying and girls
– Girls bullied in primary years are likely to remain victims in secondary school
– 64 per cent of girls in Grade 6 to Year 12 report being cyber bullied
– Older girls are likely to engage in cyber bullying
– Girls prefer covert, social and psychological bullying
– Girl bullies like alienating and deliberately leaving other girls out of activities
– They participate in mobbing – ganging up and prefer to spread rumours, isolate and exclude others.
– Eager for acceptance, don’t like exclusion, (going against a crowd) or associating with someone who is picked on
– Girls like to be part of a clique (group)
– Girls often take issues personally
– Girls often don’t talk to parents or teachers and are afraid of losing access to social media.
Bullying and boys
– Boys prefer physical or verbal bullying
– They are more likely to participate in cyber bullying at an older age
– Boys often don’t like going against a crowd or associating with someone who is picked on
– They are also known to be selfish and it’s rare they will support the victim
– Boys prefer to be a bystander
– They are easily persuaded into bullying behavior.
– Boys don’t talk about their bullying experience with teachers or family.
– Boys will hide any physical scars.
– Boys are more likely to harm themselves.
Be Cyber smart
Many young people are facing the brunt of online bullying. Parents and guardians are encouraged to be Cyber smart and know what sites their children are on, apps their children are using, and the acronyms used in texting and online comments.
Apps commonly used by children and teenager
– What’s app.
– Kik Messenger.
– Face time.
Acronyms used by children and teenagers:
– POS = Parent over shoulder.
– OMG = Oh my god.
– L8R = Later.
– G8 = Great.
– IBW = I’m being watched.
– CU = See you.
– NOYB = None of your business.
– 4GM = Forgive me.
– ASLP = Age, sex, location, picture.
– BCF = Becareful.
– DTYM = Don’t tell your mum.
– BRB = Be right back.
– FOFL = Falling on the floor laughing.
– LOL = Laugh out loud.
– ML = Mums looking.
– HIC = He is cute.
– SIC = She is cute.
– W8AM – Wait a minute.
– H&K= Hugs & kisses.
– 2L8 = Too late.
– CML = Call me later.
Where to seek help:
– School, welfare co-ordinator, classroom teacher, deputy and or principal.
– Counsellors, youth/social workers.
– Role models, coach, teacher or mentor.
– ProtectaChild – 1800 828 540.
– Netbox Blue – 1300 737 060.
– Victoria Police – 000.
– AFP – 13 12 37.
– Security Hotline – 1800 123 400.
– Office of the Children’s ESafety Commissioner – 1800 880 176.
– Bully Zero Australia Foundation – 1800 0 BULLY (1800 028 559).
– Security Hotline – 1800 123 400.
– Translation service 13 14 50.