No parent ever wants to hear that his or her child is the victim of bullying. Unfortunately this is becoming increasingly the case with as many as 1 in 6 children being bullied in some way on a weekly basis.
What is Bullying?
Bullying refers to physical or verbally aggressive behaviours that intentionally cause hurt or harm to a child. These behaviours are typically repeated over time and evolve from a position of power. We say a child is being bullied when another child or several other children:
- Say or do mean or hurtful things
- Hit, kick, punch, or shove
- Ignore or exclude them from their group of friends or leave them out of things on purpose
- Spread rumours or tell lies, or try and make other children not like them
Cyberbullying is a new form of bullying that occurs via the internet (e.g. bullying via email, chat rooms, instant messaging, and websites) and mobile phones (e.g. bullying via phone calls, text messages, and picture or video clips). While traditional bullying usually occurs at preschool or school, cyberbullying can occur at any time, day or night, and in any location. Children cannot escape it even in their own home. It can be observed by large audiences and it is easier for cyber than traditional bullies to shield their identity.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me”
No matter how often a child is told to just ignore it, the fact is bullying hurts. Children who are bullied can experience a range of negative outcomes including depression, anxiety, bedwetting, social withdrawal, lack of friends, loneliness, dislike or avoidance of school, poor academic performance and suicidal tendencies.
Who is at risk of being bullied?
Some children seem to be almost immune from bullying while others seem to get picked on all the time. Why does this happen? Researchers have identified a range of individual, social and school-related factors that increase or decrease bullying among children.
- Children who are frequently victimised by peers are more likely to be introverted, anxious have low self-esteem and lack assertiveness.
- Children are often teased for deviant physical characteristics or behaviours (e.g., obesity, wearing glasses, bedwetting, speech problems, clumsiness, physical disability).
- Children who are rarely bullied tend to be perceived by peers as friendly, likely to share and cooperate, provocative victims on the other hand are inclined to be aggressive, engage in attention-seeking, are disruptive, restless, and argumentative.
- Children at risk of being bullied are also more likely to engage in antisocial conduct, such as lying and stealing.
- The quality and the quantity of a child’s friends may influence his or her chances of being bullied. Bullies prefer to attack children without friends as they can do so without worrying about retaliation or ostracism.
- The school environment contributes to decreases in bullying through positive teacher-child relationships, close monitoring by teachers, the inclusion of anti-bullying policies and activities as well as a commitment by all members of the school community to stop bullying.