Bullying, it seems, is a fact of life in schools around the world, with roughly 1 in 4 students being affected according to a study conducted by the Australian Federal Government but with such a high prevalence amongst kids, how can we stop the epidemic?
Bullying is defined as “the use of force, threat or coercion to abuse, intimidate or aggressively dominate another”. It can come in many forms ranging from the use of actual physical violence to continuous public ridicule and is often targeted at someone’s race, religion or physical appearance.
Four basic types of bullying have been identified: These are emotional, verbal, physical and cyber, with the latter becoming more and more prevalent in recent times through the use of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Bullying, while common can have lasting, devastating effects on children, leading to major emotional trauma such as depression, anxiety and deep-seated anger that can amplify over time, especially when a child is being constantly harassed or hurt.
Bullying has also become a recognised factor in suicides involving young children and teenagers with the victims of bullying being more than 9 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than other children and has also led to “revenge violence” in which the victim strikes back against the perpetrators. Most disturbingly, bullying was mentioned as a factor in the US Columbine school massacre, and in a report issued in 2000 and it was identified as a background factor in two thirds of the previous 37 premeditated school shootings in the US.
For parents it is important to recognise the signs that your child may be being bullied, either at school or within their social group. These signs may include:
- The child is reluctant to attend school or a fear of travelling to school emerges
- Academic performance drops suddenly or dramatically
- Changes in sleep patterns become noticeable
- Changes in diet or eating patterns unfold
- The child exhibits mood swings – frequently anger and tears or the child becomes withdrawn or despondent.
- The child becomes suddenly clingy, blames themselves for problems or feels like they’re not good enough.
- They complain of physical issues like headaches, stomach aches or have frequent visits to the school’s sick bay
- Money inexplicably disappears from around the house, or the child’s clothes, toys, electronic items begin to go missing, or mysteriously “lost”
- Unexplained injuries such as cuts and bruises become apparent
- School clothes are sometimes found ripped or dirty
- They suddenly change friendship groups or suddenly lose friends.
- They begin to bully siblings or younger children.
- They exhibit a sudden behavioural change like bed wetting or crying themselves to sleep.
- The child will sometimes return home hungry
To help parents, teachers and students address these issues the seventh National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence will be held in Australia on Friday 17 March 2017.
Extensive background information can be found on the Australian Government website https://bullyingnoway.gov.au/NationalDay/