Bullying has changed from its traditional school ground association. Our wired society brings with it significant bullying issues. Social networks make material continuously available, and the exposure to it widespread. News stories show that overwhelming, large-scale, and constant social bullying played a part in several recent suicides.
Strategies to combat bullying include being aware of what is happening in your child’s real and virtual life, and providing support.
How do we tell the difference between bullying and normal childhood conflicts and teasing? Unlike teasing, bullying happens repeatedly, is ongoing and usually one-sided. Compared to teasing, bullying is often an attempt to gain control over, intimidate, dominate, or negatively influence someone else. While teasing is usually short, bullying is persistent, far-reaching in scope, and deeply affects its target. Sometimes it may also be a crime.
Bullying comes in many forms. It can range from physical contact or inappropriate sexual touching to severe verbal or emotional abuse. It can be violent, or purposely isolate and exclude someone. It may be based on sexual orientation, racial background, age, gender, or appearance. Often there is no specific reason for the bullying. Instead, it reflects the bully’s own insecurity and need for control.
Bullying is often linked with shame, isolation, self-blame and silence. Kids believe something is wrong with them that justifies the bullying. Silence and shame allow the problem to continue. They avoid getting help and support. Teens in particular are hesitant to identify bullying. As a result, many do not seek assistance and may even deny that there is a problem.
You can watch for behaviors and symptoms that suggest bullying, including:
The best way to identify bullying is to be aware that it does exist.
Openness, honesty, and a willingness to listen are the greatest weapons against bullying. Make yourself available, and do not be afraid to address the issue. Often direct questioning will not lead to answers. Many kids do not want to admit to being a victim. Talk to teachers, coaches or friends if you suspect something is wrong. The new reality is that you may also need to access your child’s online social network.
Remember that your child may also be a bully. Accept this, and recognize that it may represent the child’s anger or insecurity. This is an essential step in helping both your child and others.
Billy Brings his Buddies
(a safety program about the buddy system for Grade 1 aged children)
Canadian Children’s Rights Council
Bully Free Alberta
We are becoming much more aware of the significant effects of bullying. This awareness is society’s most important tool to protect our children. Unfortunately, it also reflects the widespread social network that our connected 24/7 generation of kids lives in. We are entering a new world. As with most aspects of this new computer-literate gener ation, the rules for dealing with its issues are being developed on the fly.
Slowly, we are creating mechanisms and supports. Most school age children have resources to combat bullying in their school and recreational settings. Perhaps the greatest strides have been made in educating kids to expect not to be bullied, and about help available to them. Resources include both local school supports as well as provincial and national organizations.
Bullying lives in the shadows. We owe it to our kids to expose it to the light.