Bullying: a parent's guide

Around one in four Australian schoolchildren  in years four to nine are bullied every week, whether it's face-to-face teasing, social exclusion, physical intimidation or hurting intentionally, or online bullying.

Bullying in Australian schools is a serious problem; more than 20 per cent of males and 15 per cent of females aged 8-18 report being bullied at least once a week . Chances are your child may have felt the effects of bullying, however subtle, at some stage. If your child is being bullied, what can you do to help stop it and support and comfort your child?

How to spot the signs

According to the charity group, Bullying No Way , the following behaviours or signs may indicate that your child is being bullied.

  • They don’t want to go to school.
  • They change the route they walk to school.
  • They may become frightened to walk to school alone.
  • Changes in their sleep patterns.
  • Changes in their eating patterns.
  • They are tearful, angry or more moody than normal. 
  • They have unexplained bruises, cuts or scratches.
  • They have missing or damaged belongings or clothes.

Social media and bullying

In these technology driven days, bullying is increasingly happening online as well. The Australian Human Rights Commission  reports that cyber bullying affects at least one in ten students, a frightening statistic which can not only affect a child's mental and physical health, but can also lead to a child self-harming, loss of confidence, feeling isolated and unsafe. Some cases of suicide due to cyber bullying have also occurred. Social media bullying is  one of the most common ways that children bully their peers. 
teenage girls whispering

What you can do

The Australian Psychological Society  recommends taking the following steps if you suspect, or know, that your child is being bullied.
  • Ask your child directly if there is anything wrong, while reminding them that they are safe.
  • Speak openly about bullying, and what your child should do if they become victims, or have seen it occur.
  • Role play to educate your child(ren) about what to do if they are being bullied. The APS recommends teaching them to look the person in the eye and say ‘stop bullying me’.
  • Find out from your child's school where and how to report instances of bullying.
  • Speak to your child's teacher about any bullying signs they may have noticed and what plans they have in place to put an end to it and deal with situations if, and when, they occur.
Bullying is a serious matter, one which needs to be taken serious by both parents and schools. By supporting your child in their fears, concerns and encouraging them to talk to you, you will hopefully be able to create a safe haven for your child, put a stop to any bullying, and preventing such incidents occurring in future.  

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