Bullying is a growing problem in society …
We share some helpful advice and things to look out for when it comes to bullying.
Why do kids bully?
• A common cause of childhood bullying of others is the lack of attention from parents at home, which leads to children lashing out at others for attention.
• This can include neglected children, children of divorced parents, or children with parents under the regular influence of drugs/ alcohol.
• Older siblings can also be the cause of the problem. If they’ve been bullied, they are more likely to bully a younger sibling, in order to feel more secure or empower themselves.
• Very often parents are bullies, are angry, or don’t handle conflict well. Kids usually bully because they learn this behaviour at home. It is learned behaviour, which can be unlearned.
• Some kids are naturally more aggressive, domineering and impulsive, but this does not always mean that they will become bullies.
• Bullies dominate, blame and use others. They lack empathy and foresight and have contempt for the weak. They see weaker kids as their target and don’t accept the consequences of their actions. They crave power and attention.
Warning signs of a person being bullied
There are many warning signs that may indicate that someone is affected by bullying – either being bullied or bullying others. Recognising the warning signs is an important first step in taking action against bullying. These warning signs can also point to other issues or problems, such as depression or substance abuse.
Signs that a child is being bullied:
• Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
• Declining shool marks, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
• Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
• Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
• Self-destructive behaviours such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
• Inexplicable injuries
• Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewellery
• Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
• Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch
Signs of a child bullying others:
• Getting into physical or verbal fights
• Having friends who bully others
• Increased aggression
• Having unexplained extra money or new belongings
• Blaming others for their problems
• Not accepting responsibility for actions
• Extreme competitiveness, and undue concern for personal reputation or popularity
Myths and facts about bullying
Myth: Bullying is a normal part of childhood and you should just ignore it.
Fact: Bullying is not ‘normal’ or acceptable in any form and ignoring it might not always make it stop. Confide in someone you trust, such as a parent or teacher to help you get it stopped. Bullying can destroy your self-esteem and confidence.
Myth: Cyberbullying doesn’t involve physical harm, so what’s the harm?
Fact: Actually, some people have committed suicide as a result of not seeing any way out of the non-stop harassment, threats and abuse. The emotional scarring stays for a lot longer and sometimes people never get over it. Some websites allow people to post anonymously, which can mean it is very hard to stop this abuse.
Myth: Online bullying is just banter and harmless.
Fact: People being bullied online is a very serious issue.
The bullying can go viral and make the problem escalate very quickly. It is important to take a screenshot of any conversations, messages or posts that you feel are bullying so that you have a record.
Myth: Children grow out of bullying.
Fact: Quite often, children who bully grow up to be adults who bully or use negative behaviour to get what they want, unless there has been intervention and their behaviour challenged by the relevant authorities, whether it be school or parents, etc.
Bully Proof (Gail Dore) looks at every aspect of bullying, from name-calling, taunting and rumour-mongering to physical assault, and examines why and how bullies behave the way they do, and what can be done to help them and their victims. R200 from Exclusive Books.
Eight bullying survival tips
1. If you feel safe enough, speak to the person who is bullying you. Have you ever said something to a friend and upset them by accident? Chances are, it has probably happened loads of times. It’s a similar thing with bullying, as the definition of the behaviour is by default subjective – meaning that everybody has a different threshold of what they consider to be bullying. Sometimes, the person who is bullying you may genuinely have no idea that it is affecting you. Equally, they are probably going through a difficult time themselves and will relate to how you’re feeling.
2. Ignore the bully and walk away. This is definitely not a coward’s response – sometimes it can be harder than losing your temper. Bullies thrive on the reaction they get, and if you walk away or ignore hurtful emails or instant messages, you’re telling the bully that you just don’t care.
3. Hold the anger in. Who doesn’t want to get really upset with a bully? But that’s exactly the response he or she is trying to get. Bullies want to know they have control over your emotions.
4. Don’t get physical. However you choose to deal with a bully, don’t use physical force (like kicking, hitting, or pushing). Not only are you showing your anger, you can never be sure what the bully will do in response.
5. Don’t see yourself as the problem. The reason people experience bullying is not their sexuality, gender identity, race, appearance, disability or any other unique factor; it is because of the attitude towards the factor. The only thing possible to change is attitudes. The person who is bullying you is the one with the issue, not you.
6. Practise confidence. Practise ways to respond to the bully verbally or through your behaviour. Practise feeling good about yourself (even if you have to fake it at first).
7. Take charge of your life. You can’t control other people’s actions, but you can stay true to yourself. Think about ways to feel your best – and your strongest. Exercise is one way to feel strong and powerful. (It’s a great mood lifter, too!) Learn a martial art or take a class like yoga.
8. Talk about it. It may help to talk to a guidance counsellor, teacher, or friend – anyone who can give you the support you need. Talking can be a good outlet for the fears and frustrations that can build up when you’re being bullied.
STOPit is a simple, fast and powerful solution to report inappropriate behaviours, deter unethical or illegal activity, and mitigate financial and reputational risks to schools and corporations. Download the app from Google Play Store.
Different types of bullying
There are many different types of bullying that can be experienced by children and adults alike.
Some are easy to spot, while others can be more subtle.
To help you identify the type of bullying, we provide short descriptions of typical bullying behaviours.
Physical bullying includes hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching and pushing or damaging property. Physical bullying causes both short- and long-term damage.
Verbal bullying includes name-calling, insults, teasing, intimidation, homophobic or racist remarks, or verbal abuse. While verbal bullying can start off harmless, it can escalate to levels which start affecting the victim.
Social bullying, sometimes referred to as covert bullying, is often harder to recognise and can be carried out behind the victim’s back. It is designed to harm someone’s social reputation and/ or cause humiliation. Social bullying includes things like lying and spreading rumours, negative facial or physical gestures, menacing or contemptuous looks, playing nasty jokes, and embarrassing, humiliating and mimicking the victim unkindly.
Cyberbullying can be either overt or covert bullying using technology, including hardware such as computers and smartphones, and software such as social media, instant messaging, texts, websites and other online platforms. Cyberbullying can include abusive or hurtful texts, emails or posts, images or videos, deliberately excluding others online and/ or imitating others online or using their log-in details.