Children across Australia are returning to school. It’s a time of excitement for those going back to friends and safe and supportive teaching environments. But for kids experiencing bullying and harassment, school can become a nightmare.
The following steps have been created by experts at the Alannah & Madeline Foundation’s National Centre Against Bullying. It is a vital guide for parents, teachers and children who need to know how to manage the issue:
- Recognise that bullying matters – because it hurts in the short and long term. It’s everybody’s responsibility.
- Be clear about what bullying is. It is an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated aggressive verbal, physical and/or social behaviour online or offline, which intends to cause physical and/or psychological harm, distress or fear. Bullying almost always occurs alongside cyber bullying.
- Bullying is not mutual conflict between equals, single acts of nastiness or aggression or social rejection or dislike unless it is deliberate, repeated and intended to cause distress.
- Watch for the following signs because many children will rarely say what is happening to them (trouble at school, drop in academic performance, sleep and/or eating disorders, withdrawal from social activities).
- Never ignore a bullying or cyber bullying situation. Respond to it as a parent or teacher with respectful listening, noting down the particulars of the situation and how the young person wants it resolved. Usually they are not interested in punishing the person who is bullying them; they just want it to stop.
- Encourage young people to tell someone who can help and not to ignore bullying; it will not go away on its own.
- Explain to young people that retaliating physically or aggressively will usually make things worse.
- Strategies young people can practise to cope with bullying include walking away, acting unimpressed, or pretending not to notice. Online strategies can include blocking, strategic ignoring of the behaviour and saving evidence via screenshots.
- Encourage young people to have diverse friendship groups. It’s too easy to be excluded or sidelined if you only have a couple of friends.
- If bullying or cyber bullying is particularly serious (physical or deeply personal), the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner or the police can be contacted. Before then, you might want to contact Kids Helpline on 1800 551800 or Lifeline on 131114.
For more information, visit www.ncab.org.au/bullying-advice/