Sunday, 10 February 2013

Bullying awareness month

Bullying is a loaded and emotive term and when our children come home and say someone bullied them it can cause us to turn to a defensive mode pretty quickly.  As a parent I have known the flash of anger on hearing that my daughter or son was being bullied by someone and it has happened to both of them in the past, but I also know the wisdom in getting a true perspective on what really happened and learning to call  a spade a spade.  Calling an action bullying when it isn't is not helpful and can create harm to a student who may have been careless and may have been unkind but was not bullying.  It is not nice when we are told that our children are bullies, so let's be sure of what we mean when we use that term.

Conflict in the playground occurs - it is normal because it is part of being human.  Not every conflict however, is bullying.  One child saying to another you can't play this game is unkind and unfair but not necessarily an instance of bullying.  That would require the action to be repeated and for the bully to get others involved in isolating the student.  Disagreements can be sorted out by getting teachers involved and by teaching children conflict resolution skills.

"Bullying is repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological behaviour that is harmful and involves the misuse of power by an individual or group towards one or more persons. Cyberbullying refers to bullying through information and communication technologies.
Bullying can involve humiliation, domination, intimidation, victimisation and all forms of harassment including that based on sex, race, disability, homosexuality or transgender. Bullying of any form or for any reason can have long-term effects on those involved including bystanders.
Bullying can happen anywhere: at school, travelling to and from school, in sporting teams, between neighbours or in the workplace.
Bullying behaviour can be:
  • verbal eg name calling, teasing, abuse, putdowns, sarcasm, insults, threats
  • physical eg hitting, punching, kicking, scratching, tripping, spitting
  • social eg ignoring, excluding, ostracising, alienating, making inappropriate gestures
  • psychological eg spreading rumours, dirty looks, hiding or damaging possessions, malicious SMS and email messages, inappropriate use of camera phones.

Conflict or fights between equals and single incidents are not defined as bullying. Bullying behaviour is not:
  • children not getting along well
  • a situation of mutual conflict
  • single episodes of nastiness or random acts of aggression or intimidation." 

sourced from the NSW education department

Disagreements between friends and conflict within peer groups happens and can be easily dealt with through discussion and teaching of social skills.  Bullying however is systematic, deliberate, usually planned and aims to make another person feel less valued, put down, scared, unwanted and isolated.  In this instance the victim needs to learn skills of resilience and what to do so that the bully can be dealt with. 

Even more importantly I believe the bystanders-the people who see and hear it- must speak up on behalf of the victim.  When this happens I believe instances of bullying will greatly reduce.  However for that to occur the bystanders need to be sure they will be safe and will not be bullied which is often why students see and hear things but are too scared to report them for fear of reprisals.  This is the culture that needs to change.

Please read our Bullying policy on  Located under publications: school policies

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