Are you being bullied? What should you do?

What are the signs your child's being bullied? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What are the signs your child's being bullied? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Have you ever been bullied? Does your child need help? Can you spot a bully? James Marston investigates.

More than 20 years ago I was bullied.

I didn’t realise it at the time, in fact it took some research on my part to work out that it was bullying that actually happened

I thought it was normal, I was young and didn’t know any different - but my manager at the time was a bully.

She belittled me in front of my colleagues, she micro-managed me unnecessarily, she found fault constantly, she made threats about my job security...

At the time I was young and naïve. I eventually left the job and found another, the experience soured what should have been a great place to work. But as I look back it still rankles. It wasn’t nice and it wasn’t professional, it was bullying.

These days, I think, awareness about bullying has improved. We are more attune to the fact that it goes on, it happens to all sorts of people in all sorts of contexts.

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Recently a friend of mine, in her 40s, has been the victim of bullying. She’s had to move to get away. It was a shame as it was a job she loved. Maybe her employers could have helped, but she didn’t want to make a fuss. It’s understandable I suppose, but these days employees often have policies in place to ensure those being bullied have their complaints taken seriously.

This week is anti-bullying week, a campaign organised by the Anti-Bullying Alliance to raise awareness and inform the public about the topic.

The charity has released some facts in a bid to highlight this year’s theme – Choose Respect - they are:

1. A poll of 1,000 11 to 16-year-olds shows 97% would like adults to show more respect for each other

2. 41% of children have seen adults bullying each other during the last six months.

3. Children themselves continue to experience bullying: nearly half (45%) say they have been bullied face to face, and 34% online, at least once during the last six months

4. The equivalent of one child in every classroom (4%) said they were being bullied face to face or online every day.

5. Nearly all the children surveyed (98%) said that showing respect to each other is important and that it is possible to be respectful even if you disagree with someone else.

Martha Evans, director of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, said: “Children who experience bullying are at higher risk of experiencing a range of mental health issues and leaving school with fewer qualifications.

“The impact of bullying can last well in to adulthood. We need children to learn that we don’t have to be best friends with each other or always agree with each other but this is never an excuse for bullying or hurtful behavior. We must always choose respect.

“We are urging adults to role model the ‘choose respect’ message, and help us stop bullying in schools to prevent it from affecting so many children’s lives.”

Bullying – myth buster

Myth: You can spot a bully from the way they look and act

Fact: There is no such thing as a way a bully looks or acts. There is no specific dress code or behaviour code.

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 abuses. The emotional scarring stays for a lot longer and sometimes a person will never get over this.

Myth: If bullying was so bad, why don’t they have a law about it?

Fact: Some forms of bullying are illegal and should be reported to the police including violence or assault, theft, repeated harassment or intimidation, e.g. threats and abusive phone calls, emails or text messages and hate crimes.

Myth: It is easy to spot the signs of bullying

Fact: It is not always easy to spot the signs of bullying as it is not always physical and obvious. Emotional, verbal and online bullying can often leave scars that people don’t see.

Myth: Children grow out of bullying

Fact: Quite often children who bully may 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.

How can I help my child if they are being bullied?

1. If your child is being bullied, don’t panic. Your key role is listening, calming and providing reassurance that the situation can get better when action is taken.

2. Listen and reassure them that coming to you was the right thing to do. Try and establish the facts. It can be helpful to keep a diary of events to share with the school or college.

3. Assure them that the bullying is not their fault and that they have family that will support them. Reassure them that you will not take any action without discussing it with them first.

4. Don’t encourage retaliation to bullying - such as violent actions. It’s important for children to avoid hitting or punching an abusive peer. Reacting that way has negative and unpredictable results- they may be hurt even further, and find that they are labelled as the problem. Rather suggest that they walk away and seek help.

5. Find out what your child wants to happen next. Help to identify the choices open to them; the potential next steps to take; and the skills they may have to help solve the problems.

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