Bullied ebooklet

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The following is an excerpt from the ebooklet Working with children who are bullied by Murray Evely and Zoe Ganim, 2011.  

ISBN 978-1-921908-11-8.  

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Children who are bullied 

© Murray Evely and Zoe Ganim 2011

In Australia one in six children are bullied at school each week.[1] Bullying involves one or more individuals threatening or causing harm to another individual’s psychological or physical health and safety. These threats or acts of harm are ongoing, either intermittently or frequently. Bullying usually involves an unfair balance of power with often, unpredictable attacks, which leave the bullied child feeling vulnerable and isolated. Despite increased action by schools to prevent bullying over the past decade, school based anti-bullying interventions have had limited success[2].

More than 90% of school children report witnessing others being bullying at school.[3] Teachers rarely witness acts of bullying, and are often not informed of what has happened. High rates of bullying are likely to continue unless schools adopt a culture of no-tolerance for both bullying and bystander behaviour. It can be argued that this requires strong school leadership and a school community that demonstrates empathy, respect and tolerance for others. Unfortunately, aggression, intolerance, and harassment are seen as ‘acceptable’ behaviour in some families as a means to influence or isolate others and/or to resolve conflict. Bullying can include both direct and indirect behaviours.

Direct bullying behaviours

Direct bullying can include the following.

Indirect bullying behaviours

Boys are more likely to use direct forms of bullying, while girls will often engage in indirect bullying.

Who is more likely to be bullied?

Appearance and other attributes such as weight, race, and social economic status are not always predictive of being bullied. Other children, who don’t fit the common stereotype of the weak, sensitive, or anxious child who tends to get bullied, can be at risk. Some children who display a talent, who are slightly ‘different’ or popular with others can also be targets of bullying. Anxious children are frequently less liked by peers, and can be rejected, bullied and teased.

Effects of bullying on children

Children who are bullied are often anxious, insecure and unhappy. They may also be:

Bullied children are up to three times more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression than their peers.[4] They also have higher rates of worry, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, poor physical health, impaired academic performance and greater school non-attendance. For some children, anxiety and depression will resolve itself when the bullying stops. For others, residual worry, anxiety or depression can persist. For these children, intervention by teachers and other professionals is needed to help reduce the harm and feelings of isolation, distress and anger that can result from being bullied.

In extreme cases, children who have been bullied may contemplate suicide or plan retaliation.

Children who are bullied typically do not feel supported or protected by the school and it is not uncommon for some families to have little faith in a school’s actual or likely response to bullying. In some cases, fear of retaliation from the bully or the bully’s family can mean that parents of a bullied child will go outside the school to seek counselling for their child, attempt to deal with the bully’s parents themselves, shift schools, and/or don’t report the bullying to the school.

What is bullying and what is not bullying

Single acts of hostility or aggression should not be defined as bullying, and neither should mutual conflict where there is no imbalance of power. The key component of bullying is psychological or physical threats or harm that occur repeatedly over time, creating an ongoing pattern of abuse. This difference needs to be clearly explained to the school community. However, all instances of hostility or aggression need to be followed up, ensuring that these unacceptable behaviours are not tolerated and/or do not escalate into bullying.

Caution

The school’s intolerance of bullying should be communicated through policies and procedures matched with clear actions to minimise and stop bullying. Ineffectual school interventions and serious cases of bullying can lead to police involvement and legal action. Policies should strongly recommend that parents of a bullied child refrain from approaching the child who is believed to be the bully or their family.

Unfortunately, bullying has been prevalent in schools for many generations. It is important to recognise that some parents may have been bullied at school, or subjected to violence and could feel fragile about their experiences, leading to strong emotional reactions when told their child has been bullied.


Strategies to assist the child who is being bullied

Whole school strategies


Download the full version of this ebooklet below to access more strategies including recommendations for how to help with:

  • Whole school strategies (continued)
  • Involve all parents
  • Whole class strategies
  • Individual strategies
  • Inform the parent of the bully

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Bullied ebooklet

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[2] Rigby, K and Thomas, E.B (2002). How Australian schools are responding to the problem of peer victimisation in schools. Criminology Research Council grant; (10/00-01) http://www.criminologyresearchcouncil.gov.au/reports/200001-10.html
[3] Rigby, K. & Johnson, B. (2006). Expressed readiness of Australian school children to act as bystanders in support of children who are being bullied. Educational Psychology, 26, p.425-440.
[4] Rigby, K. (1998).  The relationship between reported health and involvement in bully/victim problems among male and female secondary school students.  Journal of Health Psychology, 3(4), 465 - 476.