National Anti Bullying Coalition
Anti bullying Ireland
Tel: 01 453 0355
Tel: 01 670 6223
Tel: 1800 666 666
The Department of Health - Children First Guidelines www.dohc.ie/publications/children_first.html
The Department of Education & Skills
Lo-call: 1890 927 277
Tel: 1850 60 90 90
GARDA Office for Children & Youth Affairs
Tel: 01 6663812/33/32/66
What is BULLYING?
Bullying is intentional, repetitive behaviour that can be verbal, psychological or physical, racial, sexual or relational, conducted by a group or an individual against others.
Bullying is NOT a right of passage, it is not something that everyone needs to go through to toughen up.
Bullying is a behaviour, it does not define someone.
Bullying behaviour begins with pre-schoolers. It becomes more defined in primary school but is at its most insidious for young people at secondary school age.
Bullying can happen to anyone at any age. This behaviour can begin at pre-school age, often becomes more defined during primary school years but is at it's most insidious for youngsters at secondary school age.
Types of BULLYING
(source: Anti Bullying Centre, TCD)
can leave children feeling angry, frightened and powerless, if children are unable to share their feelings with someone else it can leave them emotionally bruised and exhausted.
Their powers of concentration can suffer, adversely affecting their capacity for learning. Verbal attacks can be of a highly personal and sexual nature. They can be directed at the child's family, culture, race or religion. Malicious rumours are particularly insidious forms of verbal bullying.
Physical Bullying...is often written off as "horseplay", "pretend" or "just a game" when challenged. While children can and do play roughly, in the case of bullying be aware that these 'games' can be a precursor to vicious physical assaults. Both boys and girls indulge in physical bullying, boys perhaps more so as they have a greater tendency towards physical aggression.
Gesture Bullying...there are many different forms of non-verbal threatening gestures which can convey intimidatory and frightening messages, i.e. The state or look which accompanies bullying behaviour.
Exclusion Bullying...is particularly hurtful because it isolates the child from his/her peer group and is very hard for the child to combat as it directly attacks their self confidence/self image.
Extortion Bullying...young children are particularly vulnerable to extortion bullying. Demands for money, possessions or equipment, lunch vouchers or food may be made, often accompanied by threats. Children may also be dared or forced to steal from the school leaving them (at the mercy of the bully) open to further intimidation.
E-bullying...in an ever more technologically advanced world, a new strain of bullying has emerged amongst children, which utilises web pages, emails and text messaging to abuse, intimidate and attack others, either directly or indirectly i.e. rumour mongering.
Top 5 Bullyproofing Tips from David Coleman
Is there anything I can do to prevent my child ever being bullied?
It is almost impossible to guarantee that a child won't be bullied. However, the more confident and assertive your child acts the less likely they are to be bullied. Making friends easily also protects children from being targeted. So the more you can do to help your child feel good and confident about themselves the more bullyproof they will be. Practically, you can help them to know their strengths, you can be attentive and loving, you can teach them skills to look people in the eye, teach them to share, teach them how to build friendships by showing interest in others and so on.
How can I encourage my child to tell me about bullying they may be experiencing?
Being open and regularly talking with your children about their life, their interests, their school days and their friends is the best way to encourage them to talk about worrying things like bullying. Be alert too to changes in your child's mood or behaviour (like not wanting to go to school or clubs, not wanting to meet their friends, regular tummy pains or anxiety before school or activities) as this may indicate that something is up and you can then ask more directly.
But some children never tell about bullying, what can I do then if I suspect something?
Children can be very afraid that telling about bullying will make the situation worse as the bully might punish them for "snitching". They may also feel ashamed or embarrassed that they are being bullied or can't make the bullying stop themselves. So talk to teachers or sports coaches if you think something is wrong and at the very least get the other adults to keep a more watchful eye on your child. You can also work to build up your child's self-esteem.
What can I say to them if they do tell me that someone is picking on them?
Firstly you can be empathetic, because you can be pretty sure that they are upset, maybe angry, maybe confused and maybe feeling bad about themselves (feeling ugly, unliked, lonely and so on). Then reassure them about how glad you are that they have spoken up because now you can help them to do something about it. Talk about possible things they can do themselves, like responding assertively, getting other friends to stand-up on their behalf. Then talk about how adults can help to make bullying stop by talking with the bully and making sure they change their behaviour.
How do I tell my child's school about bullying without making things worse for my child?
Firstly find out everything you can about the school or organisations anti-bullying policies. See what their response is, according to the policy, going to be. If you are satisfied that their approach will be fair, comprehensive and protective of your child then go in and have a frank discussion. The most important message you want to give is that you want the adults to ensure the bullying stops and you want them to be alert to any negative repercussions for your child. Don't necessarily seek punishment for the bully, because actually all you want is for them to stop targeting your child.
My son came home from school complaining that he was punched by a lad in his year. When I went into the school about this bullying they told me my son is not being bullied. How can they justify this?
It may be that your son's school are differentiating between bullying and an assault. Bullying by its nature is an insidious, ongoing and repeated series of behaviours designed to hurt and demean others (teasing, taunting, hitting and so on). If the attack by the other boy was a once-off then it isn't really bullying. Mind you the school hopefully have taken it seriously, as assaults are not acceptable either. It is up to the school (and your son) to now keep an eye on the situation and ensure that the other lad learns not to go attacking others and doesn't continue to target your son.
I just got a call from my child's school to say they have been bullying another child, what'll I say when my child comes home this evening?
It is important not to panic. Start by explaining to them exactly what has been reported to you. Then in a genuinely enquiring tone ask your child to explain what has been going on from their point of view. The key thing to work out is how aware is your son or daughter about what they have been doing and about the effects of their behaviour. Many children who tease, taunt or target others do not realise how badly they make other children feel. They may not even realise or accept that their behaviour is bullying, because nobody had yet told them it was unacceptable. The most important thing you are then trying to get your child to do is to stop the bullying behaviour. They need to learn about empathy and to realise that they hurt others by their words or actions and that this is not acceptable. Working with the school give your child a chance to act differently and only consider punishment or consequences if they don't seem to get the message that they have to change their behaviour.
My child complained about being bullied but the other kid denies it and nobody will back my child up. What can I do now?
Lots of bullies deny their behaviour out of ignorance or to protect themselves. That doesn't mean that the bullying isn't happening. Always believe your child and keep insisting to the school or organisation that they need to keep a close eye on the behaviour of the other child. Some organisations won't act without "evidence" but in fact they can take time with both children to support them to be considerate. The organisation can also be pre-emptive in talking with the group of children (like a class, year group and so on) about bullying. A school or organisation can also make it explicit that they welcome anonymous reports of bullying behaviour to increase the visibility of bullying and make it harder for it to thrive in secrecy. So while the specific incidence of bullying may not be proven, an organisation can use your child's allegations as a prompt to address the wider cultural and attitudinal issues about bullying behaviour to encourage more children to talk about and report bullying so that it is harder for it to happen again. At the very least this will make it a safer environment for your child to be in.
My child is regularly being picked on by some of the children out on the green in front of the house. What is the best thing to do?
There is no hard and fast rule but like in all bullying situations your first goal is try to make the bullying stop. Depending on the families involved this might be best achieved by talking with the parents of the other children and explaining what is happening. Ask for their support in getting their children to stop targeting your child. You may not always get a welcoming reaction, however, and you may find that your attempts to explain the situation get rejected or even aggressively denied (some apples don't fall far from the tree!). Your options then are more limited as all you can do is try to get some social support from other children who haven't been involved or help your child to become more assertive. It may seem clichéd but in addition to work on self-esteem things like self-defence or martial arts classes can really help children to feel more powerful and more confident.
Cyberbullying - Advice for young people
(source: The Office of Internet Safety)
Don't Reply to messages that harass or annoy you. Even though you may really want to, this is exactly what the sender wants. They want to know that they've got you worried and upset. They are trying to mess with your head, don't give them that pleasure. If you respond with an even nastier message it makes them think that they really got to you, and that's just what they want. They might even complain about you!
Keep the Message. You don't have to read it, but keep it. Keep a record that outlines, where possible, the details, dates and times of any form of bullying that you experience. This would be useful where any investigation were to be taken by your school, youth organisation, or even the Gardaí.
Tell Someone you trust. Talking to your parents, friends, a teacher, youth leader or someone you trust is usually the first step in dealing with any issue. In the case of school related bullying messages you should also talk to a teacher you trust or guidance counsellor about it. If you need to speak to someone in confidence straight away you can call Childline on 1800 66 66 66, or get help through their online services at www.childline.ie.
Block the Sender. You don't need to put up with someone harassing you. If you are getting messages that upset you on your Bebo profile or on MSN you can block the person simply by clicking the block button. On some mobile phones you can restrict communications to an approved list of contacts. You might need to check the manual or ask an adult to help you do this. Mobile networks can't bar numbers but they will help you to change your phone number in the case of serious bullying.
Report Problems to the people who can do something about it. You can take control by not putting up with offensive content and by reporting it when you come across it. Responsible websites and mobile phone operators provide ways for their users to report things such as pornography, bullying content, or other offensive material.
Advice for Parents
What should I look out for? If your child is avoiding school, or seems upset, sad or angry (especially after using phone or PC); if your child is withdrawing from usual activities, suddenly showing disinterest in computers or rapidly switching screens when you enter the room, they may be a victim of cyberbullying.
Confirm that you are dealing with bullying behaviour by asking four questions. Is your child specifically targeted on their own or is the behaviour targeted at a group of people? Has this been happening over a period of time? Is this behaviour part of a recurring pattern? Is this behaviour deliberately intended to harm or upset your child?
You should get in touch with your child's school or youth organisation if the bullying involves another pupil from that school or youth group. You should also contact the service provider through its Customer Care or Report Abuse facility. If the cyberbullying is very serious and potentially criminal you should contact your local Gardaí.
If you are concerned that your child has received a bullying, offensive or harassing message, it is very important that you encourage them to talk to you. Responding to a negative experience by stopping their access to mobile phones or the internet might result in you being left out the loop the next time this happens.
What if I think my child may be involved in cyberbullying others?
Children need to understand how much all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying, hurts and how important it is not to stand by when someone is being bullied. It is important, therefore, that children learn "netiquette" (informal code of conduct on the internet). You should explain the following guidelines to them and stress how important it is that they be followed:
TOP TEN TIPS TO PREVENT AND DEAL WITH CYBER -BULLYING: (Source: Carphone Warehouse campaign 2010 with Prof Mona O'Moore)
1. INFORM YOURSELF
Read your child's mobile phone manual and take note of how to contact the phone's service provider should it be necessary to make a complaint.
2. MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD OR TEEN UNDERSTANDS THE IMPORTANCE OF INTERNET & MOBILE SAFETY STRATEGIES. Don't take it for granted that your child or teen knows how to avoid the pitfalls of electronic communication. Warn them of the dangers of putting photos of themselves on the internet or to share their name, address, phone number and other personal information online. Ask them would they put the same information in a shop window as they pass around amongst their peers.
3. INFORM YOURSELF ABOUT BLOCKING DEVICES
The vMad Bully Stop application allows your child and teenager to control who calls or sends them texts and enables you and your child to view the content of any blocked text.
4. ENCOURAGE OPEN AND NON-JUDGEMENTAL COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR CHILD AND TEENAGER. Talk to your child about their online friends and activities in the same way as you would their traditional friendships and activities. Ask if they have seen abusive and hurtful texts or postings. Ask them what they do if they did. If there is anything you do not understand about their mobile phone or internet activities ask them to show you.
KEY ADVICE FOR YOUR CHILD OR TEENAGER IF TARGETED
6. SHARE EVIDENCE OF CYBER-BULLYING WITH THE SCHOOL
Most cyber-bullyers also engage in traditional face to face bullying so it is important that the school is informed so they can apprehend the perpetrators. With cyber-bullying you will have the advantage of being able to show copies of the offensive messages, pictures or video clips used to humiliate or embarrass.
7. MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD AND TEENAGER UNDERSTANDS THAT YOU DISAPPROVE OF CYBER-BULLYING
It is important that children and teens learn to respect each other so they should be told to avoid engaging in cyber-bullying for whatever reason. It is vital also that you try to find out the reasons for their cyber-bullying behaviour so you can help them overcome it.
8. ADMINISTER CONSEQUENCES FOR BREAKING THE RULES OF CYBER-SAFETY
If necessary apply 'the yellow card, red card' philosophy and as a corrective measure reduce their allowance for mobile phone credit or the time spent on the computer.
9. HAVE YOUR CHILD OR TEEN UNDERSTAND THAT CYBER-BULLYING CAN LEAD TO A CRIMINAL OFFENCE
Any text-message or internet communication that is grossly threatening, offensive or harasses another person could be investigated by the Gardai and result in prosecution.
10. KEEP UP TO-DATE WITH THE ADVANCES IN ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATION
Do not be afraid to show your ignorance. Listen and learn from your child and teenager and together you can log onto websites to learn about the positive uses of electronic communication as well as the most effective strategies to prevent and tackle bullying and cyber-bullying.
COMMON MYTHS about Bullying
(Source: Professor Dan Olweus, Norway's University or Bergen)
MYTH: Bullies are looking for attention. Ignore them and the bullying will stop.
RESEARCH: Bullies are looking for control. Sometimes ignoring them helps and it is a coping strategy recommended for cyber-bullying. The level of bullying usually increases if the bullying is not addressed by adults.
MYTH: Boys will be boys.
RESEARCH: Bullying is seldom outgrown; it's simply redirected. About 60 percent of boys identified as bullies in middle school commit at least one crime by the time they are 24.
MYTH: Kids can be cruel about differences.
RESEARCH: Physical differences play only a very small role in bullying situations. Most victims are chosen because they are sensitive, anxious, and unable to retaliate.
MYTH: Victims of bullies need to learn to stand up for themselves and deal with the situation.
RESEARCH: Victims of bullies are usually younger or physically weaker or outnumbered by their attackers. They cannot deal with the situation themselves. Often the best coping strategies cannot stop the bullying without outside intervention.
MYTH: Most bullying occurs off school grounds.
RESEARCH: Although some bullying occurs outside of school or on the way to and from school, most occurs on school grounds: in classrooms, in hallways, and on playgrounds.
MYTH: Bullying affects only a small number of students.
RESEARCH: At any given time, about 25 percent of U.S. students are the victims of bullies and about 20 percent are engaged in bullying behaviour. Dr. Mona O'Moore's Irish research estimates that some 31% of Primary Students and 16% of Secondary Students have been bullied at some time. In simple terms, if 900,000c. students make up the Irish school going population, approximately 23% or 207,000 children are at risk of suffering the ill effects of bullying.
MYTH: Teachers know if bullying is a problem in their classes.
RESEARCH: Bullying behaviour usually takes place out of sight of teachers. Most victims are reluctant to report the bullying for fear of embarrassment or retaliation, and most bullies deny or justify their behaviour.
MYTH: Victims of bullying need to follow the adage "Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names can never hurt you."
RESEARCH: Victims of bullying often suffer lifelong problems with low self-esteem. If victimisation is not addressed victims of bullying risk suffering lifelong problems. They are prone to low self-esteen, depression suicide, and other mental health problems throughout their lives.