Parenting Stand up to bullying

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Take a stand against bullying

Earlier this week, after yet another hour spent on the sofa catching up on My Kitchen Rules, I found myself flicking through the TV channels.

Call me slow to join the party, but it was only then I came across The School: Educating Essex (a reality TV show following the lives of school children and staff at Passmores Academy in the UK, for those of you slower to join the party than me). It’s been a while since I left high school myself (OK, so it’s been 13 years), and I spent the first few seconds struck by the sheer confidence of these 15 year old school kids. The way they wear their hair (you can have hair extensions at 15 these days?!); the sheer quantities of makeup allowed to pass the school gates. Clearly, my school was slightly more conservative. But it wasn’t too long after that I began to notice something else. To remember that feeling of sheer terror when subjected to the destructive hands of bullying.

In this particular episode, Ashleigh, a pretty, confident student and part of one of the biggest cliques in school, had fallen our with her best mate, Carrie. She wasn’t sure why and, to be honest, after an hour of watching the drama unfold, I wasn’t any the wiser. I don’t think either of them did either. What anyone watching the show could see, however, was the venom with which Carrie attacked her former ‘bestie’, ultimately resulting in Ashleigh absconding from school for three days – just days before her exams.

Anyone who’s suffered at the hands of bullying probably has some idea of how Ashleigh was feeling – and the courage it took her to return to school three days later. Just like one in four Australian children, I spent years cowering from my own tormenters – I won’t name them, but the two girls in question are well aware of who they are. What I’ve often wondered, however, is if they have any idea of the impact their actions had on my own life – and it’s duration. Whilst many children are furnished with the personalities and parents to deal effectively with the ramifications of bullying, my own experience left me questioning my worth for years to come.

Back in my day and bullying was confined to verbal or physical attacks. We didn’t have mobile phones; we didn’t have social media; we didn’t even have email. At the end of the school day, my home was my sanctuary – I can only imagine the relentless fear piqued by cyber bullying.

Today, thousands of schools will come together to take a stand against bullying as part of a national day of action. This annual day provides a focus for schools who want to say Bullying. No Way! and to strengthen their everyday messages that bullying and violence at school are not okay at any time. The annual National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence is organised by all Australian education authorities through the Safe and Supportive School Communities Project.

As a parent, it’s also a good opportunity to remind yourself of the signs to look out for, and what you can do if you fear your own child is being bullied.

What are the signs?

According to the experts behind Bullying. No Way! Your child’s behaviour can change for a variety of reasons. However, they say the following signs could indicate your child is being bullied:

  • not wanting to go to school or participate in school activities
  • does not appear to have friends
  • is missing belongings
  • has torn clothing
  • seems to have become fearful and anxious
  • has more mood swings, and seems to be crying more
  • seems to have a drop in academic performance
  • has poorer physical health and changes in sleep habits
  • has increased negative self-perception.

The signs of possible cyberbullying can be the same as signs of other bullying, but include certain behaviour with phones and computers, for example:

  • being hesitant about going online
  • seeming nervous when an instant message, text message or email appears
  • being visibly upset after using the computer or mobile phone, or suddenly avoiding it
  • minimising the computer screen, or hiding the mobile phone when you enter the room
  • spending unusually long hours online in a more tense, pensive tone
  • receiving suspicious phone calls, emails or packages
  • withdrawing from friends, falling behind in schoolwork, or avoiding school.

What you can do

You need to consider what you know about your child and the details of the situation to make the best decision for your child.

Let your child know that you will take the bullying seriously and that you can help them to report it to the school.

  • Stay calm and positive
  • Talk with your child
  • Do not advise your child to fight with the other children
  • Report the bullying to the school
  • Seek help for your child to improve his or her social skills.

The strategies mentioned above for dealing with bullying also apply to dealing with cyberbullying. You can teach your child how to be safe on line, as well as supervising and restricting access to technology. For more information on any of the techniques above, visit the Take a Stand Together website by clicking here.

What about adults?

Unfortunately, bullying isn’t just confined to the playground. A growing number of employees report workplace bullying each year, with members of staff often taking advantage of their positions of power. Such an issue is workplace harassment that the Gillard government is currently trying to push through an action that will see workplace bullies face fines of up to $33,000.

According to current advice provided by the Fair Work Commission, an employee who is suffering bullying or harassment by colleagues needs to seek assistance from the relevant state or territory occupational health and safety authority.

To bring this article the full circle, it’s no coincidence I kicked off this post with reference to My Kitchen Rules. Whilst it might have been Educating Essex that triggered memories of my own school-time experience, it was the behaviour of NSW contestants Ashlee Pham and Sophia Pou – who have come under fire for their viscious attacks on co-competitors Angela and Melina – who left me in shock. “She’s beyond pathetic,” Ashlee said of Melina earlier this week. “She could put fish to sleep… she’s just a buzz kill,” Sophia said of eliminated contestant, Lisa.

Evicted from the popular TV show on Monday, Tasmanian Matt Newell expressed how shocked he was by the venom displayed by the two contestants.

“Especially Ashlee and Sophia – (it is) just disgusting some of the stuff they’re saying,” he said.  “I think it’s really bad what they’re saying. It’s bullying Angela and Melina basically, for no reason. We didn’t realise what some of the teams would say behind the scenes in interviews.”

Whilst My Kitchen Rules is a popular reality cooking show, and critique of food is to be expected, it’s a very different story when that critique falls on the personalities involved. So, whether it’s sitting down with your kids, or turning of the TV, take a stand against bullying today, in all its forms.

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About the Author

Lizzy has more than ten years’ experience in the print and digital publishing arena and is the Editor at Single File. Having moved from the UK to Australia in 2008, Lizzy has worked for a number of leading publishers in Sydney and has particular expertise in the health, wellness and travel markets. If you have any questions for Lizzy, you can send them across by email to lizzy@singlefile.com.au.



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