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Bullying

  1. What is bullying?
  2. Different types of bullying
  3. Possible signs of bullying
  4. Parents, teachers, school and community
  5. The role players
  6. What to do if your child is being bullied?
  7. What if your child is the bully?
  8. How can parents help their children be internet safe?
  9. Dealing with bullying in schools

“Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behaviour among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behaviour is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumours, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.” (www.stopbullying.gov)

Bullying is a form of abuse that has five defining characteristics:

  • it is DELIBERATE or intentional – it is done on purpose, or deliberately (not accidental)
  • it is REPEATED – it happens over and over again
  • it is SYSTEMATIC – it is well thought out and planned
  • it is HURTFUL – it causes emotional and/or physical pain
  • it is POWER IMBALANCED – the bully may seem to have more physical strength/size, and/or social influence over others (can influence people to do things)
In South Africa there is a culture of violence, including the widespread, continued use of corporal punishment in homes and schools, violent crime, and normalised and extensive violence in the media (TV, film and games).  In addition, the abuse of children is also prevalent.  These factors increase the likelihood of bullying behaviour amongst children. In turn, bullying behaviour can act as an indicator of violent, anti-social and risk-taking behaviours, meaning that it is part of the ongoing cycle of violence.

Bullying is frequently overlooked or ignored because educators and parents are often unaware that it is happening, or think that it is a normal part of growing up; or, if they are aware of it, they do not know how to deal with it. The situation is worsened by the fact that many victims of bullying are often afraid to report it for fear that things will get worse for them, this leads to the normalization and acceptance of violent behaviour. This, in turn, leads to low levels of reporting – the perception is that this is normal, and nothing can/will be done about it.

The difference between bullying and teasing

The person bullying will often say s/he is only “teasing” but there are some important differences:

Teasing

  • is being made fun of in a good-humoured way; it’s not serious and can sometimes be laughed about – is about humour, not hurt
  • usually involves laughing together (not laughing at)
  • is done by someone who cares about you – friends, or family members
  • does not cause strong feelings of being hurt
  • is not being picked on – just gentle fun
  • the teaser does not mean to cruel and will stop if s/he realises s/he is causing pain
  • teasing may go both ways – there is no power imbalance

There many ways that children (and adults) can be bullied. Each needs to be taken seriously, because the effects of bullying can be devastating.  You need to take action to protect your child, or the children you work with.

Physical bullying

Physical bullying occurs when physical actions are used by bullies to gain power and control over their targets. It is the most obvious form of bullying. Physical bullies tend to be bigger, stronger, and more aggressive than their peers. Examples of physical bullying include kicking, hitting, punching, slapping, shoving, and other physical attacks. It is not at all subtle and is the easiest to identify.

Verbal bullying

Words, statements, and name-calling to gain power are used to gain control over a target. Insulting comments are carefully used to belittle, demean, and cause pain in another person. Targets are chosen based on the way they look, act, or behave. Children with special needs are often targeted.

Attacks almost always occur when adults aren’t around, making it difficult to identify the person who is bullying. Many adults don’t really understand how much this type of by bullying impacts on a child and often tell the target to ignore it. But verbal bullying and name-calling has serious consequences and can leave deep emotional scars.

Emotional / relational bullying

Emotional bullying is often referred to as relational aggression or relational bullying.  This type of bullying often goes unnoticed by parents and teachers. It is a type of social manipulation and uses sly and sneaky methods to hurt peers, or sabotage (deliberately destroy) their social standing. These bullies spread rumours, tell lies, tease, intimidate, insult, ignore, exclude and break confidences to get their target out of a group. They do this to make their own social power stronger.  Girls tend to use this type of approach more often than boys and it tends to occur in older children.

Cyberbullying

When the internet, social media, a smartphone, or other technology is used to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person, this is called cyberbullying. (If an adult is involved in the harassment this is called cyber-harassment or cyberstalking). Examples of cyberbullying include, posting hurtful images, making online threats, and sending hurtful emails or texts. Cyber bullies can harass their targets with much less risk of being caught. Technology makes them feel anonymous, insulated, and detached from the situation. Consequently, online bullying is often mean and cruel. The consequences of cyberbullying are serious. Because the target is available anytime and anywhere, she or he feels invaded, as if nowhere is safe, and the onslaught never seems to end.

Sexual bullying

Sexual bullying consists of repeated, harmful, and humiliating actions that target a person sexually. Examples include sexual name-calling, crude comments, vulgar gestures, uninvited touching, sexual propositioning, and pornographic materials. For instance, a bully might make a crude comment about a girl’s appearance, attractiveness, sexual development, or sexual activity. In some cases, sexual bullying opens the door to sexual assault.

Girls are often the targets of sexual bullying both by boys and by other girls. Boys might touch them inappropriately, make crude comments about their bodies, or proposition them. Girls, on the other hand, might call other girls names like “slut” or “tramp,” make insulting comments about their appearance or body, and engage in slut-shaming.

Sexting also can lead to sexual bullying. For instance, a girl may send a photo of herself to a boyfriend. When they break up, he shares that photo with the entire school. In the end, she becomes the target of sexual bullying because people make fun of her body, call her crude names, and make vulgar comments about her. Some boys may even see this as an open invitation to proposition her or sexually assault her.

Prejudicial bullying

Prejudicial bullying is based on prejudices toward people of different races, religions, or sexual orientation. This type of bullying can be a part of, or a motivation for, all the other types of bullying including cyberbullying, verbal bullying, relational bullying, physical bullying, and sometimes even sexual bullying.

When prejudicial bullying occurs, children are targeting others who are different from them and singling them out. This type of bullying is often severe and can open the door to hate crimes. Any time a child is bullied for their sexual orientation, race, nationality or religion, it should be reported.

Parents, teachers and friends can look out for:

  • unexplained bruises, scratches, and cuts
  • sadness, moodiness or depression
  • withdrawal
  • anxiety
  • nightmares
  • unexplained aches and pains (e.g tummy ache, headache)
  • frequent complaints of illness to avoid attending school
  • loss of confidence/self-esteem
  • appetite changes
  • change in sleep patterns
  • suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • talking about acts of revenge, including murder
  • loss of interest in or refusal to go to school/activities
  • sudden decrease in academic performance
  • few or no friends, or loss of contact with existing friends
  • taking a long or illogical route to school
  • seeming afraid of:
    • going to school,
    • travelling the bus/taxi
    • walking to school
    • taking part in organised
    • activities with peers

Possible signs of cyberbullying

In addition to some of the signs above, take note if a child:

  • is sad, distressed or angry during or after using the internet or phone
  • appears anxious when receiving text or e-mail
  • is very protective or secretive of their online life
  • withdraws from friends and activities
  • avoids school or group gatherings
  • lower marks at school
  • “acting out” in anger at home
  • has changes in mood, behaviour, sleep, or appetite
  • shows signs of depression or anxiety
  • starts to bully others (retaliate)
  • hides their online activity from caregivers

Please remember:

 

Parents should always monitor their child’s use of technology, but it is important not to threaten to withdraw access or punish a child who has been the victim of cyber bullying. Rather, always reassure your child that you will support and protect them in the case of any type of bullying behaviour (harassment or abuse).

No matter how much pain it causes, the person being cyber bullied often doesn’t want to tell a teacher or parent, because they feel ashamed or embarrassed, or because they are worried that their computer or phone privileges will be removed.

The impact of bullying

Bullying impacts on everyone, from the child who is being bullied, to the child who is bullying others, to the parents and teachers, and to the community.

The hurt inflicted by bullying on all role players is often considerable and long-remembered. Children are still learning how to cope with their feelings. It is difficult for all those involved to cope with their feelings of pain, fear, anger, rejection, loss, hopelessness and loneliness.

Bullying can make the victim, as well as the bystander and the bully, feel lonely, unhappy, frightened, and unsafe, and think that there must be something wrong with them.

Children are especially vulnerable. Bullying should not be part of growing up.

The child being bullied

Bullying can, and often does, have a lasting lifelong effect on the victim

  • it affects the victim’s self -esteem and the damage is even more significant if self-esteem issues are already present
  • it can lead to depression, panic attacks and physical ailments, such as ulcers and headaches
  • children who are bullied often have lower marks because they fear going to school
  • some are so affected by bullying that they do not further their education, in case they face bullying at high school, college or university
  • some are so hurt that they think about suicide, and some actually attempt and succeed in taking their own lives (or even the lives of others)
  • others become obsessed with ideas of revenge, and this can lead to acts of revenge, including harming or taking the lives of others
  • some victims, out of anger and lack of control of their own lives, seek out someone who is weaker than they are and target them – the victim turns into the bully
  • it is common for children who are bullied to be the victim of bullying in their adult lives – their self-esteem is so low that they cannot seem to find the courage to stop being a victim
  • friends often turn their back on the victim because they are afraid of also becoming an outcast or target, thus isolating the victim even more

These are all serious effects that can truly change the victim’s life and outlook on the future.

The child bullying others

Bullying has very negative effects on the bully too. Studies have shown that bullies who do not get help have a higher risk of:

  • developing substance abuse problems
  • developing anxiety or depression
  • dropping out of school before their peers
  • having problems with relationships later in life – they may become abusive towards partners and their own children
  • becoming involved in criminal activities later in life

While there are some bullies who have high self-esteem, many do not. Their actions are a mask for how bad they feel about themselves.

Getting into trouble and being labelled “bad”, “naughty”, “violent”, “unmanageable” and a “bully” can lower the child’s self-esteem and create the belief that they can’t change and that everyone has given up on them. This can lead to increased negative behaviour, such as bullying.

It is important to remember to look at why the bullying behaviour started, and what the needs of the child bullying others are.

Bullying behaviour is learnt. The child needs help to learn new ways of dealing with and expressing negative feelings, and new ways of interacting with others, including empathy*.

This will require time, patience, and professional help.

Remember, the bully is a child too, and every child needs someone to believe in them.

* Empathy is being able to put yourself into the shoes of the other person and feel what they are feeling

Teachers (and parents) can help reduce bullying by:

  • Discussing bullying: Give students the opportunity to discuss bullying. Have the class come up with rules against bullying and involve them in determining that bullying behaviour is unacceptable.
  • Provide classroom activities and discussion opportunities related to bullying and violence, including the harm they cause and strategies to reduce their incidence.
  • Teach cooperation by assigning projects that require collaboration. Such cooperation teaches students how to compromise and how to assert without demanding. Take care to vary grouping of participants and to monitor the treatment of and by participants in each group.
  • Develop a classroom action plan to ensure that students know what to do when they observe a bully-victim confrontation.

Community

Bullying doesn’t happen only at school. Community members can use their unique strengths and skills to prevent bullying wherever it occurs. For example, youth sports groups may train coaches to prevent bullying. Local businesses may make t-shirts with bullying prevention slogans for an event. After-care staff may read books about bullying to children and discuss them. Hearing anti-bullying messages from the different adults in their lives can reinforce the message for children that bullying is unacceptable.

Some community strategies ideas

  • Establish a shared vision about bullying in the community, its impact, and how to stop it.
  • Identify audiences to target and tailor messages as appropriate.
  • Describe what each partner will do to help prevent and respond to bullying.
  • Advocate for bullying prevention policies in schools and throughout the community.
  • Raise awareness about your message. Develop and distribute print materials. Encourage local radio, TV, newspapers, and websites to give public service announcements prime space.
  • Introduce bullying prevention to groups that work with children

Children and adolescents are crucial role players when it comes to bullying.

  • you may be experiencing bullying directly
  • you may be witnessing bullying
  • you may be engaging in bullying behaviour
  • you may even be involved at all levels on different occasions

Think of bullying as a live stage play. There are a lot of players and there is also the audience.

Without the audience the play will fail.

Bullying involves lots of players. The main roles are played by the bully and the victim, and the other role players are the bystanders (the audience, people watching). All of them play important roles in continuing or stopping the cycle of bullying.

Bullying creates a climate of fear, insensitivity; indifference, lack of empathy and disrespect.

Bullying damages the physical, social, and emotional well-being of its victims, but it also hurts the children who bully, and those who watch it happen.

Bully roles

Bullies come from all walks of life, all ages, all genders, all races, and all cultures.  There are many reasons behind the behaviour of bullying. Some notable characteristics of people who bully others:

  • they may have been exposed to violent behaviour at home or in their community
  • they may be in need of attention, and negative attention is better than none at all
  • they may believe that respect means being feared
  • they may have been a victim of bullying themselves
  • they may not have learnt to take responsibility for their behaviour
  • they may avoid responsibility or deny the consequences of their behaviour through denial, blaming others and faking victimhood
  • they may not be willing or able to recognise the harmful effects of their bullying behaviour on others
  • they may not know of or be willing to try better ways to behave
  • the bully may get a lot of positive reinforcement from the encouragement of others
  • getting away with it because bystanders do nothing and seeing a reaction in the victim can make them feel successful
  • the bully may think they are popular, when, in fact, everyone is just trying to avoid being bullied

Remember: People who bully others need help and kindness as much as the victims.

  • Bullies:
    • select and systematically (in a planned way) hurt and abuse their victims
    • thrive and become stronger when they get active encouragement, passive acceptance, or silence from bystanders
    • do not always use physical means
    • seem know who they can pick on easily, where they can do it without being seen, and even how to get peers to assist them
  • Bully assistants:
    • they are children who do not start the bullying, but sometimes assist the bullies
    • sometimes help the bully in order to avoid becoming a victim
    • get to join in and get the benefits of being on the bully’s side, without taking as much responsibility
    • take part without being seen as the ringleader

The bystanders

Bystanders play an important role in promoting or preventing bullying. Often without realising it, they may make a situation worse by providing an audience, maintaining silence, actively encouraging, or joining in.

Adults (teachers and parents) are often bystanders as well. They sometimes ignore bullying or sometimes make bullying normal- saying things like “boys will be boys” or “bullying is part of growing up”. Adults sometimes even encourage bullying saying, “fight back,” or “don’t take nonsense from anybody.”

Bystanders don’t fully understand the process of bullying and don’t have the knowledge or skills to intervene effectively, worrying that they may make matters worse for the victim, or for themselves. It can be scary being a bystander too.

  • Bully encouragers:
    • don’t actively bully the victim like the assistants do, but they are still a part of the action
    • watch what is happening and are engaged in the situation
    • may think what the bully is doing is funny, or they might laugh or shout encouragement because they feel it is what is expected
    • are also harmed by bullying:
    • they start to feel that violence is normal, and can even be fun
    • they become less capable of empathising
    • if they start to see enjoying someone’s pain as normal and acceptable, they may become bullies themselves

Remember: Peer pressure is a powerful thing – so powerful that even “good” kids will behave badly under certain circumstances.

  • Bully avoiders:
    These children are also negatively affected by the bullying they witness. This child often:

    • feels sad for the victim
    • feels angry at the bully
    • strongly dislikes what the bully is doing,
    • wants to do something to help, but feels that they can’t
    • The bully avoider may:
      • be afraid s/he’ll be the next target
      • be worried that others will tease her/ him for trying to help
      • not believe that s/he really can help

The feelings of guilt and helplessness that this type of bystander feels can have a lasting negative effect on their self-esteem.

Some prevention studies show that these children can learn to help victims. Bullies can be stopped when victims and bystanders learn and apply new ways to stand up against bullying. This has to be combined with clearly defined behaviour rules. The children can then learn to tell bullies to stop (indicating that the behaviour is “against the rules they have agreed upon”) and to get help from the teacher, when the bullying does not stop.

The victim

The victim is the person that the bully/bullies choose to hurt or abuse.

The bully may say it’s because of:

  • the way the person looks
  • the way the person acts
  • the person’s religion, culture or language
  • the person’s sexual orientation
  • the person’s financial standing
  • the person’s health

The bully may also make up some or other reason – anything will do!

Remember: Bullying is the choice of the bully – it is never the fault of the victim.

Think about it: people who are tall get bullied, and people who are short get bullied. Kids who do well at school get bullied, and kids who struggle to pass get bullied. Skinny children get bullied, and chubby children get bullied – it’s not about the child being victimised, it is about the bully, and their need for a sense of power over others.

If someone chooses to use or try to increase any power they think they have, at the expense of others, it is they who are responsible for their choices.

The hero

This player is a true hero. He or she will step in and confront the bully and say “Stop it!” He or she sees the injustice of one child picking on another and isn’t willing to ignore it. He or she understands that the victim of bullying needs help, not more abuse, and is willing to give it. This child or adult usually has high levels of confidence and self-esteem. He or she gets along well with others and isn’t afraid to stand up to the bully.

Studies show that in 50 percent of bullying events, if just one witness said, “Stop it! ” it would stop. That means if a single person intervenes on behalf of a child who is being bullied, half of the time it will stop.

That’s an amazing statistic. And probably true.

Think about it: A bully doesn’t want his/her authority challenged or undermined to look stupid or less powerful in front of others, or to get into trouble. A hero shows courage and strength, and is doing the right thing. The hero can also involve other heroes, like adults who will intervene. All this can make the crowd turn against the bully, which is a very powerful deterrent.

Helping your child to be a hero

Tips for parents, caregivers and educators:

  • teach kindness and empathy – the best way is to be a kind and empathetic role model
  • build your child’s self-esteem – make them aware that their voice counts
  • be there when your child has a problem – show them they can rely on you
  • be a role-model – teach them by you example to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves
  • be involved in developing and implementing a no bullying policy at your child’s school do role-plays with your child – how to react if they see bullying happening

Each of these players can help make bullying stop. Bullying is learned behaviour, so it can also be “unlearned”.

The most important thing to do is to listen to your child without judgment. Provide a safe space for your child to talk to you by listening and communicating unconditional love for your child. Do not blame. Talk openly, this is a time when your child needs your love and support more than ever. Listen with an open mind, and empathy.

Ask the teacher for help – your child’s teacher might not be aware of the details. What the teacher will notice, however, are changes in your child’s behaviour and emotional state. They want to help their students feel safe and happy in school. Ask for help as soon as you suspect a problem.

Problem solve with your child. Children are different. Brainstorm solutions with your child to empower your child to take control. Some children prefer to practice a smart retort, some need to walk away and many prefer use of the “buddy” system if available. They need one available person who they can trust

They need to know where they can go for help so your child identify a safe person at school who can help her or him if the bullying continues.

Bullying can cause long-term emotional harm for children. Whether it’s physical, verbal or emotional doesn’t make a difference. It’s all equally harmful and can lead to anxiety, depression, loneliness, suicidal ideation and even symptoms of PTSD later in life. It is not to be taken lightly.

Most parents do not want to hear that their child is behaving like a bully.  Your first reactions to being told will most likely be disbelief and defensiveness, perhaps followed by anger and concern.

It is most important that you remain calm. You might have to talk to the school personnel and/or the bullied child’s parents, and going in full of anger is not advisable.

Remember, the discussion is about the well-being of your child – so make an effort to listen carefully to what is being said.

  • first listen calmly to what is being said about your child’s behaviour
  • then, listen to your child’s side of the story
  • try to understand what is causing the behaviour by exploring:
    • how is your child feeling?
    • is your child being bullied?
    • are his or her friends bullies?
    • does peer pressure play a part?
    • what behaviour is your child seeing at home?
  • teach your child empathy:
    • ask them to first think about how they would feel if they were being hurt
    • ask your child think about how it must feel to be bullied
    • explore ways they can apologise to the child that they have harmed
  • always praise your child for kind words and acts of kindness
  • help your child adopt alternative strategies to use instead of bullying:
    • you can make up stories and turn them into role-plays (play acting) and they can practice ways to avoid future conflict with peers
    • let them play the part of the bullied child to help them with empathy
  • make your expectations clear: let your child know that there will be consequences if the bullying continues and that you will not tolerate it

Think of it as an ongoing conversation, like a journey with many steps. Learn together about the harm caused by bullying. Explain to your child how bullying causes (physical, psychological and emotional) harm to other children as well as to the person bullying. Children can change. Help your child to find and use other ways of interacting with others.

Key points to remember:

  • do not blame
  • do not talk about the “why’s” of what happened – emphasise that bullying is not acceptable in any situation
  • help them to explore their feelings
  • encourage them to think about how the victim might have felt
  • model empathy
  • ask them to think about how you can help with this situation
  • suggest they identify a person at school to whom they can go to if/ when another bullying situation arises
  • suggest other ways of dealing with their anger, frustration and aggression (role-play the new behaviours)
  • be specific about the consequences if the aggression or bullying continue – spell out what will happen

In summary, you want to stop the behaviour, understand your child’s feelings, then teach and reward more appropriate behaviour.

 

Internet and cell phone technology is often new and strange to parents and teachers. The internet can be used anonymously and instantly with far-reaching effects.

A study was conducted by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention in 2009, surveying young South Africans from four provinces. In the survey, a quarter of the youngsters experienced bullying via cell-phone and text messages, and one in five admitted to having bullied someone via text messaging. 70% of those who bullied had themselves been victims.

Tips

Before handing over the smart phone / tablet / laptop:

  • have a good talk – set limits that will work for you
  • based on your child’s age and maturity, clearly explain their responsibilities and the dangers of cell phone and internet use
  • make a contract (agreement):
    • discuss, define and agree upon clear rules for sensible use (including costs of calls, texts, IM’s, games and sharing photo’s) and the consequences for breaking them
    • write these rules down and sign them
    • the consequences must be enforced
  • teach responsibility
    • make sure it is understood that a cell phone is not a toy
    • talk about who they can talk to or text and when and the websites they can visit
    • agree on time slots for talking (for example after homework or before dinner)
    • features such as text messaging, photo-sharing, or internet access can be added only when you feel your child/ teen is ready to take on each new responsibility
    • at that point, discuss what services they can use on their phones and what content they can download
  • with teens discuss cyber bullying and “sexting”
  • stress that their number should never be given to any person they don’t know in real life
  • teach cell-phone etiquette (manners)
  • teach the value of family and friend time without constant interruptions

After you have handed over the smart phone / tablet / laptop

  • adults should learn about electronic media (with their children if they possibly can)
  • insist on knowing your child/teen’s passwords and learn the language young people use online and in text messages
  • software can be installed on their phone/computer and will allow you to view detailed logs on their online activities (the best thing about this is that it works as a very effective deterrent to wrong behaviour since your child/teen knows that you might be watching what he or she does online)
  • keep the computer in a busy area of your house rather than allowing laptop or tablet use in their private space
  • limit data access to the smart phone if he or she uses it to surf the web – some wireless providers allow you to turn off text messaging services during certain hours
  • know who your child communicates with online
    • go over your child’s address book and instant messenger “buddy list” with them
    • ask who each person is and how your child knows them
  • encourage your child to tell you or another trusted adult if they receive threatening messages or are otherwise targeted by cyberbullies and reassure them that doing so will not result in their loss of computer or cell phone privileges
  • use GPS cautiously – if you use a family location service to monitor your child/ teen’s whereabouts, make sure others cannot locate them (you can disable the location feature on your child’s phone or turn it off in the phone’s camera)
  • monitor/manage your child/ teen’s technology use:
    • you can block Internet access for the youngest
    • for teens you can restrict access to gambling, adult, and other inappropriate sites
    • his can include blocking callers and restricting contact to approved numbers only
    • filter or block websites and content as appropriate for age and maturity
Regardless of how much your young teen or child resents it, you can only protect him or her by monitoring what they do online.

Face to face bullying

Take Immediate Action when bullying is observed. All teachers and school staff must let children know they care and will not allow anyone to be mistreated. By taking immediate action and dealing directly with the bully, adults support both the victim and the witnesses.

Confront the bully in private. Challenging bullies in front of their peers may enhance their status and lead to further aggression.

Notify parents of both victims and bullies when a confrontation occurs, and involve them in the process. Listen receptively to parents who report bullying, and investigate reported circumstances so appropriate school action may be taken.

Cyberbullying

While cyberbullying is difficult to police, there are some helpful things you can do as a school:

  • cyberbullying must be treated as another form of bullying within the school’s anti-bullying policy
  • stress that, no matter what its form, all bullying is wrong and will not be tolerated in your school
  • continuously promote awareness about the school’s policy and procedures – an effective prevention strategy is to make it a year-round focus, not just a once-off talk teach students about their rights and responsibilities online
  • stress that the internet is not a private place
  • inform your students about personal safety issues
  • encourage a “telling” atmosphere – so that pupils will report cyberbullying where they see it
  • make students aware of different ways of reporting cyberbullying to give confidence to bystanders
  • anti-bullying policies also need to be constantly updated and amended to deal with cyberbullying as it changes and evolves (this will provide your school with some solid ground in terms of investigations and sanctions)
  • encourage students to make friends and promote a positive and supportive atmosphere in the school which will ensure that cyberbullying does not thrive
  • ensure that cell phones are not in use during class – get children to hand them in when they arrive at school, if possible
  • schools should develop a cyber-bullying prevention curriculum, and awareness campaigns for young people and caregivers can be developed
  • targeted interventions should be provided to young people identified as “at risk” for other forms of violent or antisocial behaviour, while the resilience of not-at-risk youth and children should be enhanced
  • include lessons on cyber safety and cyber bullying in life orientation classes – use real examples, news articles, role plays
  • ensure that every child receives a copy of the no bullying policy, go through it in class, and then have children sign that they have received, read and understood it, and that they commit to complying with it
  • create a safety team – identify children that are able and willing to help if someone has been cyberbullied (or bullied in any way)
  • as with face-to-face bullying, children should be monitored during breaks – notice if any child looks distressed after cell phone use
  • ensure that the appropriate software is installed on all school computers to prevent access to sites that are not child-friendly

With guidance about correct behaviour, and good monitoring and supervision, cyber bullying can be dealt with more effectively.

The UN Study on Violence against Children recognises that successful initiatives have key elements in common: “They are based on the recognition that all children have equal rights to education in settings that are free from violence, and that one of the functions of education is to produce adults imbued with non-violent values and practices.”

UNICEF identifies a number of key elements that can contribute to reducing and even ending violence in all school settings: developing holistic, whole school strategies; partnering with children; providing support for teachers and other staff; changing attitudes and working with social norms; securing children’s legal protection; and consolidating data and research.

School bullying policy template

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