School days are a time when the influence of other children is very important and fitting in is seen as essential. If children are viewed as different for any reason, they can be picked on and bullied. It is good to be alert to the possibility of bullying and to make sure that you know the tell-tale signs. Bullies who continually harm other children need support and help as well. They may have experienced difficulties of their own at home, which may have led to their actions. Reporting concerns may help them to get help as well.
Bullying is a frightening experience. It can isolate and damage a child or young person’s self confidence. Some ongoing bullying can have negative long-term effects on children, leading to depression and even suicidal thoughts and actions.
- Bullying is the repeated abuse of a child by one or several people;
- Bullying can happen anywhere but often it happens in or on the way to school;
- Bullying can take many forms, from verbal/emotional abuse to harassment and physical attack;
- Bullies are not always older than the child they harm.
If your child tells you about a friend or any other child who is being bullied – listen carefully and take this seriously. That child may not be able to say for themselves what is happening.
Children may not always be able to tell you if something is wrong. Note changes in their moods, behaviour and physical appearances. Your child may have injuries with no reasonable explanation for them.
Children should be told to refuse to put up with bullying, to walk away, tell an adult or friend and avoid fighting.
Listen and reassure your child that you are there for them. Talk to your child about their school day. Teach your child to respect others from a young age. Teach your child that prejudice and bullying are unacceptable behaviours.
Mobile phones may also be used to bully young people. Abusive phone calls like silent “breather” calls, swearing, shouting and making threats should always be taken seriously, as making these calls is illegal. Phone companies can trace many calls to a specific number, but tracing calls from a pay-as-you-go phone is a lot harder. You should always complain to the Gardaí and your child’s mobile phone company.
- Text messages can also be used to bully. Bullies will find ways to hide their numbers from the person receiving the message. They may use another person’s phone to avoid being found out.
- Children should be told to tell someone if they are receiving bullying calls or texts.
- It’s a good idea to keep such texts, or make a note of the time and date and content of the message. Phone companies can use this information to help trace who sent them.
- Often the bullies just send abusive messages to get a reaction. If their messages are ignored, there’s a good chance they’ll get bored and stop.
- It’s important to report and stop bullies as early as possible.