By Sergeant Nathalie Ranger
HOW to identify bullying in the home, school, workplace, and cyber bullying?
There are four basic types of bullying: verbal, physical, psychological and cyber. Cyber bullying is becoming one of the most common types. While victims can experience bullying at any age, it is witnessed most often in school-aged children.
What is bullying?
Bullying is a deliberate and repeated attempt to cause harm to others of lesser power. It is a distinctive pattern of harming and humiliating others, specifically those who are in some way smaller, weaker, and younger or in any way more vulnerable than the bully. It’s a very durable behavioural style, largely because bullies get what they want—at least at first. Bullies are made, not born, and it happens at an early age.
Bullies do not understand others’ feelings. They typically see themselves quite positively. Those who chronically bully have strained relationships with parents and peers.
Bullies couldn’t exist without victims, and they don’t pick on just anyone; those singled out lack assertiveness and radiate fear long before they ever encounter a bully. No one likes a bully, but no one likes a victim either.
Increasingly, children are growing up without the kind of experiences that lead to the development of social skills, and free play has been in decline. Yet, it’s in playing with peers, without adult monitoring, that children develop the skills that make them well-liked by age-mates and learn how to solve social problems.
Bullying in the home
All families will occasionally argue but changes at home such as a parent losing their job, an illness, a new baby or a marriage breakdown can cause serious conflict. Also, a new marriage creating a stepmother or father, along with stepbrothers or sisters, moving into the home will change the dynamics of a family. An adult or sibling can have problems with drugs, alcohol or other substances which may create bullying behaviour.
Bullying can be physical violence or verbal and emotional abuse. Sometimes it includes both.
Verbal abuse and emotional abuse can include name calling, constant fault-finding or nit-picking, never giving praise or not even acknowledging your existence. The bully may try to set people within the family against each other by telling lies about the other person to provoke arguments.
Bullying at home can make you feel very alone and frightened.
Bullying in the school
The most obvious display of bullying is teasing and ridiculing other students. Bullies may be very open about it, or they may be extremely sneaky. They sometimes choose to instigate rather than act out the bullying; they may have their “followers” actually do their bullying for them.
Many bullies are easy to anger. They are impulsive and hot-tempered, even with adults, whom they are often defiant toward.
Many bullies have friends. In the past, it was assumed that bullies were loners that harassed their peers out of fear of rejection, but we now know that is not the case. Often, they have many supportive friends, which can greatly strengthen their bullying behaviour.
Bullies often have an inflated view of themselves. They are generally not insecure or weak, as once thought. They may use their self-assured attitude to talk themselves out of trouble.
Many times, but not always, bullies are physically stronger than their peers and use their physical domination.
Bullies are generally not concerned with others’ feelings and do not display empathy toward their peers. Bullies can also be victims. Some kids that have been bullied in the past begin bullying later.
Bullying In the workplace
A workplace bully prefers you to be blind to his/her true nature. Perceptive people are difficult targets. And the better your understanding of a bully and his/her behaviour, the more effective you will be in applying the techniques for fighting back.
A bully encourages others to obey him by offering to meet their emotional and financial needs. He promises friendship, respect, career advancement and financial rewards, hoping you will strive for the success and acceptance that can come through them. However, they only deliver on their promises when it benefits them.
A bully is verbally aggressive in order to intimidate others into compliance. He uses angry outbursts as a weapon. He threatens failure, or uses guilt and shame to appeal to your sense of duty. If you resist, he argues intensely. And if he feels you need to be taught a lesson, he embarrasses you in front of others.
A bully is constantly building his power base. He builds alliances within the company and undermines anyone who won’t support him. He gathers damaging information on his opponents, or blames them for any failures. He uses subtle, negative phrasing to demean his opponents and weaken them. He also seeks to control more company resources, which means fewer resources are available for his rivals.
Bullies play mind games to distort the thinking of others
A bully creates an alternative reality in the minds of those around him. He keeps people off-balance through half-truths, hearsay and misstatements. His distorted version of events is intended to obscure and confuse. or he intentionally misleads you so that you arrive at an incorrect conclusion, and then exposes your mistaken opinion as proof of your ignorance or unreliability.
A bully puts on a good act to gain your trust and respect. He never reveals his true intentions, which are self-serving and at times harmful to others. He conceals his innermost attitudes and emotions, which are self-absorbed and disrespectful of others. He maintains an image of strength, vision and leadership, and thus avoids exposing his underhanded, manipulative nature. A skilled bully can achieve a lifetime of success through his deceptions, not just in a typical workplace, but in entertainment, media and politics.
Cyber-bullying is the use of technology to harass, threaten, embarrass, or target another person. Sometimes it’s easy to spot in the form of a tweet, text or Facebook post, but sometimes it can be hidden away for a victim to battle alone. Most people are reluctant to report bullying, so it’s impossible to know exactly how many have been affected.
Cyber-bullying can sometimes happen accidentally, with the impersonal nature of text messages, IMs, and emails making it hard to accurately interpret the sender’s tone. But repeated message posts that attack someone directly on a personal level are undeniably online harassment.
Examples of cyber-bullying include:
• Mean text messages;
• Harsh emails;
• Starting or spreading rumours about someone online;
• Posting or sharing embarrassing pictures or videos of someone without their permission;
• Setting up fake profiles and posing as someone else;
• Creating cruel websites as an attack on someone.
Mobile phones and computers cannot be solely blamed for today’s cyber-bullying trends. Social media sites can be used for positive activities, like connecting with friends and family, education and entertainment, but they can also be used to hurt other people.
It has been suggested that cyber-bullying is on the rise because people generally feel safe to say what they want when they’re tucked behind a computer screen or device.
As long as a person has access to a phone, computer, or other communication device, they are at risk of cyber-bullying. Signs to look for include:
• Being upset or unusually quiet following use of the phone or Internet
• Emotional withdrawal
• Being secretive or protective of a device
• Sudden disinterest in social activities or sport
• Reluctance to go to school
• Slipping in grades or lack of focus on study
• Changes in mood, behaviour, sleep or appetite
• An increased susceptibility to illness; this could be real or used as an excuse to avoid the source of the bullying;
• Sudden withdrawal and dislike of social media
• Nervous behaviour when getting an instant message, text or email
• Avoiding discussions on bullying.
What to do if you suspect your child is being cyber-bullied
Kids may not always recognise teasing as bullying, but if you notice signs that your child might be being hassled online or by text, address it with your child. Even if you don’t notice the signs, still have the conversation. It’s never too early to learn how to deal with bullies.
Victims of cyber-bullying are in a vulnerable state, so how you respond to them is crucial. Your first task is to listen to your child without judgment, blame, or attempting to “solve it”. Let them know you appreciate them opening up to you, and reassure them that you are there to listen and not out to restrict their online access. This is a fear that holds many children back from opening up about what’s happening to them.
Acknowledge your child’s pain. Help them see that the bully’s actions are not a reflection of something they’ve done, but is a fault of the bully. It’s important that you do not do anything to alienate your child further by angering, confusing or embarrassing him or her.
Try to refrain from using the words “just ignore them”. It’s not always that easy.
Assessing the problem
Gently ask questions about how long the bullying has been going on for, and how many persons are involved. If they are willing to share with you names then great, but if not, don’t push it until you know exactly what’s going on. Be patient and allow your children to take their time in talking to you about it, as it may be very hard for them to open up about it.
Ask your child if they would like to share any of the messages or comments with you. At the very least, encourage your child to print or save hurtful examples and place them in a saved file. Should the situation worsen, or if you need to take further action, you will need the conversations documented.
Ask about any retaliation on your child’s part. Ask them to be entirely honest, and remind them that you won’t get angry - we all do things we regret when we’re scared and confused. Do, however, explain that it’s important that they try to stay calm and not do anything that might get them in trouble.
What to do next
Now you know the scope of the problem, assess what support your child needs and the best way to achieve it. Don’t wait to see if the bullying goes away.
Report the bully and any bullying behaviour to the websites where the bullying occurred, and block the bullies from further contact. Most social media sites and apps have easy ways to report users and harassment. This will help to empower your child, and reduce the number of attacks.
Ask your child to tighten up the security and privacy settings on their social media accounts and encourage them to purge their list of friends or followers. These should be limited to their friends or people they know they can trust.
If your child is at school, think about contacting the principal. Staff will be able to provide support, and you’ll be able to familiarise yourself with the school’s bullying policies. If the bully is a student at the same school, they may be able to step in.
In the case of severe cyber-bullying (or any bullying, for that matter) away from school grounds, consider speaking with the police. Cyber-bullying can be a crime and can result in serious consequences.
As always, it’s important to ensure that your child feels they have a safe and secure environment in their home. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking their computer away; rather, work with them on ways to make sure their online activity is safe and fulfilling. Distract them with fun activities away from the online world, give them plenty of support and remind them that you are there whenever they need you. Increase the amount of time you spend together as a family, and find ways to strengthen these positive friendships. You may also wish to consult a counsellor.
Throughout these processes, monitor your child’s emotional wellbeing and create moments in which your child can feel good about him or herself.
Traditionally, we think of bullies as being male, but as online bullying becomes more and more of a problem, we are seeing many girls engage in bullying behaviour. In fact, the majority of cyber bullies are females.
How to deal with a bully?
Walk away. If the situation seems threatening or dangerous, it’s best to get away from the bully. Even if it is not a dangerous situation, remember that you don’t have to listen to someone say mean things to you. The best thing to do might be to calmly walk away from the person. This will send the message that you won’t put up with this kind of treatment.
Tell someone so the bully will stop
It’s important to report bullying right away so that it will stop. By telling someone that you are being bullied, you will be standing up for yourself and showing the bullies that you will not put up with their abuse.
Look the bully in the eye and tell him or her to stop.
Using direct, assertive communication and body language is the best way to address a bully. If a bully continues to harass you even after you have walked away, then let him or her know that you will not put up with their behaviour. Turn and face the bully and tell him or her to stop.
It is the bully’s goal to get an emotional response out of you, so do your best to keep calm and avoid showing the bully how you feel. Try your best not to show that you are angry, sad, or frightened. The bully may feed off of these emotions and increase his or her efforts.
Bullying has become a huge issue these days, both online and off. Not just for individuals, but also for families and communities. It’s a mentally, emotionally trying experience.
Bullying can be stopped by
• Parents, teachers and community members joining hands in the fight against bullying.
• Sharing stories on bullying.
• Hold a National Bullying Prevention Month.
• Hosting community events against bullying.
• Donating to events in the fight against bullying.
• Supporting the fight against bullying.
Let’s stop bullying today
For more information, contact the National Crime Prevention Office on 302-8430, 3028431, 3028154 or visit our website @ www.royalbahamaspolice.org.