On the heels of this year’s return to school, children across the country have started getting back into their routines, spending their days with friends and classmates. But unfortunately, a lot of our nation’s youth also find themselves spending time with bullies and aggressors.
October 17 – 23 is National School Safety Week and this year, the Canada Safety Council’s message is simple: there can be no tolerance for bullying. Whether you’re a student, an educator, a parent or a caregiver, we all have a duty to keep children safe.
According to the Promoting Relationships & Eliminating Violence Network (PREVNet), a network of researchers and organizations shedding a light on bullying prevention, 75 per cent of people say they have been affected by bullying. This can take shape either as a victim, a bystander or an aggressor, and includes three primary forms of bullying:
* Physical bullying, which can take the form of hitting, destruction of property and physical humiliation;
* Verbal bullying, which can include teasing, threats and name-calling; and
* Social bullying, which can include rumours, gossip and exclusion with the intent of lowering the victim’s social worth among their peers.
Additionally, the role that technology plays in day-to-day life has contributed to the rise of cyber-bullying. This means that victims aren’t easily able to escape the torment – bullying has become a 24-hour-a day phenomenon and has caused children to not even feel safe in their own homes. PREVNet reports that one in five teenagers report being victimized electronically, a number which has been steadily on the rise since the internet and smartphones became ubiquitous.
Be on the lookout for signs of your child being bullied. These are numerous and varied but can include: heightened anxiety, low self-esteem and excessive self-deprecation, low performance in school, visible injuries, irritability, unhappiness, withdrawal from activities they once enjoyed, isolation and fear of going to school.
Conversely, you should also look for signs that your child may be a bully. These signs can include aggression, manipulative behaviour, unexplained money or items and minimal concern for others’ feelings.
Your role in the bullying discussion is simple, yet crucial, and begins long before your child is put in a situation where bullying may arise. Open a conversation with your child and make it clear that bullying is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. Let them know you will always be prepared to listen and be their advocate. If your child is being bullied, they won’t always be open to discussing it unless they know they can trust you.
Additionally, many children will not report cyber-bullying incidents to their parents for fear that their phone or computer will be confiscated or restricted. Make it clear that this will not be the case if such a situation arises.
If your child tells you that they are being bullied, document the bullying as best as you can. Keep text messages, emails and any other examples that demonstrate the inappropriate behaviour. Report the bullying to the proper authorities – either school administrators or police, depending on the severity.
Monitor progress in managing to the desired change and be vigilant in follow-up to ensure that the bully behaviour stops. Bullying can escalate quickly and your intervention can make a difference in your child’s quality of life, both in the short- and long-term.
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