How to Stop Bullying in Australia
Perhaps the best known face of the newly emerging support and awareness campaigns and anti bullying slogans in Australia is 15-year-old Chloe Elizabeth Fergusson.
Chloe’s December, 2013 death sparked an outcry and made many more people aware of the prevalence of bullying in Australia. Her case created a more concerted push for anti-bullying legislation in all Australian states.
Nearly one third of children in all Australian states have reported being bullied in some form, according to the Australian National Centre Against Bullying. And yet, there is still no easy way to define or stop bullying.
Chloe’s family’s effort in allowing her case to create change through Facebook is a flagship for bully stoppers across Australia. Chloe’s Voice has reached nearly 300,000. With their message and educational information, songs about bullying and poems about bullying, the family hopes to ultimately stop bullying.
Chloe’s story began when she lost her mother at the tender age of 8.
With 7 other older siblings though, Chloe had a bright future and was, by all accounts, surrounded by love. But when Chloe entered secondary school, she became the target of bullying by other students at school. Despite some intervention by her family, including a change of school, Chloe still suffered verbal bullying as well as physical, emotional and cyber bullying.
Even at the new school, Chloe was teased for not having a mother. Finally, she was assaulted when she stepped off the school bus to a waiting group of bullies (2 girls from her school). Meanwhile one of the school children who assaulted her filmed the attack, turning it into bullying videos that popped up on the Facebook pages of many of her classmates. On December 12, 2013, humiliated, feeling hopeless, Chloe took her own life.
Your child is not immune to the effects of bullying
Chloe’s case could be the most detailed example of the random, cruel and downright mystifying nature of bullies. It is also a reminder to all parents that as close as her family was to her, the adults in Chloe’s life did not understand the extent to which Chloe was being targeted.
What is bullying:
- Physical bullying: Physical violence, even if it seems minor, such as poking, hitting, tripping and shoving to intentionally intimidate or embarrass a child. Repeated destruction or damage to a child’s personal belongings, such as school books or clothing, is also considered physical bullying.
- Verbal bullying; Name calling, insults, racial slurs or emotional taunting to intentionally upset someone. Such as happened to Chloe when she was teased because her mother had died.
- Psychological bullying; Repeated stalking, intimidating and threatening a victim.
- Social bullying; Nasty jokes, spreading lies and repeated attempts to socially isolate a victim.
- Cyber Bullying; This is when any form of communications technology is used to intimidate, threaten, spread lies, name call or repeatedly make someone the butt of jokes. It includes phones, social websites and email.
According to the Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study, one in six Australian children studied reported being bullied. In the study nearly a third of boys (32%) and approximately a quarter of girls (28%) were bullied by both boys and girls.
Bullying can begin as early as the third year of primary school, according to the study.
According to Kidspot.com.au it is important for parents to be aware of the signs your child might be a bully’s target before you can help stop bullying in your child’s life. Know the signs:
- Physical injuries like unexplained bruises and scratches
- A general unhappiness.
- Reluctance to go to school (often accompanied by vague excuses to stay home).
- A decline in academic performance.
- Moodiness, withdrawal, tension and tears after school.
- Talk of hating school and having no friends.
- Torn clothing.
- Refusal to discuss what’s happening at school.
- Bed wetting, altered sleep patterns or having nightmares.
- Changes in eating habits (such as loss of appetite or overeating).
- Major changes in relationships and friendships with others.
- Having no friends to share time with
- A friend your child spends time with who seems mean or abusive to your child
- Getting into trouble more often, and acting out.
Many times, your child might be tempted to believe that if he or she ignores the problem, it will go away. They may also feel they are not worth the time you will need to spend to help solve the problem. Often children fear if there is any kind of punishment to the children who are bullying, it could cause things to become worse for them in the long-run.
Children who are being bullied are suffering. If you still think this is just “kids being kids”, consider these quotes about bullying from victims in this bullying documentary:
What can a parent do?
Well, first of all, this isn’t just “a bit of good fun”. If your child talks about being bullied or comes home with evidence of being bullied, slow down, stop what you are doing and listen quietly. Blaming your child for not being “tough enough” or encouraging physical violence will not help your child and might get them hurt.
Bullying is serious. In some cases, it can be the precursor to your child being assaulted physically. As in Chloe’s case, there could be deep emotional injuries building up;
- Take this time with your child to calmly find out when and where this is happening to your child and make notes of dates and times. Make screen shots of cell phone messages and copies of anything else. Many times children don’t tell parents about their inability to stop bullying on their own because of the shame this crime causes.
- Talk to your child’s school. Don’t assume the school knows about the bullying. Many forms of bullying are “covert” – that is not done with adult witnesses. In fact, 67 percent of school staff studied felt other teachers and staff needed training to enhance their understanding what bullying is and its impact to children.
- Bullying is about power. Give your child the power to make some decisions about how he or she believes the problem should be handled and then help them achieve those goals.
- Encourage your child to express herself by writing her feelings out in a journal or the creation of bullying poems that allow some of her feelings to be safely expressed.
- Find out from your child why he thinks he is the target of bullies. Don’t blame him for the attacks. instead discuss the possible common precursor to each incident. Remind him it is never ok to be bullied.
- If your child wants to change his route home or his pickup schedule from school, help him achieve that goal.
- Consider teaching a new technique known as “Fogging” that is showing promise in helping diffuse some situations and is a technique that empowers victims.
- If your child is being physically harmed, you must intervene. Gather evidence and report this to the police.
- Contact one of the help lines available to parents that can offer resources; Lifelink Samaritans 1300 364 566, Lifeline 131 114, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.
- Start an anti-bullying campaign at your child’s school. By cooperating with the local school administration, you can possible bring approved bullying videos, bullying movies and even bullying songs into a preventive program for the school, which helps stop bullying before it ever starts.
As your children enter school, particularly the early years of secondary school, parents need to be aware and in touch with what is truly happening in their child’s life.
Help your child by talking ahead of time about what can sometimes happen in heavily social situations such as school and eventually work. Help them plan a response. Unpleasant interactions at school have less impact when they are not such a surprise.
Make time in your daily or weekly schedule to spend in unhurried conversation with your child. Encourage your child to talk with you about their social lives and be as available as possible to include yourself in activities with your children and their friends.
Children who have another outlet where they can forge lasting friendships can stave off the impact of some forms of verbal bullying and psychological bullying. These interactions with you and other friends may even be the needed confidence builder for your child to be able to stop bullying in their own lives.
Finally, get involved and include other parents. The more present a parent is in numerous school activities, the more supported children feel. Even the bullies, in many cases are in need of simple, active adult interaction and support.