Police AssociAtion of novA scotiA 99 Photo credit: Katherine Dimock-Lavoie By not speaking up, am I accepting bullying? Parents are looking for help everywhere, especially in recent months, frantic about what to do about bullying or victim behaviour. Bullying is when negative actions are directed repeatedly toward someone who is perceived to be weaker. It can be a physical, verbal or social form of aggression. Usually, adults, teachers or other students see the behaviour and ignore it. In a recent Canadian study (Building Prevention: Nature and Extent of Bullying in Canada at, 41% of all students in grades 4 to 7 reported that they were victims of bullying and /or bullied others monthly. Even though there has been a huge silence around the issue of bullying, consider this: • Bullying happens in every school, no matter the age, class, gender, race or geography involved • Victims often develop social, emotional and academic problems • Studies have shown, many bullies are exposed to violence at home • Without intervention, bullies are more likely to be convicted of serious crimes Victims typically do nothing to defend themselves and can be passive, anxious, insecure and lacking in social skills. They usually don’t believe that adults can help so they rarely report being bullied. Sometimes, they carry weapons for protection. As to bullies at school, they’re often victims at home. Usually strong, confident and with dominating personalities, they like making others suffer and blame those victims for provoking the attack. They have good communication skills and can usually talk their way out of trouble. This behaviour is accepted when witnesses don’t speak up, but this cannot be ignored anymore. People who see bullying need to step up and address this serious issue. Effects of bullying can lead to serious and long term problems, such as isolation, depression, low selfesteem, poor academic performance, shyness, threatened or attempted suicide attempts, and retaliatory violence. Many experts agree that to curb bullying, a whole school approach needs to be implemented, as one or two people taking action probably won’t have much of an effect. Everyone must work at stopping a bully. But how can you get support to even get started? Getting the community and the school involved is a good way to raise awareness and get the process rolling. When surveying teachers and students about the level of bullying activity and victim behaviours at schools, participants are often shocked at the overt and not so visible actions of bullies and victims. This serves as an excellent call to action and can kick start discussions at the school and in the community aimed at addressing bullying on school grounds, as well as elsewhere. But what can parents do? A good way to start, though sometimes difficult, is to listen to the child and to take his or her concerns seriously. Victims of bullying often feel helpless but help and support toward problem solving can open up channels of communication between parents and their children. As a parent, you can: • Approach your child’s school and show them you want to work with them to solve the problem • Talk to the adult in your child’s life who is not taking action against bullying behaviour • Work with other parents if you don’t feel like you have support within the school, but whenever possible, always try to work with the school’s administration to address the situation positively You can also help your children to: • Be assertive, and to respond in the best way possible to bullying behaviour • Be a friend and to look out for others by supporting other students who may be bullied • Tell an adult when they witness or know of a student being verbally or physically bullied • Deprive bullies of the satisfaction of seeing their hurt reaction, by not openly reacting to their insults • Not be a bully, and to address their behaviour if it’s deemed to be cruel or hurtful to others • Amend bullying behaviour by seeking counseling • Feel good about themselves and have good selfesteem, as bullies prefer easy targets Teachers have observed that when a child says that they feel verbally abused, even if a child is exaggerating, there is always some truth to it, as everyone is constantly looking for security. Adults must always listen to the child and look into the matter. Children have to know that they have the right to be who they are and they don’t have to tolerate anyone insulting them, verbally or physically abusing them, or threatening them in any way. And always, there must be intervention with the bully because if action isn’t taken, then the bully will never have a chance to change his or her behaviour. In the long run, no one can afford to ignore bullying behaviour. The future of bullies and victims can very well depend on what is done – or not done – today. Silence is acceptance. © 2010 Fenety Marketing Services