According to Kids Helpline, one in four children will be bullied at some stage.
But bullying doesn’t just happen inside the schoolyard. From the boardroom to the dinner table, bullying also plagues workplaces and homes.
And the impact of bullying goes beyond the victim. It can have devastating effects on bystanders and entire communities – as well as the bullies themselves.
At Positive Psychology, we get asked about bullying every day. So we thought we’d share our answers to the most common questions we hear to give you a little helping hand.
Bullying is more than a one-off insult, fight or disagreement.
It’s when someone displays repeated behaviour that misuses power to cause harm. This behaviour can be verbal, physical and/or social.
Bullying can be:
It can happen to anyone, anywhere – and at any time. But whatever form it takes, bullying is always aggressive and ongoing.
So if you notice someone being repeatedly cruel to a less powerful person, you’re dealing with a bully.
There are different reasons people bully. But the behaviour is never okay.
Someone might bully because they:
Some kids bully because they see it as a simple solution to their social problems. An easy way out.
But of course, bullying doesn’t actually address the issues. It only creates more.
That’s why it’s important to teach children about respect from a young age – and healthy ways to cope with their problems.
Keep in mind, it’s common for children to take on different roles during this developmental stage. For example, someone who is bullied in one situation may become the bully in another.
So be sure to stay calm – and show empathy and support where possible.
The victim, the bully and the bystanders. These are the people who suffer from the actions of a bully.
In the short-term, the victim can suffer from:
Over time, this can lead to chronic mental health disorders, self-destructive behaviour and challenges in developing trusting relationships.
And for the bully? The short-term impact could be:
Without proper treatment, bullying can fester into adulthood – with bullies facing higher chances of substance abuse, antisocial behaviour, unemployment and spousal or child abuse.
There’s nothing more devastating than learning that your child or someone you love is being bullied. But you’re not helpless. There are things you can do.
First, be sure you fully understand the situation. How frequent is the bullying? And how long has it been going on?
Then, encourage social skills like assertiveness and how to ask for help. Above all, make sure you listen to and support the victim without shaming or blaming them.
You can also brainstorm different ways to deal with the problem together.
If it’s your child, then notify the school. They are obliged to help resolve and monitor the issue. And be sure to keep talking with the school until your child feels safe.
We all feel for a bullied victim. But the bully needs just as much support.
If someone you know or care about is bullying others, there are steps you can take to help them.
Start with empathic responses, which encourage the bully to think about their behaviour from the victim’s perspective.
You can also respond in a way that makes the bully question their behaviour. This can be as simple as asking the bully why they’re acting this way, or if they realise their behaviour is unkind.
Remember: People bully others because they are hurting themselves. So it’s crucial that you show the bully kindness and compassion.
Bullying should be dealt with straight away. Otherwise, it can have long-term mental and physical consequences for the victim and bully.
But when should you seek the support of a professional?
For the victim, it’s time to get professional help when:
The bully should also seek professional support when you or others have tried to help them without success.
A mental health professional or psychologist can deliver tailored treatments that target depression and anxiety, as well as anger management for the bully.
They can also help the victim improve their resilience, communication and coping skills.
If you or someone you care about is being bullied – or bullying others – our team of psychologists can help. Call us on 1300 995 636 to learn more.