Matilda put it best – “It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”
As a small child, I was frequently bullied by some not-so-wonderful kids in the playground; their parents blissfully unaware (despite one of them actually working at the school.) One of my earliest primary school memories is of Mum marching through the quadrangle to “tell off” the older students who had been stealing my lunches. Despite claiming to be mortally embarrassed at this rampant display of mothering, I remember feeling secretly impressed at her bravery during the battle of ‘Supermum vs. the Meanies’. My how the tables have turned when we consider bullying today….
The statistics are unsettling. Australian studies have revealed that approximately one in four students (27%) are bullied every few weeks; more frequently for the unlucky. Repeated school bullying was highest among Year 5 (32%) and Year 8 (29%) students- as if that first day of high school wasn’t nerve-wracking enough!
Under threat of intervention by teachers (think detention, loss of privileges, or that phone call to Mum and Dad) bullying continues to move into the ‘anonymous’ online space. Using digital communication methods, “covert” bullying (that is, aggressive behaviour that is “not seen by adults”) can include anything from spreading rumours, hurtful teasing, social exclusion, and creation of fake social networking pages.
As our kids get older, the method of technology used in attacks moves from mobile phone contact to social networking harassment. Far from being anonymous, most students (88%) reported knowing the identity of the person doing the bullying. Students are 91% likely to be bullied by someone in their own age group (and generally of the same gender.) Not surprisingly, those who bully others are most likely to be bullied themselves. What goes around comes around? Absolutely.
Far from the days when parents could stroll through school grounds (sans visitors pass!) to confront the meanies, most students keep quiet about aggressive behaviours in fear of having their internet privileges taken away. Of those that did report bullying to a trusted adult, most help was deemed ineffective with some students reporting the situation worsening after adult intervention.
So where does that leave us as parents, teachers, and trusted friends? Have a read of our factsheet- “Cyber bullying, a guide for parents and families” containing all the tips and tricks for a safe and happy cyber-year in 2013.
Finally, remind your kids that Lifeline and Kids Help Line are just a phone call away if they don’t want to confide in you personally (and reinforce that’s totally okay).
And if all else fails, I’ll check if my Supermum is available for a call-out. (Cape optional of course.)