How to spot if your child is being bullied
As bullying in schools takes on alarming proportions, the government has urged parents to be extra vigilant for warning signs that their child might be a victim or an instigator of school violence.
This year alone, at least nine incidents of violence involving schoolchildren have made national headlines.
The cases include murder, attempted murder and assault. In some of them criminal charges have been filed.
Several of the cases came to light via cellphone footage of fights between pupils, on and off school grounds, that went viral on social media.
There have also been several reports of pupils attacking teachers.
The Dispatch spoke to East London-based child and adolescent psychologist Dane Channon, and counselling psychologist Karen Walton to find out what signs to look out for.
Channon said while he could not say whether bullying had become more violent in nature, it had certainly become more intense and pervasive. He said violent behaviour in schools had become more intense due to the advent of social media.
“Social media means the bullying continues even after children have left the school premises, tends to last longer and includes a wider audience.”
Channon said few children had psychological resources such as assertiveness to cope with social media trolls and bullying in the modern era.
Walton said while it seemed that more violence was occurring it was possible it was just being reported more.
“Many years ago, if your peer gave you a smack, you often just had to get on with it. However, there have been a number of extremely concerning incidents of bullying and it can escalate to have truly tragic and frightening consequences,” said Walton.
According to Channon and Walton, signs that could indicate to parents that their child is being bullied include:
Any changes in behaviour, for example refusing to go to school or avoiding going
Psychosomatic issues such as headaches, stomachaches, bed-wetting, sleep disturbance and mood changes; and
Suicidal thoughts, poor self-esteem and seeing themselves as worthless and useless.
“It is important to note that ‘symptoms of bullying should not be viewed in isolation. Rather, one should gather information from multiple sources before rushing in to confront,” said Channon.
But what if your child is the bully?
According to Channon, if a child has a predilection for bullying, you would probably know about it.
“Teachers will let you know. Specific behavioural traits – such as a quick temper, impulsiveness, low tolerance for frustration, and defiance – are things to watch out for.
“If your child has overly aggressive friends, or is part of a group that is highly focused on popularity, then these are also red flags.
“Many children who bully tend to perceive themselves as being bullied too, and will regularly blame others.”
Channon said assertiveness was key to prepare children for the “realities of life”.
“Many schools have zero-tolerance bullying policies. But equipping your child with assertiveness skills and resilience is a better practice for preparing them for the realities of life.”
Walton advises parents to build strong and healthy relationships with their children so that their children feel free and comfortable to approach them with any problems they may have.
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