By Maria Collins
Bullying is still rife for children in New Zealand schools, and now social media has become a tool for bullying. Some schools are behind in developing anti-bullying policies which take account of the impact of social media. On a positive side, most schools have a restorative justice system in place so when bullying occurs a teacher is notified, and a meeting is held with parents and the children involved. What can sometimes be lacking in this process is ongoing follow up after the incident. There is not ongoing support for the bully or the victim. As a parent, you have the right to ask the school what their anti-bullying policy is and how they abide by that policy.
Research has shown that one in five teenagers is the victim of online bullying. Instagram, Facebook, Yak Yak and even email are examples of how bullies are able to access the people they wish to victimise as per the ‘Roast Busters’ scandal. There is a danger that bullying intensifies due to peer pressure. As parents, we need to speak to our children.
In July this year, the government passed The Harmful Digital Communications Bill to try and stop online bullying. This wide-reaching law is designed to crack down on cyber-bullying, with serious offences attracting up to two years in jail or fines of up to $50,000 (sourced from Radio New Zealand News). Research has also shown that online bullying has had detrimental effects on children, and has even led some teenagers to self harm, attempted suicide and suicide.
Some ideas to help prevent cyber bullying and bullying are to speak with your children about what they can do if they are being bullied online and in school. Reassure them that you are there for them and will support them in the way they choose to handle the bullying. Screen time at home should be limited and by deleting the contact, they will not be able to see any negative posts. The school should be notified if the person bullying is still a student. A notification to the Police is also an option.
As a community, we can support children who are bullying. We need to teach them that bullying is not ok and show them positive ways in which to share their feelings of frustration and anger. Sometimes young people just need to be heard. For the victims of bullying, we can support them by reassuring them that it is not their fault and to listen to their thoughts about the situation and how they are feeling. Victims of bullying can be offered counselling through their school or outside agencies.
If you have any questions or would like to speak to someone, ring Homebuilders Family Services on 425 7048.