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Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada

Sécurit publique et Protection civile Canada

August 2006


First steps to stop bullying: Adults helping children aged 4 to 11

Introduction

Every child has the right to feel safe at home, at school and in the community (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1990). Bullying is not a normal part of growing up. It doesnt usually go away on its own and often gets worse with time.

Bullying needs to be dealt with directly. To stop hurtful behaviour, we all need to respond when it occurs and take steps to prevent it. The first step is recognizing when there is a problem.

Here is some information to help you figure out whether a child you know has experienced, seen, heard or taken part in bullying behaviour. This information will also help you take steps to stop the bullying and help the child who is being bullied.

What is bullying?

Bullying is a form of aggression that unfolds within a relationship. The child who bullies uses aggression and control to maintain a position of power over the victimized child. As bullying evolves over time, the power dynamics and inequality in the relationship become stronger. The victimized child gets caught in an abusive relationship. This problem can also happen between groups of children.

The basic elements of bullying are:

  • Unequal power: One child has more power than the other child (or at least it seems that way to the children involved)
  • Hurtful actions: Physically or psychologically harmful behaviour takes place (see table page 2)
  • Direct and indirect actions: The behaviour may be face-to-face or behind ones back
  • Repetitive behaviour: The hurtful actions keep happening so the child being hurt finds it more and more difficult to escape

Teasing, rough housing or even play fighting are not considered bullying when both children are having fun.

How many children are involved in bullying others?

Not everyone bullies or is bullied -- a relatively small number of children are directly involved in bullying incidents.

Kindergarten to Grade 8

  • 15% of students reported bullying others at least twice over the school term 1.
  • 2% of students reported bullying others once a week or more. 2.

Boys

  • 14% of boys aged 4 to 11 reported bullying others 3.

Girls

  • 9% of girls aged 4 to 11 reported bullying others 4.

How many children are bullied?

Kindergarten to Grade 8

  • 20% of children reported being bullied Read More .. than once or twice over a school term 5.
  • 8% of children were bullied at least once a week 6.
  • Children were bullied once every 7 minutes on the playground and once every 25 minutes in the classroom 7.

Boys

  • 5% of boys aged 4 to 11 reported being bullied sometimes or very often 8.

Girls

  • 7% of girls in the same age group reported being bullied sometimes or very often 9.

Minority groups

  • 27% of elementary school students from minority groups reported being bullied because of their ethnicity 10.

What are some of the types of bullying? 11

Physical
Psychological
Verbal
Social
  • Hitting
  • Kicking
  • Punching
  • Pushing/shoving
  • Stealing
  • Insults
  • Name-calling
  • Threats
  • Comments about how someone looks or talks
  • Comments about someones ethnicity (culture, colour or religion)*
  • Gossiping
  • Rumours
  • Ignoring
  • Not including someone in group activities
Results
Can hurt a child's body, damage belongings (clothes, toys, etc) or make a child feel badly about himself or herself. Can make a child feel badly about himself or herself. Can make a child feel alone and not part of the group.
* Ethnoculturally-based bullying any physical or verbal behaviour used to hurt another person because of his or her ethnicity (culture, colour or religion)

How many children witness bullying?

Not all children are directly involved in bullying incidents, but many get involved in other ways -- some watch, some encourage the bullying and some try to stop it.

  • 85% of bullying incidents are witnessed by others 12.
  • Peers try to stop the bullying in 11 to 19% of bullying incidents 13. Someone stepping in can help even out the power imbalances.
When other children intervene -- more than half the time, the bullying will stop within 10 seconds! -- Hawkins, Pepler & Craig, 2001

TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN BULLYING *

Adults helping children: Practical advice

The child who comes to you for help may need some reassurance along with practical advice on what to do. You could try some of the following, using your judgement about the particular circumstances.

If the child is being bullied, you can suggest:

  • Stay calm and try not to show you are upset. Try to respond to the person bullying you without anger. Anger can make things worse.
  • Look the other person in the eye and say you don't like what they are doing.
  • As soon as you can, find an adult you trust and tell the adult what happened. It is your right to be safe.
  • If you are afraid to tell an adult on your own, ask a friend to go with you.
  • Stay close to children you can count on to stick up for you.
  • Stay away from places where you know bullying happens.
  • If the bullying continues, walk away, join other children or ask someone else for help.

If the child sees someone being bullied, you can suggest:

  • Speak out and help the person being hurt. Nobody deserves to be bullied. You can help by telling the person who is bullying to stop.
  • If it is hard for you to speak out against bullying on your own, ask a friend to do it with you.
  • Comfort the person who was hurt and make it known that what happened was not fair or deserved.
  • If this does not work right away or if you are afraid to say or do something on your own, find an adult you trust to help you.
  • Help a child who is bullied by being a friend. Invite that child to participate in your school activities. This will reduce the feeling of being alone.

Some assurances you can give to the child:

  • Despite how it may seem, it is not a hopeless situation. Something can be done to stop the hurtful behaviour. I will help you.
  • Remember: if you walk away and get help, you are part of the solution. If you stay and watch, you are part of the problem.
  • You can help to make your school, sports team or community a better place by taking action against bullying.

Your role: How adults can help

Bullying is not a problem that children can solve themselves. It is a power struggle that is difficult to change without the help of an adult. In most cases, it will require only a few minutes to stop the behaviour, especially if you act immediately and in a consistent manner.

If you are there when the bullying occurs, talk with the children who are being aggressive. Explain the hurt they are causing and have them make amends to those who were harmed. This can break the cycle.

However, most bullying happens when you are not looking. When you are told about it, take it very seriously since children usually go to adults with these problems as a last resort.

In a small number of cases, bullying behaviour is a chronic problem requiring the involvement of families and the assistance of a health professional.

If you are a parent, guardian or caregiver

  • Listen and respond to all complaints from your children about bullying, even the seemingly trivial ones such as name-calling.
  • Talk to other adults who were in charge when the bullying occurred to find ways to remedy the hurt and prevent future problems.
  • Stop bullying behaviour that happens at home. Consistency matters!
  • Consider how you treat others and how you allow others to treat you. As a role model, your actions and reactions can influence how children relate to each other.

If you are an adult responsible for children (e.g. a teacher or coach)

  • Listen and respond to all complaints from children and parents about bullying, even the seemingly trivial ones such as name-calling. Consistency matters!
  • Be aware of the social interactions among the children in the group. Arrange groupings to separate children who tend to have negative interactions with others.
  • Place children who tend to be left out of groups into one where they will be accepted. Try to avoid situations that will victimize at-risk children (e.g. picking teams or group partners).
  • Consider how you treat others and how you allow others to treat you. As a role model, your actions and reactions can influence how children relate to each other.

If you are a leader of an organization responsible for children (e.g. a school principal or manager of a sports team or other children's program)

  • Listen and respond to all complaints from children, parents or adults responsible for children about bullying, even the seemingly trivial ones such as name-calling. Consistency matters!
  • Support the adults who work directly with children in their constructive approaches to end bullying such as separating disruptive children, increasing supervision in bullying hotspots and placing vulnerable children in positive groups.
  • Create an effective anti-bullying policy in your organization that clearly sets the limits on acceptable behaviour. Include meaningful consequences in the policy to help teach the aggressive children healthier ways of interacting.
  • Allow time for the policy to be reviewed and agreed upon by everyone (including children).
  • Ensure the policy is consistently and universally applied by all involved.
  • Consider how you treat others in the organization and how you allow others to treat you. As a role model, your actions and reactions can influence how children relate to each other.

The NCPS wishes to acknowledge the support and assistance of Drs. Pepler and Craig, through the Canadian Initiative for the Prevention of Bullying, in the development of this document.


* This advice was compiled from a variety of resources on bullying and is to be taken as guidance on how to deal with most bullying-related problems. For additional guidance, please consult the resources provided at the end of this information sheet.

1. Charach, Pepler & Ziegler, 1995

2. Ibid.

3. Craig, Peters & Konarski, 1998

4. Ibid.

5. Charach, Pepler & Ziegler, 1995

6. Ibid.

7. Craig & Pepler, 1997

8. Peters & Konarski, 1998

9. Ibid.

10. Pepler, Smith, Craig & Connelly, 2002

11. Pepler & Craig, 2000; Connolly, Pepler & Craig, 2003.

12. Craig & Pepler, 1997; Atlas & Pepler, 1998

13. Craig & Pepler, 1997; Hawkins, Pepler & Craig, 2001

 

For further information on the funding programs of the National Crime Prevention Centre (NCPC) and for contact information for your region, please visit www.publicsafety.gc.ca/ncpc or call the NCPC: 1-877-302-6272