Bullying affects many teenagers to the point where it can impact upon their emotional wellbeing, positive mental health and in some cases, their physical health too. Teenagers who are frequently bullied also face a number of associated problems, including increased rates of mental health issues and relationship difficulties, and an elevated risk of violence toward others.1
If you’re being bullied, it’s important you talk to someone – no-one should have to deal with being bullied, especially on their own. Speak up to someone you feel comfortable talking to.
If you are a parent or family member of someone who is being bullied, you may not realise that they are being bullied or how extreme the bullying may be. Here we take an in depth look at what bullying is, what you can do to help and where further information and support is available.
What is bullying?
Bullying isn’t just saying, writing, texting or doing nasty and unpleasant things to another person (known as verbal and physical bullying), it can be psychological too – when bullies exclude somebody and leave them out of things on purpose.2
According to kidshealth.org.nz, bullies pick on the people they think don’t fit in, maybe because of how they look, how they act (for example, people who are shy and withdrawn), their race or religion, or because the bullies think their target may be gay or lesbian. Two of the main reasons people are bullied are because of appearance and social status.3 Bullying can happen anywhere, anytime.
How does bullying make people feel?
Being bullied can be terrifying and may cause a young person to withdraw from their social networks and connections, including from relationships and people that are positive and supportive. They may also refuse to go to school and may suffer from physical distress and illness. Young people may feel that they are to blame for being bullied because they already think, or begin to think (obviously as a result of bullying), that they aren’t good enough, attractive enough, ‘normal’ enough, and deserve to be treated badly.
What can I do?
Talk about it. Encourage regular conversations with young people so they understand what bullying is and know that if they are being bullied, they are not on their own. Encourage them to seek help and support from either yourself or another trusted family member, responsible adult or professional service.
This year’s Youthtown nationwide survey of 1,194 teenagers found the people most teenagers turn to for guidance – and this may surprise many people – is their parents. The more informed families and whanau are on how to deal with this issue the more confident we will be to start and have the conversation.
This video from upworthy.com is an example of a conversation being had, it’s worth a look. The key message – “Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies…The cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”
1. Fleming, T.M., Watson, P.D., Robinson, E., Ameratunga, S., Dixon, R., Clark, T.C., and Crengle, S. (2007). Violence and New Zealand Young People: Findings of Youth2000 – A National Secondary School Youth Health and Wellbeing Survey. Auckland: The University of Auckland, pp 5, 40
2. Adolescent Health Research Group, (2007), Youth’07 Student Health and Wellbeing Questionnaire, p.29