When I was in primary school I was a bully. I would bully kids at school, call them names and throw things at them. My friends and I would even continue bullying after school by prank-calling kids’ houses or sending them abuse through e-mail or MSN messenger.
Anti cyber-bullying campaigns and education have starting taking place in schools across Australia. The campaigns aim to provide young people with the skills and resources they need to take appropriate, safe and effective actions against cyber-bullying.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think the anti-bullying campaigns and education in schools is a great thing and anything Australians can do towards stopping teen suicides should be supported. But as a former bully, I can say with confidence that educating kids and focusing on cyber-bullying alone is not going to stop the mean things that kids say and do. The parents and role models within a child’s life can often determine whether a child is a bully or not. It’s just as important to educate them, as it is to educate the children.
When I would bully kids, I wouldn’t care if they dobbed me in to the teachers. I could even occasionally convince teachers that I had done nothing wrong and get off scot-free.
I wasn’t your typical bully. I was well-behaved and smart when in the presence of teachers and adults. But I would make girls feel inferior by not letting them join in with skipping or casting them ‘dirties’ from across the classroom. The only time I ever felt ashamed of my bullying was when my mother found out. I didn’t like her knowing that I was mean to other people.
The effect that parents and role models have on children is not to be underestimated. The education of parents and role models on bullying and how it affects children can often be the difference between life and death.
There are currently websites, forums and government-funded seminars for parents and role models wanting to become more informed about bullying. While all of these sources of information are great, there is no sure-way that all parents and role models will access them. Bullying statistics show that well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs. If a parent or role model is unaware that their child is being bullied, or behaving like a bully, they would have no reason to seek out this information. The main problem here is that bullies are often unsuspected by parents and adults. Bullying takes many different shapes and forms, meaning even the nicest kid can be a bully. Parents need to be informed about how to deal with bullying, even if they don’t suspect their child is a bully or being bullied.
‘ECU researchers found cyber bullying increases by 1-2 per cent as students progress through high school – perhaps relating to increased access to technology as children mature,’ says Professor Donna Cross. ‘That’s in contrast to face-to-face bullying, which peaks around Year 5 and 6.’
I was a bully from Years 4-8 and personally experienced the transition between face-to-face bullying and cyber-bullying. The difference between the two was that with cyber-bullying, I could hide behind my computer, send emails from a fake account and call people from a blocked number. There is more anonymity when bullying through technology, making the taunts even more brutal. This is why cyber-bullying has become so recognised in recent years. More kids are partaking in it because they believe they won’t get caught.
When I was at this age I was also very impressionable. I looked up to a lot of people, but often not the right ones. This is why role models are also important when it comes to influencing kids and bullying. It’s not always celebrities and TV stars that kids look up to; It’s often the people around them. Kids in older years, brothers, sisters or teammates are among some of the unrecognised role models in a child’s life. Similar to parents, role models can be unaware of their influence on children and therefore it’s just as important for them to be educated as well as the parents.
I stopped my bullying when my mother caught me in the act. I became a better person after enduring her disappointment and as I grew up I realised how silly and stupid bullying is. Most bullies will realise this as we grow up, but the help and influence of parents and role models can help speed along the process before it gets out of hand.
I urge anyone that spends a lot of time with kids, to educate themselves and be aware of bullying and it’s effects, even if they don’t notice any signs of bullying. But then again, who knows, the current bullying statistics might decrease.
Sam McMeekin is a third-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and is one of upstart’s staff writers. You can follow her on Twitter: @sammcmeeks