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What is bullying?

Bullying behaviour is serious and complex. It is a form of aggressive behaviour and can take many forms, including physical, verbal or social bullying. It can take place in the physical or online world, and causes damage and harm. Verbal and social bullying can be as harmful as physical bullying.

  • physical, such as stand over behaviour, holding or hitting a person, defacing a webpage or profile page
  • verbal, such as threats, discriminatory remarks, name calling, emails, texts, anonymous comments or postings online
  • social, such as spreading rumours or personal information, excluding from groups or activities, posting negative material online.

Bullying behaviour can impact initiators (those who are doing the bullying), targets (those being bullied) and bystanders (those who witness the bullying). Most bullying behaviour is hidden from adults’ view so all allegations need to be taken seriously.

If your child is involved in bullying they may:

  • seem anxious or negative about school or kura
  • be reluctant to join in certain activities
  • have bruises they don’t explain
  • be submissive or withdrawn with other children
  • seem unhappy or insecure, with low self-esteem or self confidence
  • say things like ‘nobody likes me’ or ‘I haven’t got any friends’
  • talk about wanting to hurt someone or get back at someone
  • find it hard to be assertive or stand up for themselves.

What should I do if I think my child is involved in bullying?

Contact your school/kura and meet/speak to your child’s class teacher or the principal. The school must provide a safe, positive physical and emotional bullying-free learning environment.

How can I support my child?

It’s important to try and stay calm and work out how you will deal with the situation together. Try these steps:

  • talking with your child, reassuring them that they have done the right thing in talking to you
  • agreeing on a plan of behaviour for your child
  • supporting your child’s activities and friendships
  • regularly check in with your child to see how they are doing.

How do I deal with cyberbullying?

If your child has been cyberbullied, you should keep all evidence by saving bullying messages and images. These are useful if you report the bullying to your child’s school or to the police. If the cyberbullying involves physical threats, and you’re worried about your child’s safety, contact the police immediately.

For most social networking websites and all New Zealand mobile phone providers, bullying is a breach of their terms of use. You can lodge a complaint with the initiator's social networking site or mobile phone provider. The initiator may get a warning from the provider or be excluded from the site, or mobile access taken away.

Netsafe’s cyberbullying website helps young people, parents and teachers to take steps to prevent cyberbullying. Netsafe can also help with reporting abuse on websites including Facebook and bullying on mobile phones.

Can I lodge a complaint with the police?

As well as alerting your child’s school/kura, in some circumstances you can take complaints to the police. Whether they prosecute will depend on a number of things such as evidence, the age of the bully involved and how severe the actions are.

What if my child is initiating the bullying behaviour?

If you think your child might be bullying others, here's what you can do.

Know the signs

Here are some of the signs that your child might be involved in bullying others.

  • Are they in trouble for fighting (verbally or physically) with others at school?
  • Are they defiant or confrontational?
  • Do they use negative terms such as ‘stupid’ to describe others, or say others ‘deserve’ bad things to happen to them?
  • Are they dominant and aggressive and become easily frustrated when they don’t get their way?
  • Do they show little concern for others who are in bad situations?
  • Are they accused of being a bully at school or kura or other places?

If you suspect your child is bullying others, try to:

Find out what’s going on for them

If your child has been accused of bullying, talk to them and get their point of view. Ask questions. What have they been accused of doing? What do they admit to doing? Find out what's been going on and their reasons. Your child may be having social or emotional problems they find hard to handle. They might feel pressured to take part in bullying to be accepted or so they don’t get bullied themselves.

Be clear about what you expect

Avoid approaching your child in an accusatory or confrontational way. Calmly explain that bullying behaviour is not acceptable. Explain how bullying affects others such as victims, bystanders and the school environment.

Talk to them about what is acceptable behaviour. Discuss school rules and how you expect your child to behave at school and home. Talk to your child about better ways to handle situations where they may act aggressively. Regularly check in with your child to see how they are doing.

Praise appropriate behaviour

When you see your child getting on well with others, or keeping calm when they don't like something, let them know how well they are doing. You might have to look really closely at first, but recognising and praising good behaviour is important.

Talk to the school/kura

Talk to your child’s teacher about the problem and ask them how they can help. When you and the school work together, you are much more likely to be able to resolve the problem.