I want to talk to my 14-year-old daughter about bullying, and what she should do if she sees one of her friends being bullied either in person or online. I want her to stand up for her friends because it seems like the right thing to do, but I’m worried that she’ll be bullied if she gets involved. What should I tell her she should do if this situation happens?
It’s terrific you’re encouraging your daughter to show kindness and respect for other people. Studies have shown that kids are more likely to help someone who’s been bullied if they know their parents would expect them to step up.
However, your daughter should only get involved when it’s safe for her to do so. And it’s important she does not start acting in a threatening or violent way herself.
You can start by asking your daughter whether she’s seen any behaviour at school or online that has worried her, and how she thinks the kids involved might be feeling.
Then, you and your daughter can brainstorm what she could do next. This might include:
Be a good friend
Many kids who’ve been bullied say the most helpful thing other students can do is show sympathy and concern. If your daughter knows people who have been bullied, she might reach out to them in the following ways:
- Ask if they are feeling OK, and say something supportive like, “What happened was awful; you didn’t deserve to be bullied”.
- Invite them to join in with her friendship group.
- Help them change their privacy settings and block anyone harassing them.
- Encourage them to get help from a professional, such as Kids Helpline, eheadspace, Beyond Blue, Lifeline, or a local GP or youth service. These helplines are free and confidential, available 24/7, and you can chat to counsellors online as well as over the phone.
Tell a trusted adult
Telling an adult usually helps. If your daughter knows people who’ve been bullied, she might ask them if they would like to tell a teacher, counsellor or parent. She can offer to come with them when they make the report.
When reporting bullying, it’s useful to have a list of all the stuff that’s happened, including times, places, people involved, and screenshots of any cyber bullying. Your daughter could support a friend by helping them to put this list together.
If the bullying happened online, she can encourage the victim to report it to the site provider, and to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, who can get bullying material taken down.
And remember: if another student is in danger, or if physical or sexual violence has occurred, it’s vital to tell an adult. It’s not ‘dobbing’, it’s protecting someone from harm.
Don’t give the bullies what they want
Many students who bully others are looking for attention, popularity or laughter. Your daughter can make sure she’s not feeding their behaviour. For example, she could:
- Distract people, change the subject or ask the person being bullied to come somewhere else with her.
- If safe to do so, tell the person doing the bullying that it’s not OK, and that they should stop.
- If it’s not safe to get involved, move away and don’t give the bullies an audience.
- Never do anything to encourage bullying, such as cheering, laughing, filming, or sharing nasty messages or images.
And remember: your conversations with your daughter will make a difference. Children are more likely to support victims of bullying if they have strong relationships with their parents, optimism about the future, and a belief that their actions can change the world.