Personal Space


We all know bullies, or at least people who sometimes demonstrate bullying behaviour. Psychologists say bullying is due to an ‘imbalance of power,’ with the individual or group deciding to demonstrate power through intimidating another individual or group. Bullying involves repeated acts of intimidation and often involves physical intimidation, but not always.

Forms of bullying common in senior primary, middle and secondary schools include:
  • Intentionally getting another person into trouble
  • Hitting, pinching, biting, pushing or shoving
  • Stealing or damaging possessions
  • Spreading rumours - in person, by phone or through social media
  • Threatening or intimidating behaviour
  • Physical violence
  • Preventing or restricting access or actions (such as barring access to toilets or denying participation in games)
  • Exclusion from activities, conversations, etc.
Why is bullying an important safety issue?

Bullying can be distressing, and affect a young person’s ability to participate in and enjoy school, sport and other group activities. It can also have long-term effects on self-esteem and confidence, and the ability to ‘fit in’ and function in groups.

Bullying usually happens when older people – or others that are more ‘powerful’ than the people bullying – are not present, and is often accompanied by threats of harm if the victim of bullying reports the behaviour. Just as young people should be told how to deal with various forms of abuse, so is it important that you know how to deal with bullying and report it if it occurs.

What should I do if I’m bullied?

Nothing gives anybody the right to bully you – to make fun of you or hurt you. Being bullied is not your fault – it shouldn’t happen because of anything you do or what you look like. Even the most confident young person may be bullied at some time. Don’t ever believe it’s your fault that someone else feels the need to demonstrate power over you.
If you are being bullied, or someone tries to bully you, tell your parents or a teacher or other trusted adult at school. Once they know what’s happening, they can act to stop it.
Nothing gives anybody the right to bully you – to make fun of you or hurt you. Being bullied is not your fault – it shouldn’t happen because of anything you do or what you look like.

Your concerns should be taken seriously, with the recognition that to you, your problem is real. If you’re not treated seriously, talk to someone else who accepts that you are feeling unsafe and distressed.

If the person is physically hurting you, don’t give him or her any chances and report the behaviour to a teacher or your principal, and your parents, immediately. It may help to have written details of what happened and when, and if there is a witness ask that person to explain what happened, too.

How can I avoid it happening at all?

You shouldn’t have to change yourself to stop another person’s wrongful behaviour. Sometimes a show of ‘bravado’ – an appearance of confidence or control – will be enough to persuade a potential bully to give up. But many young people find that they are bullied at some point in their schooling.

Strategies to try to prevent the bullying from starting include:
  • Tell the person bullying to go away
  • Laugh
  • Smile at the bully and say the behaviour doesn’t bother you.
If the behaviour persists, strategies may include:
  • Staying in safe areas of the school near lots of other people
  • Making sure you’re always with at least one friend where the bullying occurs
  • Try and have a witness to the bullying
  • Tell a teacher or other adult or older person.
If the bullying hurts you physically, you should tell a teacher or other older person. Ask the teacher to write down your report of what’s happened.

What should my parents (or other adults) do?

If you tell your parents about what you consider bullying, they should:
  • Listen to what you have to say
  • Believe you, and believe that you are upset and scared
  • Stay calm
  • Recognise that it’s not your fault – you are not ‘weak’ because someone is bullying you
  • Discuss with you the strategies you can use to help the situation
  • Remind you that you should always talk to them about your problems
  • Discuss with you and decide what steps will be taken to stop the bullying.
Your parents can help most by educating you about strategies to deal with bullying, and to create or maintain a group of adults to turn to if a bullying problem arises.

How can my parents help prevent me being bullied?

Your parents can help most by educating you about strategies to deal with bullying, and to create or maintain a group of adults to turn to if a bullying problem arises. It is important that you are given the skills to deal with any potential bullying situation, and that you tell an adult if you are being bullied.

By arming you with effective strategies, your parents will help boost your confidence and feelings of control – making you the type of person bullies are most likely to avoid.

In discussions with you about bullying your parents are likely to talk about:
  • The types of bullying and what they ‘look like,’ so you can recognise bullying
  • The fact that being bullied is not your fault – it’s not a sign of weakness
  • The safe areas at school – which are usually around plenty of other people
  • Compiling a list of people you can talk to if you are worried that someone is bullying you or someone else – adults you can trust and feel safe with, at home, in the extended family, and/or at school
  • Displaying the type of confidence that bullies don’t like – by saying ‘go away’ or ‘stop’ in a strong, firm voice
  • Developing your confidence and problem-solving skills.
How can I tell if someone I know is being bullied?

There are tell-tale signs that indicate a young person is being bullied. You may notice these in someone you know, and your parents should watch out for them in you and your siblings.

Typical signs that bullying is occurring during or after school include:
  • A change in behaviour – you may become withdrawn, moody or quieter than usual
  • Clothing that was clean in the morning is often torn or dirty after school
  • You come home with cuts and bruises that can’t be logically explained
  • You don’t eat your lunch and appetite is affected at other times
  • Your possessions are regularly missing
  • You don’t want to go to school or after-school activities
  • You express some fear or hesitation about mixing with a person or group
  • Your sleeping patterns change.
It may be that you see someone being bullied at your school. You can help – even if you don’t know the person being bullied well – by refusing to join in, and then reporting the incident to a teacher.

If the person being bullied is afraid of ‘comeback’ by the bully if a teacher is told, first try and convince them that it’s the right thing to tell and take a stand against bullying. Offer to go with the person when the report is made. If the behaviour continues, report the bullying to an adult you trust.

Why does the bully act like that?

Bullying behaviour is not restricted to males or females, although the type of bullying behaviour chosen may be more common among one gender or the other. Males are more likely to use physical violence, while females may be more likely to choose ‘gossip’ as their weapons.

Young people may bully for a variety of reasons, including:
  • They feel powerful when bullying
  • They feel it increases their acceptance by others – and makes them look ‘cool.’
  • They have learned from examples in their own lives that bullying behaviour is acceptable and achieves results
  • They don’t know and haven’t been shown other ways to express anxiety, fear or envy
  • They feel uncomfortable relating to others on an ‘equal’ basis.
How should a bully be treated?

It is important to separate a young person from the bullying behaviour. Labelling someone a ‘bully’ may reinforce the idea that he or she can’t control the offending behaviour. An adult trying to change a bullying person’s behaviour should focus on that person’s power to choose how he or she behaves and responds to others.

Help the person understand why he or she chooses to bully by exploring situations where bullying is the chosen response. Teach the person that bullying behaviours are not acceptable and that there are other positive ways of achieving the results they believe are achieved by bullying.

Try and establish with the bullying person strategies that will help them feel more comfortable about themselves, and how to deal with situations without displaying bullying responses. By helping the person find different things to do or say – instead of teasing or bullying – you can reinforce their power to choose an appropriate and acceptable behaviour, and help them relate more positively with others in the group.

Giving a bullying person more power to choose can work, by increasing their self-esteem and confidence.

Bullying behaviour is not restricted to females or males, although the type of bullying behaviour chosen may be more common among one gender or the other.

If these strategies don’t work, and a person continues to bully, professional advice should be sought – either through the school, or with a psychologist or counsellor.

What is my school doing to protect my friends and me from bullying?

Every school has a policy on bullying. The policy includes codes of conduct that set out appropriate and inappropriate behaviour – and the consequences of unacceptable behaviour. These codes of conduct are to ensure students are free from bullying and intimidation, so that they feel safe, comfortable and secure in and at school.

Your school’s safe learning and play environments are kept that way by strategies designed to protect you, to prevent violence and to promote positive relationships between all members of the school community. Your school is likely to have written policies and programs covering conflict resolution, peer support, racism, discrimination, harassment, student leadership and mediation training.
Remember, you should feel comfortable and safe all the time you are at school – in and out of the classroom. Anything that places that at risk should be reported to your parents or a teacher as soon as possible. Be sure when you talk to adults about what’s happening to you that you express clearly how it makes you feel.

Other Article Categories:

  • Body Boosters
  • Public Property
  • The Big Chat
  • Home Base
  • Street Smarts
  • Just in Case
  • Out and About
  • Drug Awareness
  • Personal Space