Always choose your friends wisely. It is something many of us have heard the same thing coming from our parents and grand parents. As we mature, we learn that our parents were right! Friendship bullying is very common. Over 30% of young people are or have been bullied by a friend in their circle.
Friendship bullying has many similarities with regular bullying, but because it happens within a friendship group, the bullied person may think it’s a normal part of having friends.
Friendship bullying is hard to spot because it is often masked by in-genuine support and understanding. There is also the theory that if your family or friends do it, it's okay. ‘It can be hard for them to know if it’s just “banter”, especially if their so-called friend is saying, “It was just a joke,” or, “Can’t you take it?"
Friendship bullying includes:
- Verbal abuse, such as name-calling and gossiping
- Threatening, intimidating or humiliating behavior (for example, ‘If you tell on us, we’ll tell everyone you wet the bed at our sleepover’)
- Excluding the bullied child from the friendship group; leaving them out of plans; whispering behind their back
- Undermining them, by spreading rumors or constantly criticizing them (‘I don’t know why we let you hang around with us; we’re so much prettier than you’)
- Controlling or manipulating them (‘If you don’t let me copy your math homework, I won’t be your friend any more’)
- Making silent, abusive or hoax calls
- Online, text or cyber-bullying.
The effects of friendship bullying will depend on the nature of what’s going on and your loved one's personality, but symptoms to look out for include:
- Belongings getting ‘lost’ or damaged
- Unexplained injuries like bruises
- Being afraid to go to school, or feigning illness to avoid school
- A decline in performance at school
- Nervousness, loss of confidence or becoming withdrawn
- Problems with eating or sleeping, including nightmares
- Depression and anxiety
You can help stop friendship bullying by following these tips:
- Give your loved one space to talk about what’s been happening. Don’t rush them or jump to conclusions.
- Talk to them about what bullying is, and see if that fits with what’s happening to them.
- Talk to them about what it means to be a good friend, and whether their friend is showing those qualities.
- If the bullying is happening to a child at school, ask your child what would need to happen for them to feel safer and happier.
- Let them know that it’s not their fault, and that they’ve done the right thing in telling you.
- Make sure they know that they can keep talking to you, or to another trusted adult, or to medical support .
- Keep a record of what’s going on as evidence should you need it.
- Not replying to abusive messages, but saving them to show to you or to their teacher.
- Blocking, deleting or unfriending the bully on mobile technology and social media.
- Practice being assertive in a situation where they’re being bullied, perhaps by writing down and rehearsing what they might say.
- Doing something kind for someone else to make them feel better about themselves.
Some friendships never recover from an episode of bullying, and in extreme cases, the bullied child may even end up moving to a new school for a fresh start.
Although friendship bullying can be a devastating experience, your loved one may actually learn from it and develop skills they’ll use for life.
Friendship Bullying Source.