The bullying peak
Primary school children are the main targets of bullying.
The primary school playground: a place for peanut butter sarmies and hopscotch. And where your child is most likely to encounter a bully, according to the results of the Parent24 2009 survey.

When asked whether their children have been bullied, parents of the 7 - 9 year age group showed the highest percentage, with 49% of parents saying that their children have been bullied. 43% of 10 – 12 year olds have been bullied and this percentage drops as the children gets older.

But even younger children can be badly affected.  Parent24 blogger Chanua was forced to change her son’s pre-school after a bully was allowed to run rampant. ‘My son started changing very slowly from a confident lively little boy to a quiet sullen little one. All because of a bully!’ she says.

According to Margaret Fourie, author of Positive Parenting, bullying is often the expression of a terrifying sense of powerlessness. Bullies usually have experienced varying degrees of being overlooked, ignored, abandoned or abused.

‘This may date back to the arrival of a younger sibling, or refer to a caregiver whose personal inadequacies didn’t allow a sense of safety to develop in the child,’ she says. ‘In the early school years, these children may experiment with power in group situations, and discover that there are times when they are able to call the shots.’  

Many bullies will respond to empathetic help from teachers or parents and grow out of it, Fourie advises.  ‘Prepare your child for this possibility by working at your lines of communication - really listen to the child from early on so that he or she knows that you are interested in feelings as well as news  and affirm your child's positive self-image and sense of intrinsic worth,’ she says.

Only 37% of parents of 14 – 17 year olds said their child had been bullied. Is this perhaps because teens are less likely to share this experience with their parents?

The Parent24 2009 survey had more than 8000 responses. The survey, weighted by gender, race and education, represents approximately 7 million metropolitan adults educated to the level of at least matric, across South Africa. For more about the methodology and for results analysis by Jean Redpath and Michael O’Donovan of Hlakanaphila Analytics, download the Parent24 2009 survey PDF . Or see full results.

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