Bullying has evolved. No longer does the stereotypical ‘Grange Hill’ style school-yard pushing and shoving live up to what children can experience on a daily basis. The ways bullying can present itself today are vast and varied.
Bullying behaviour can be:
- Physical – pushing, poking, kicking, hitting, biting, pinching etc.
- Verbal – name calling, sarcasm, spreading rumours, threats, teasing, belittling.
- Emotional – isolating others, tormenting, hiding books, threatening gestures, ridicule, humiliation, intimidating, excluding, manipulation and coercion.
- Sexual – unwanted physical contact, inappropriate touching, abusive comments, homophobic abuse, exposure to inappropriate films etc.
- Online /cyber – posting on social media, sharing photos, sending nasty text messages, social exclusion.
- Indirect – Can include the exploitation of individuals.
The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) defines bullying as the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power, face-to-face or online.
There are four key elements to this definition:
- Power imbalance
Just as our physical health fluctuates, and can be affected by various environmental or personal factors, so can our mental health. And the affect bullying has on the mental health of young people is heavily documented.
- Bullying has a significant effect on children and young people’s mental health, emotional well-being and identity.
- Bullying which is not responded to effectively, can cause children and young people to develop other coping strategies such as self-isolation or self-harm; and cause significant disruption to their ability to engage with school, learning and their wider relationships.
- Children and young people with mental health or emotional and behavioural difficulties need support for their mental health needs in school in a way that is non-stigmatising and involved collaboration between school staff and the young people themselves.
- Schools need to ensure that young people feel able to talk about bullying and how it affects their emotional well-being.
- Disruptive behaviour can be an expression of difficulties or distress, and schools need to be mindful of this.
- There needs to be recognition and support for the emotional needs of children and young people who are being bullied and who bully others.
- Do not underestimate the importance of effective listening when responding to reports of bullying.
Raising awareness of bullying and how to deal with it has never been more necessary. Which is why we are always going to support initiatives like Anti-Bullying Week. This year the theme is ‘United Against Bullying’.
For 2020 Anti-Bullying Week takes place from Monday 16th – Friday 20th November and will start with Odd Socks Day to mark the first day of Anti-Bullying Week. Last year 75% of schools in the country took part, reaching well over 7 million young people. The ABA has worked with over 300 young people and 100 members of school staff to develop its theme for this year.
This year, more than ever, we’ve witnessed the positive power that society can have when we come together to tackle a common challenge. Anti-Bullying Week is no different. Bullying has a long-lasting effect on those who experience and witness it. But by channelling our collective power, through shared efforts and shared ambitions, we can reduce bullying together.
From parents and carers, to teachers and politicians, to children and young people, we all have a part to play in coming together to make a difference.
Further information and recourses for parents and schools can be found here: https://www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk/anti-bullying-week/anti-bullying-week-2020-united-against-bullying
Things you can do if you become aware that bullying is taking place
While bullying can take place anywhere, at anytime to anyone, a large proportion of bully – both direct, indirect and online – takes place in educational settings.
How bullying is responded too goes a long way, not only to solving the issue at hand but also to stop is reoccurring. As we’ve established, evidence suggests that the effects of bullying can surpass childhood years lasting well into adulthood. Those who are bullied are more likely to earn less money, seek mental health services as an adult and achieve fewer qualifications. These outcomes all depend on the severity of the bullying and how it is resolved. Well-planned responses to bullying can have an extremely positive effect, lessening the negative impact on those who have experienced it.
To begin with, making those directly involved safe is of the top priority. Then, bullying must be stopped from reoccurring. From this you can learn and reflect.
When it comes to schools, understanding individual pupils, providing training for teachers in a classroom environment and having a consistent whole school approach to support better behaviour are just some of the ways you can work to minimise bullying.