'Bullying IS NOT part of growing up'

School-age bullying is a serious societal concern that affects the lives of half of the UK’s children and young people. Going to school can be fun, but it can be stressful, too - learning new concepts, taking standardised tests, making new friends, then perhaps losing some of those friends and negotiating your way in the world for the first time. Add bullying to the mix, and the pressures multiply exponentially. Most school-age children want to be liked by their peers, but being subjected to taunts and mockery unnecessarily sullies a child’s learning environment by adding daily anxiety and uncertainty about what will happen from one day to the next. Then there are the modern-day twists. 21st century youth are constantly switched-on in a socially connected world. Social media represents a new model of relationship for today’s generation, where global connection is the norm. Today’s young people have been born into a world of advanced technology, which is not only normal but an expected right. The right and ability to use technology manifests itself in a myriad of ways, far outstripping the uses of most adults, with young people communicating, socialising, networking and creating through, with and because of, technology. But with rights come responsibilities and as parents and educators afford and promote the use of technology, often neglected are the responsibilities that must come in tandem with these rights. Today, students can be abused online, on social media and through text-messaging. Young People have been known to share embarrassing photos of their classmates, leading to further name-calling and insults. Often, this leaves no signs of physical abuse but lots of inner anguish, torment and humiliation. All of this leaves the bullied students having to navigate all sorts of difficult dilemmas at a young age. Should I fight back? Or ignore it? Do I tell my parents? My teacher? Or maybe telling on the other student will bring repercussions? Is it better to stay silent and hope the bully will get fed up and it will all come to an end? In such an environment, how can a young person be expected to learn, or do their homework at night?

Bullying has no genre and IS NOT part of growing up. One incident of bullying behaviour is serious enough but when it is persistent over a period of time it becomes a devastating problem. The detrimental impact bullying can have on the physical, emotional, academic, social and personal well-being of children and young people cannot be underestimated. At best, bullying causes great distress which can continue right through adulthood. At worst, bullying can lead to self-harm and suicide.

No-one deserves to be bullied. It is important to take bullying seriously and not just brush it off as something that young people have to “put up with.” Bullying is not ‘part of growing up’. It is not ‘kids being kids’ and is not an ‘unfortunate but unavoidable part of school life’. Minimising a problem is not what caring adults do; it is what manipulative bullies do. Yes, young people can be spiteful but no caring adult should ever dismiss bullying as a “rite of passage” or tolerable fact of childhood. When they do, they violate a child’s trust and abdicate their role as a responsible adult. Bullying is cruel, unacceptable behaviour that can have a devastating effect on a person – full stop! The effects can be serious and affect a person’s sense of safety and self-worth. If your child has plucked up the courage to tell you they are being bullied (and considering how humiliating it can be for kids to tell their parents about the bullying they endure from their peers, this is a very brave step), it is important to speak to your child’s teacher and report what has been going on. As a parent, we understand that reaching out and asking for help is tough as you desperately hope to be able to protect your child on your own, but it is vital to highlight your child’s bullying to the school. If your child is indeed being bullied, inform the school. Explain what has been going on and ask to see their anti-bullying policy. This should indicate what the school will do when an incident of bullying occurs. Ask the school to follow up with the bully and his or her parents and to let you know the outcome. Just as important, talk to your child about the importance of not bullying others. In most cases, parents don’t want to see their children on either end of this. Keep an eye on your child’s online activity and social media interactions. As the adult, you have every right to demand access to your child’s text messages and internet use. Teenage privacy should take a back seat to a child’s well-being. The bottom line: Take action before it’s too late.

Further information is available on our website www.bulliesout.com. We also have a free information brochure available for parents and if you would like a copy, please send an A5 size SAE (large stamp) to BulliesOut, GF, 2 Neptune Court, Vanguard Way, Cardiff CF24 5PJ

BulliesOut delivers workshops and training programmes in schools, youth settings and the workplace across the UK – all aimed at educating on the effects of bullying, raising aspirations, encouraging empathy, respect and responsibility and creating positive environments in which young people and staff can thrive. www.bulliesout.com

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