Hi again, I thought i'd type another blog about bullying as it's Anti Bullying Week this week, so it's a little late but we've still got a few days left!
This year the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) is focusing on verbal bullying, using the slogan “stop and think – words can hurt”. ABA defines bullying as “the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person by another, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. Bullying can be physical, verbal or psychological. It can happen face-to-face or through cyberspace.”
Bullying occurs everyday and it is becoming increasingly common for people, including younger children in primary school to say things like “that's gay”, call each-other “retards”, or use racial slurs in a flippant manner, without realising the meaning of the words and the hurt it can cause someone else. Remarks may not be directly aimed at someone, but it can affect them indirectly, for example, if someone used a racial slur, they might be offending someone's relative of that racial origin etc.
This sort of bullying can take place inside and outside of school. It can even occur on the internet where many people who would never bully anyone face-to-face can get involved with bullying online, whether intentional or not. Everyone needs to understand that whatever they post online is just as important as whatever they say offline and can, in some instances become a criminal offence.
Some key signs to look for if you think your child is being bullied are:
- signs of emotional distress during or after using the internet.
- withdrawal from friends and activities.
- avoidance of school or social group gatherings.
- poor grades at school and "acting out" in anger at home.
- changes in mood, behaviour, sleep, or appetite.
- your child may spend long periods of time at the computer, even after their bedtime, as they may not feel they are able to take themselves away from the situation.
- if your child closes their browser or mail windows suddenly when you come near the computer. This may not be cyber bullying (it should encourage you to check your computer's internet safety settings though!), but it is worth looking out for.
- if your child complains about aches & pains frequently. Emotional stress can in some cases result in physical disturbances, so it's worth bearing this in mind and encouraging your child to speak about any problems they're having.
- paranoia, particularly when friends are brought up, as any kind of friendships can be become difficult to sustain if your child is being bullied.
- your child may become emotionally distant. They may lose their drive to make friends and socialise and also have an extreme fear of humiliation or rejection. You will need to encourage your child and be supportive of them.
Children should always be able to speak to their parent or a teacher if they feel they are being bullied, unfortunately they don't always feel this is possible. A recent survey by Stonewall, a charity for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, has discovered that over half of the 150,000 gay pupils they surveyed said that they had experienced homophobic remarks, not from other pupils, but from teachers. One pupil said: “The teacher was laughing at the fact that there are homosexual people and all the other pupils were taking the mick and my twitch started up and I had to leave.”
So, it is worth noting that there are places where children can speak to someone if they are being bullied, online or offline, I will include links to some of the many organisations that are available to help young people or parents with issues of bullying at the bottom of this post
I think it's also worth pointing out what is available on GreatBritishKids.com to combat bullying and also what help and support we offer. Not only do our Cyber Security Officers (one of whom is me!) monitor the site , but we also have an alert button on every page where we can be contacted by the members, they also have links to ChildLine, Samaritans and CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection).
Part of my job is to monitor the site for bullying including subtle or passive bullying, e.g. one of our members created a poll entitled "who do you dislike the most" and listed all the people in her class at school. I took the poll off the site as it could only cause offence to the people who were voted for. I sent the member a message telling her that we had taken it down, and the reasons why. She was very apologetic and (in my opinion) genuinely did not think that it would upset anybody as it was meant to just be a bit of fun.
What can you do if your child or another young person is being bullied?
ABA's website has some useful information on what you can do if a young person comes to you saying they have been bullied:
- Your key role is listening, calming and reassuring that the situation can get better when action is taken.
- Provide a quiet, calm, safe place where they can talk about what is happening.
- Make sure they know that your first concern is for their health and well-being.
- Ask what it is that the young person wants to happen.
- Help identify the skills the young person has at their disposal to solve the problems.
- Discuss it with your child’s school.
- They may worry what you think of them or think you may be angry with them, so listen carefully and show that you are hearing by ‘playing back’ to them what you hear.
- Assure them that the bullying is not their fault and that you are there to support them.
- Remind them of the support they can have from family and friends.
- Help them to identify choices available to them and the next steps to take.
- Make clear how much you value and love them.
- Remember that you may feel pressure to take action, sometimes any action, but this may beunhelpful if you do not have a clear and full view of the facts – or what your child wants.
- Above all they need to know you are there if they need you.
Useful Links & Contact Info
Counselling service for young people and children.
TEL: (UK) 0800 1111. Calls are free and confidential.
Counselling service for anyone in distress or at risk of committing suicide.
TEL: (UK) 08457 90 90 90
This is an organisation for help and advice for parents of bullied children.
TEL: (UK) 08451 205 204
Charity organisation which provides help and support for anyone being bullied. You can have access to online support, call them on Skype and also contact them on their helpline.
TEL: 0808 800 2222. Calls are free and confidential
Charity dedicated to help stop bullying. They also have another site to speak to Cyber Mentors (just like GreatBritishKids.com) where kids can speak to kids about their problems.
Website which provides more helpful information and resources on bullying and links to other websites.
Online website to provide information regarding bullying.
social networking website for under 18s only. Members can ask to be trained to become Cyber Mentors to provide support for other members on the site.
Anti Bullying Alliance's website. Contains useful information for parents and resources for schools/clubs.
I hope you've found this information useful and you are able to put everything into practice.