Bullying is when a person intimidates, hurts or excludes another person with the intention of hurting them. Bullying may happen for a number of reasons:
- A person may have been bullied before, or experienced abuse at home, which causes them to inflict this on others
- A person may feel stressed or rejected themselves, and the bullying is their way of expressing these feelings
- A person may have low self-esteem and use bullying to gain a sense of power or attention from those around them
- A person may not be aware of the consequences of their actions, particularly if they have learning or behavioural difficulties.
Anyone may be a target of bullying; however, those that are less likely to ‘fit-in’ in a crowd are at greater risk. This generally involves people who are seen as different, for example those who are shy, those that have an unusual home situation, those that come from a different ethnic or social group, or those with speech, learning or behavioural difficulties.
All children and young people fall out with their friends on occasion, and some teasing may form part of their normal friendships. However, if the teasing becomes persistent or upsets the other person it can be very damaging and needs to be stopped.
What can be done?
If the bullying is happening at school the teacher needs to be informed. Steps need to be taken to address the bullies’ behaviour and safeguard those around them.
Bullying outside the school setting may be harder to prevent, however there may be solutions that could be discussed between parents and children that centre on keeping safe. These may include always going out with a friend, changing social activities or things to say in response to bullies should the situation arise.
Cyber bullying, which involves being bullied online, can be somewhat easier to address. If making a complaint about being bullied via a specific app or website, it is advisable to copy the terms and conditions of the program that have been breached alongside a screenshot of the comment or photo as evidence. This will prompt any sites or apps to take action, highlighting their obligation to investigate and take appropriate action. Guidance for reporting bullying on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, YouTube, SnapChat and other online programs can be found through BullyingUK.
Often when the bullying stops it is possible to feel better immediately. Some children may take a while to work through feelings of anger or anxiety, support from family and friends is often beneficial to help a young person understand what they have endured. If a person is affected very badly by bullying it may be necessary to seek help from a counselor, which can be organised through a GP referral.