With one in two young people reporting to have been bullied, childhood bullying has become a huge societal issue. We are all aware of the damage bullying can do to a person and how it can affect their wellbeing. We need to convey the message that bullying is everyone’s business and we believe that to reduce the effect and prominence of bullying, everybody has a role to play.
We do understand that in a school environment, with some bullying incidents, the difficulty for teachers is that what actually occurs between students is not often visible to them. Bullying can occur online or via mobile phones out of school hours, or sometimes in parts of the school where no teachers are present.
By monitoring the social dynamic of a class climate and identifying how children and young people are interacting and engaging with each other, teachers will be able to identify those who seem isolated or vulnerable in some way. This may be an indication of bullying.
The most important thing a teacher can do to prevent bullying behaviour is be proactive. They should never assume that just because they don’t see it happening then it’s not going on. Pupils need to be taught about what is socially and culturally acceptable behaviour.
If their language or behaviour at school is inappropriate, it needs to be challenged and responses such as, ‘I was only joking’, or ‘it was just a bit of fun’ should not be acceptable in a supportive school environment.
The power imbalance that defines bullying is also reflected in classroom social relations and this makes it more of an issue than ‘one child bullying another’. Those who bully are frequently considered ‘cool’ or ‘popular’, whereas those who are bullied, are more often than not rejected by their peers.
Creating a space for young people to explore problems and report issues, knowing that they won’t face any judgement, is crucial and a peer mentoring scheme is a resource that many schools find valuable.
Peer support is well liked by young people. It is effective and creates a culture of listening, empathy and support. Mentors provide valuable support and are able to help identify low level behaviour issues and help them to be resolved before escalating further.
It is important to encourage young people to shift their role from supporting bullying to preventing it, because when bystanders intervene, more often than not they are successful at stopping the bullying and the more witnesses who intervene, the stronger the message to the perpetrators.
In a school setting, by making young people aware that a safe, respectful world is everyone’s responsibility, we empower them to take positive actions – like reporting a bully, flagging a cruel online comment, or not forwarding a humiliating photo – that ultimately can put a stop to an escalating episode of cruelty and humiliation.
Research findings constantly highlight how bullying affects a person’s emotional wellbeing and mental health. This is why we have to work together to support and empower young people to be more than passive bystanders and make bullying everyone’s business.
For further information on our Peer2Peer or Playground Pals Programmes, please visit: bulliesout.com