Bullying is defined as 'behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, which intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally' (DfE definition). Repeated bullying usually has a significant emotional component, where the anticipation and fear of being bullied seriously affects the behaviour and well-being of the victim.Bullying can be inflicted on a child by another child, or by an adult. Bullying can take many forms (including face to face or cyberbullying), and is often motivated by prejudice against particular groups, for example on grounds of race, religion, gender / gender identity, sexual orientation, special educational need or disability or because a child is adopted or has caring responsibilities. It might be motivated by actual differences between children, or perceived differences.
It can take many forms, but the three main types are:
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using technology. Whether on social media sites, through a mobile phone, or gaming sites, the effects can be devastating for the young person involved. There are ways to help prevent a child from being cyberbullied and to help them cope and stop the bullying if it does happen. It is another form of bullying which can happen at all times of the day, with a potentially bigger audience. By its very nature, cyberbullying tends to involve a number of online bystanders and can quickly spiral out of control. Children and young people who bully others online do not need to be physically stronger and their methods can often be hidden and subtle. The Department for Education have issued guidance for school staff and parents and carers on how to recognise signs of cyberbullying and support children who are being bullied in this way (see Preventing Bullying Guidance (GOV.UK)).
Bullying often starts with apparently trivial events such as teasing and name calling which nevertheless rely on an abuse of power. Such abuses of power, if left unchallenged, can lead to more serious forms of abuse, such as domestic violence and abuse, racial attacks, sexual offences and self-harm or suicide.Upskirting, which involves taking a picture under a person’s clothing without them knowing, with the intention of viewing their genitals or buttocks to obtain sexual gratification, or cause the victim humiliation, distress or alarm; is a specific example of abusive behaviour which has been linked to online bullying and grooming. Upskirting is a criminal offence and should be reported to the Police.
Bullying is a type of behaviour which needs to be defined by the impact on the child being bullied rather than by the intention of the perpetrator.
The damage inflicted by bullying can often be underestimated. It can cause considerable distress to children, to the extent that it affects their health and development or, at the extreme, causes anxiety, depression, self-harm and even suicide.
Children are often reluctant to tell anyone about their experience either because of threats, a feeling that nothing can change their situation, that they may be partly to blame for the situation or that they should be able to deal with it themselves.
Parents, carers and agencies need to be alert to any changes in a child’s behaviour such as refusing to attend school or a particular place or activity, becoming anxious in public places and crowds and becoming withdrawn and isolated. Parents should be provided with information as what they should do if they are worried that their child is being bullied - i.e. where they can obtain advice and support including keeping safe on the internet.
Any child may be bullied, but bullying often occurs if a child has been identified in some ways as vulnerable, different or inclined to spend more time on their own. Bullying may be fuelled by prejudice - racial, religious, homophobic and against children with special education needs or disabilities or who are perceived as different in some way. In cases of sexist, sexual and transphobic bullying, schools must always consider whether safeguarding processes need to be followed. This is because of the potential for this form of bullying to be characterised by inappropriate sexual behaviour and the risk of serious violence (including sexual violence).Children living away from home are particularly vulnerable to bullying and abuse by their peers.
Children who bully other children have often been bullied themselves and may have experienced considerable disruption in their own lives. The bullying behaviour may occur because the child is unhappy, jealous or lacking in confidence.Work with children who bully should recognise that they are likely to have significant needs themselves.
Any change in behaviour which indicates fear or anxiety may be a potential indicator of bullying. Children may also choose to avoid locations and events which they had previously enjoyed - changes in attitude towards schools or organised activities are particularly significant.
Behaviour such as:
Incidents of bullying should be taken seriously, and the behaviour discussed between parents/carers and schools.
All settings in which children are provided with services or are living away from home should have in place anti-bullying strategies and procedures on how to refer to Children's Social Care, if safeguarding children concerns are identified. See Early Help Assessment (EHA) Procedure. This includes youth clubs and all other children's organisations as well as all schools.
In order to maintain an effective strategy for dealing with bullying, the traditional ideas about bullying should be challenged, e.g.:
Clear messages must be given that bullying is not acceptable and children must be reassured that significant adults involved in their lives are taking bullying seriously. Some acts of bullying could be a criminal offence.
A climate of openness should be established in which children are not afraid to address issues and incidents of bullying.
Consideration should always be given to the existence of any underlying issues in relation to race, gender / gender identity, special educational needs or disability or sexual orientation. This should be addressed and challenged accordingly.
Where a child is being bullied, action should be taken to assess the child's needs and provide support services.If the bullying involves a physical assault, as well as seeking medical attention where necessary, consideration should be given to whether there are any safeguarding or child protection issues to consider and whether there should be a referral to the Police if a criminal offence may have been committed.
Where appropriate, parents should be informed and updated on a regular basis. They should also, when applicable, be involved in supporting programmes devised to challenge bullying behaviour.
Creating an anti-bullying climate that is conducive to equality of opportunity, co-operation and mutual respect for differences can be achieved for example by:
Practitioners may often be in the position of having to deal with the perpetrators as well as the victims of bullying. It should be borne in mind that bullying behaviour may in itself be indicative of previous abuse or exposure to violence.
It is important when addressing bullying behaviour by another child to avoid accusations, threats or any responses that will only lead to the child being uncooperative, and silent.
The focus should be on the bullying behaviour rather than the child and, where possible, the reasons for the behaviour should be explored and dealt with. A clear explanation of the extent of the upset the bullying has caused should be given and encouragement to see the bullied child's points of view.
A restorative approach and the use of restorative enquiry and subsequent mediation between those involved can provide an opportunity to meet the needs of all concerned. The child who has been bullied has the chance to say how they have been affected. The opportunity is provided for the child doing the bullying to understand the impact of their actions and to make amends.
Both the child engaged in bullying behaviour and those who are the target of bullying should then be closely monitored. The times, places and circumstances in which the risk of bullying is greatest should be ascertained and action taken to reduce the risk of recurrence.
Whatever plan of action is implemented, it must be reviewed at regular intervals to ascertain whether actions have been successful and whether the bullying behaviour has ceased.Where bullying exists in the context of gang behaviour, there should be an institutional, as well as an individual, response to this.
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