Kids can be cruel can’t they. Sometimes they don’t realise just how cruel they are being. An unkind comment, a snub, or worse, a full blown fist fight in the playground.
But when do random unkind or aggressive acts become bullying?
Definitions of bullying talk about people trying to have power over another person. They talk about using intimidation and force to make others do what you want them to do, or of repeated aggressive acts against someone who can’t defend themselves.
But bullying isn’t just about physical force. It’s so much more complex than that.
There are different types of bullying. Cyber bullying involves the use of technology to intimidate and hurt victims. Children might send texts which are hurtful, or spread malicious rumours using social networking sites. This type of bullying is hard to detect. It is personal and it often reaches the victim in their own home. Just where we all need to feel safe.
Physical bullying involves repeated acts of aggression. These bullies may punch, kick, pinch, push and shove, etc. Just as predators often hunt in packs, some bullies operate in pairs or in groups on the school playground or out of school hours.They might use their power to steal money or possessions from their victims. Some bullies even make their victims perform sexual acts.
Emotional bullying can consist of hurtful remarks, bullies might exclude a child from their group, purposely ignoring them and making them feel worthless. I know of adults who were emotionally bullied and who still struggle to maintain their self-esteem.
It’s hard enough being a child without having to watch out for bullies all the time. We’re supposed to keep children safe. It’s time that we kept them safe from bullies and let them get on with the job of growing up and learning.
All schools have anti-bullying policies, but it seems to me that approaches to bullying vary hugely, not just from school to school, but also between different staff members in schools. And that just isn’t right. Bullying is serious. It happens in every school and it has to be stopped. We need to be vigilant and proactive.
There are some great websites you can access to help understand bullying and to help spot the signs that a child is being bullied. Some are not UK based – www.kidpower.org.has free resources and some great ideas for parents to help their children to understand bullying and to keep safe. Another useful site is www.kidscape.org.uk. Or just google ‘bullying’ and have your eyes opened.
Bullying can lead to depression and low self-esteem. In extreme cases it can lead to suicide. It can’t continue.