Advice

Facts about bullying

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Before young people, parents and professionals can start to prevent and tackle bullying, it is important that the terms related to bullying and online safety are understood, the risks are identified and the impact they have on children and young people are fully appreciated.  

Within this section you will find definitions of the terms and issues that are discussed throughout the Kidscape website and in the anti-bullying sphere. This information relates to the targets of bullying in addition to those who are involved in bullying behaviour or witness it happening to others.

What is bullying?

Bullying is the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. It can happen face-to-face or through cyberspace, and comes in many different forms:

  • Verbal: Name calling, persistent teasing, mocking, taunting and threats. 
  • Physical: Any form of physical violence, intimidating behaviour, theft or the intentional damage of possessions. This includes hitting, kicking and pushing.
  • Emotional: Excluding, tormenting, ridiculing, humiliation, setting people up and spreading rumours.
  • Cyberbullying: The misuse of digital technologies or communications to bully a person or a group, typically through messages or actions that are threatening and/or intended to cause offence, anxiety or humiliation.

Who gets bullied?

Children and young people can be targeted for any reason, but in our experience bullying is often: 

  • Racist: Bullying based on ethnicity, skin colour, language, religious or cultural practices.
  • Homophobic: Discrimination based on sexuality and/or gender identity.
  • Sexual: Unwelcome sexual advances or remarks that are intended to cause offence, humiliation or intimidation. This could include pressure to send images of a sexual nature.
  • Disabilist: The bullying of children who have special educational needs and disabilities.
  • Based on 'difference': Bullying based on any real or perceived difference. This can include, but is not limited to factors surrounding the way someone looks or dresses, hobbies and interests, family set up, social behaviour. 

What is NOT bullying

  • One-off incidents: Bullying is persistent and repetitive, and generally fits a pattern of behaviour. However, there will be occasions when a one-off incident is so significant that it causes long term effects, and is therefore categorised as bullying. One example may be extreme public humiliation that deters someone from engaging in discussions or social events.
  • Mutual conflict: A disagreement, argument or fight in which both parties have equally participated and where there is no imbalance of power.

The effects of bullying

The severity of bullying is often undermined by the following misguided statements:

  • "Bullying is just a normal part of growing up"
  • "It helps children deal with the cruelties of the 'real world'"
  • "It helps sensitive children toughen up"

These opinions are extremely detrimental to the development and safety of children. The effects of bullying can be devastating, as they often continue long into adulthood and drive countless children into depression or self-harm. Some will even attempt or commit suicide.

When left unaccounted for, bullying doesn't just affect the target and the children who are bullying, but everyone who is exposed to the environment in which it occurs - most commonly at school.

Impact on bullied children

Children who are bullied are more likely to:

  • have low self-esteem
  • develop depression or anxiety
  • become socially withdrawn, isolated and lonely
  • have lower academic achievements due to avoiding or becoming disengaged with school
  • be unable to form trusting, healthy relationships with friends or partners in the future

Impact on children who bully

Children who frequently bully others are more likely to:

  • drop out of, or be expelled from school
  • engage in criminal behaviour
  • develop depression or anxiety
  • be abusive towards their sexual partners, spouses or children as adults

Impact on bystanders

Children who witness bullying are more likely to:

  • feel powerless
  • live in fear and guilt

Impact on schools

Schools that do not take significant action against bullying are more likely to:

  • create a negative environment based on a culture of fear and disrespect
  • have poor student engagement, staff retention and parent satisfaction
  • give students the impression that teachers have little control and do not care
  • instill insecurity, low self-esteem and lack of ambition in their students
  • fail in inspiring students to reach their full academic potential

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