Sadly, bullying, and more specifically online bullying, is still a wide-scale issue. It's Anti-Bullying Week this week here in the UK, and this year, the Anti-Bullying Alliance's theme for the week is 'United Against Bullying'. Whether your child is a victim of bullying or not, it's important they understand that we all have a collective responsibility when it comes to tackling bullying.
Bullying is not new. But in this new technologically-advanced age, it can look a little different than it would have in the past. In this blog, we'll be looking at the forms of bullying today's young people face. We'll also be talking about signs that you as parents can look out for, and the support that's available.
What is bullying?
Put simply, bullying is behaviour that deliberately hurts someone else. It can take lots of different forms, and can look different as you go up through the age groups. Types of bullying can include:
- physical bullying
- verbal bullying
- spreading rumours
- homophobic, racial or sexual bullying
- bullying someone because they have a disability
- controlling or manipulating someone
- prank or abusive calling
Bullying can take a serious toll on a child or young person's mental health, and can continue to affect them later in life. It can lead to anxiety, depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and unfortunately in some cases, suicide. According to statistics, children and young people are more likely to be bullied based on:
- their race or nationality
- sexual orientation
What is online bullying?
As a parent, you'll have noticed that there are a fair few differences between bullying now than among previous generations. The most notable example is online bullying, or cyberbullying. More and more children and young people have access to the internet and mobile devices, which definitely has its benefits. For example, they're easily contactable when they're away from home, and can keep in touch with their friends more easily. Unfortunately, though, it also seems to have broadened the scope for bullying.
With social media, children and young people are more exposed online than ever before, and experience different added social pressures than they would have in previous decades. Unlike bullying in the real world, online bullying can follow your child around wherever they go, and can be more difficult to monitor as a parent or teacher. Like regular bullying, there are various different kinds of online or cyberbullying. Here are some of the forms it can take:
- creating or sharing embarrassing images or videos
- 'trolling' - sending mean and upsetting messages via social media or online games, often anonymously
- sending threatening or abusive messages
- sending sexually explicit messages or images
- setting up hate pages or sites targeting a particular child or young person
- creating fake accounts, or hacking in to another child's account to embarrass them
Signs to look out for
It can be hard to know if your child is being bullied. They may be reluctant to talk about it with you, because they're ashamed or they don't want to worry you. Here are some tell-tale signs to look out for that might point to a bullying problem:
- refusing to go to school - saying they are sick, showing fear of going to school, or skipping school
- physical injuries, like unexplained bruises
- loss of confidence, and becoming withdrawn
- eating or sleeping problems
- lashing out at or bullying others
- not doing as well at school
Of course, any of these changes in behaviour would be a cause for concern, but may not necessarily mean your child's being bullied. In any case, though, it's important to offer support and try and encourage them to open up about what's going on.
What if my child has bullied someone?
It can be really difficult to hear that your child has bullied somebody else. They themselves might not understand that their behaviour is actually hurting others, so it's important to help them understand that what they're doing is not acceptable. Explaining to them how much of an impact their words and actions have on others is crucial, and to be brave enough not to follow the crowd if they feel like what they're doing is wrong.
BBC Newsround have a helpful interactive guide for children and young people to learn more about what bullying is, and what bullying behaviour looks like.
Talking about bullying can often be really hard for children and teenagers. If they can open up to someone, if not you, that's a brilliant first step in tackling the problem. Childline is a helpful resource for young people - they can contact them via phone or online at any time and speak to someone in confidence about what they're going through.
Again, bullying is not new. Most schools take the issue very seriously, doing wonderful work to combat the problem. But we know that for some victims of bullying, things can become so difficult that their only option is to withdraw from school altogether. Online schooling offers a safe space for your child to continue their education within a positive and supportive learning environment.
At My Online Schooling, we work closely with parents, pupils and teachers to ensure your child is receiving the support they deserve and feel happy and confident when learning with us. We also offer online 1-1 counselling sessions, and other wellbeing support services.