There is no legal definition of bullying. It is usually defined as repeated behaviour which is intended to hurt someone either emotionally or physically, and is often aimed at certain people because of their race, religion, gender/sexual orientation or any other aspect such as appearance or disability.
Bullying does not just happen face to face. Sometimes bullying can happen through the internet or mobile phones.
Bullying can take many forms including:
• Physical assault
• Making threats
• Name calling
• Cyber bullying
Bullying can happen anywhere: at school, travelling to and from school, in sporting teams, between neighbours or in the workplace.
Children and young people can be reluctant to tell adults that they’re being bullied. This might be because they are unsure if they are or not. Banter can quickly spiral down to bullying but where the line is can be confusing to young people. Other reasons may be that they don’t want to burden parents/carers if there are other things going on in the family, they’re embarrassed, or they are worried that telling might make the situation worse.
There are a number of things you can look out for if you’re concerned your child is being bullied:
• They become withdrawn
• They have scratches and bruises that can’t really be explained
• They don’t want to go to school or they are having trouble with school work
• They don’t want to go out or play with friends
• Their online behaviour changes
• Changes to how and when they’re using their mobile.
• Changes are made in the route they take to school
• They complain of headaches, stomach aches and other pains
• They become easily upset, tearful, ill-tempered or display other out-of-character behaviour
Of course this list is by no means exhaustive, and displaying some of the above symptoms won’t necessarily mean that your child is being bullied. But as a parent or carer, you will know better than anyone if there’s an unexplained change in your child’s behaviour that needs to be explored.
Cyber bullying is any form of bullying which takes place online or through smartphones and tablets. There are quite a few instant messaging apps including Snapchat, WhatsApp, Secret, Whisper and Instagram. They are a great way of sharing things with friends and having fun. If things turn nasty you can block people from seeing your child on line and you can save abusive conversations or print them out as evidence.
It’s tempting for your child to have a go back if someone puts a mean post on their online space, social network or app but tell them not too. This is called flaming and it just makes the problem worse. Abusive comments are very upsetting but the best way to deal with them is to get them removed by the website. Contact each website separately to find out how to do this. If the message is abusive or exploitive use the report button or the equivalent on sites they are on (ie report on Facebook.)
• It’s good to talk. See NSPCC – Talking about difficult topics for advice on how to talk to your child about tricky situations such as bullying.
• Make sure they know who they can ask for help. This includes not only you but safe people at school and phone numbers such as Childline.
• Help them relax and take time out. This helps build their self-esteem.
• Teach them how to stay safe online. Spend time watching NSPCC and ThinkuKnow clips together. Introduce them to the Zipit App.
• Talk to your child’s school or club and keep the conversation going, even when the bullying stops.
Contact your child’s school as soon as possible to arrange an appointment to meet with his or her teacher or form tutor. Even if the bullying is happening outside of the school day they will be able to advise you.
• Always try to be calm. The school will be keen to work with you to resolve the problem but it may be that they were not aware that there is a problem. In some cases the causes may be very complicated.
• Be as clear as possible about what your child says has happened – give dates, places and names of others involved.
• Ask if there is anything you can do to help your child or the school.
• Ask to see the school’s anti-bullying procedure.
• Make a note of what action the school intends to take.
• Stay in touch with the school and let them know if the problem continues or if things improve.
Once the school is aware of a problem it is very likely that they will be able to deal with it effectively. If you are still worried you may wish to make an appointment to discuss your concerns with the Headteacher.
If you feel that the school has not responded appropriately to your concerns you may need to make a formal complaint to the school. You can do this by using the school’s complaints procedure and writing to the Chair of Governors. You will find their name in the complaints procedure on your school website.
Parents, carers and families have an important role to play in helping schools to deal with bullying. You should:
• Discourage your child from using bullying behaviour at home or elsewhere.
• Take an active interest in your child’s school life, discuss friendships, how playtime is spent and the journey to and from school
• Watch out for signs that your child is being bullied, or is bullying others (parents, carers and families are often the first to notice a problem
• Contact the school at the first sign if you are worried that your child is being bullied or is bullying others.
Anti-Bullying Alliance Anti-bullying alliance
The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) has an Anti-bullying tool for parents and top tip sheets on how to recognise and respond to different types of bullying.
Family Lives gives advice to help you support your child, work with your child’s school and what to do if you have problems trying to sort things out. They have comprehensive web pages with on dealing with bullying generally. Bullying – Advice for parents including Bullying – What to do about bullying out of school hours and Bullying – What to do if your child is a bully? You can also phone Family Lives for free, confidential advice on anything to do with being a parent, including bullying, 24 hours a day on 0808 800 2222. Visit their website for further information at Family Lives.
Kidscape is a charity established to prevent bullying and promote child protection. They give advice for young people, professionals and parents about different types of bullying and how to tackle it. They also offer specialist training and support for school staff and assertiveness training for young people. Visit Kid Scape.
The NSPCC provide information and advice about bullying. Visit NSPCC. You can also phone them to report concerns about a particular child. This number is available 24 hours a day. 0808 800 5000
CA Family is an organisation for parent/carers of disabled children which provides a free helpline for parents and families (0808 808 3555) and a leaflet – guide to dealing with bullying for parents of disabled children (pdf format, 572 KB).
SENDIASS provide free and impartial information, support and advice to parents of children with special education needs and disabilities (ages 0-25). Contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
01724 277665 (direct line/24 hour answer phone)
07717 587621 Mobile/text