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March 18th, 2024
By Faith McNamara

Tackling Bullying in Schools: What To Look For & Strategies for Parents

Bullying is a widespread phenomenon faced by all people, especially children and adolescents. To shed some light on this important matter, Little Ones spoke to Linda James, the founder and CEO of BulliesOut, a charity focused on anti-bullying that works with victims and perpetrators of bullying.

Linda provided nuanced observations on the behavioural changes observed in the victims of bullying, the harmful effects on mental health, and the role that technology plays in worsening the problem.

Behavioural Changes and Indicators

The first and most crucial step to tackling bullying is identifying its occurrence. Children may not be vocal about their issues with bullying so parents must look for less obvious indicators. Linda stressed that a major indicator of bullying is a noticeable behavioural change. Bullying can cause mood swings, increased secrecy around the phones, changed eating habits, and poor academic performance in children.

Linda emphasised that "it is a change in the way they behave and their general attitude." This is something that should not be taken lightly by parents and caregivers because it shows that there is a need for an intervention.

Tech Usage and Cyber Bullying

Technology in the digital era has been key in the way in which bullying is perpetrated. Linda recognised that tech use and cyberbullying are important reasons behind the increase in mental health problems among young users. The presence of smartphones and social media platforms can have a serious impact on the scale of bullying, as victims find it hard to evade intolerable harassment.

On the influence of the internet, Linda said that it “displays talent and businesses but can be deceptive to a young person making their way in life." She hand-picked the unrealistic standards promoted online and their negative impact on self-esteem and confidence.

One thing Linda emphasised is “Don’t take the phone away”. Though it may seem like a simple solution to a growing problem, it can have the opposite effect. Although taking the phone away is a way to stop them from seeing online bullying it also takes them away from their support system and friends.

She said, “To your child, you are punishing them for being bullied”. She further suggested simply supporting them and encouraging them to block and delete anything and anyone harming them.

Factors Contributing to Bullying

When it comes to the issue of what makes some children more vulnerable to bullying, Linda stated that there are no single solutions. Bullying may be directed at individuals due to many reasons, including differences in physical appearance, mental health, or lack of conformity with public perceptions.

Because of this, there is a lack of prevention that any parent can take to stop bullying. However, instilling a sense of confidence in your child can help them deal with bullying before it truly develops.

Preventative Measures in Schools

Linda stressed that strong anti-bullying policies must be developed when describing proactive measures in the educational sector. Schools should build an atmosphere where every person- victims, bystanders, and parents- feels safe. Designated well-being leads, peer mentoring schemes, and clear reporting mechanisms are vital to the success of any anti-bullying policy.

Linda emphasised the need for immediate action when addressing bullying incidents: "You take care of it right at the beginning. You listen to that child; you bring in a parent or guardian, talk to the concerned person, and provide the support."

Impact on Mental Health

The devastating and long-term effects of bullying could never be confined to the momentary feelings of unpleasantness or pain. Linda underlined the seriousness of these consequences by highlighting that the biggest and the most widespread effect of bullying is on mental well-being.

Loneliness and isolation are among the first emotional wounds that victims of bullying suffer. Bullying can potentially make the victim feel like an outsider since they feel like there is no one out there who understands their problems.

It is the deep-rooted feeling of loneliness which emanates from ostracisation that can create a profound sense of loneliness among the targets of bullying. This can intensify the emotional distress they feel.

Bullying’s multifaceted effect also includes academic troubles. The psychological burden associated with victimhood can result in worsening academic performance as the victim is preoccupied with the traumatic thoughts and feelings that arise from the mistreatment. Factors affecting the ability to focus attention, learning, and participation in the learning environment may deteriorate significantly, which as a result, is a cycle of struggle that is on the way to worsening mental health problems.

One of the most shocking aspects of bullying, highlighted by Linda James, is the possibility that it can push a person into self-harm or, even worse, into suicide attempts. The deep emotional wounds left by persistent abuse can lead the victims to internalise a sense of worthlessness and helplessness. Exceptional examples of these emotional pressures reach the breaking point, where the victim feels they must take drastic steps to escape the unrelenting persecution.

Support for Victims and Perpetrators

Linda highlighted the significance of offering support while outlining ways to counter the grave consequences of bullying. Victims need to know they are not to blame and that they will be able to get the help and support they need.

While the organisation BulliesOut works towards this goal, it also extends its mission to cover those who demonstrate bullying behaviour. This all-encompassing strategy recognises that individuals who demonstrate bullying behaviour may benefit from intervention and support to be able to change and, importantly stop, the root causes.

Through the acknowledgement of the complexities of bullying and its effect on both the bullies and the victims, BulliesOut urges for an integrated and empathetic stance towards ending the circle of mistreatment. Linda’s view on support is not limited to one perspective but also includes a broader picture that includes both the victims and the potential perpetrators.

Tech Giants' Role in Cyberbullying

Linda also recognised the increased rate of mental health problems during the COVID-19 lockdown and how reliance on technology increased cyberbullying.

She expressed frustration with tech giants, pleading with them to do a lot more in fighting bullying online. Linda focussed on the role of parents in keeping track of their children's online activities while pushing for more responsibility from tech companies.

Neurodivergent Children and Bullying

There is a new phenomenon where adults are sharing stories about their experiences of being bullied as a result of their Neurodivergence. BulliesOut is dedicated to eradicating labels and creating a culture of acceptance. Linda put the focus on the organisation's goal to create an environment which values each, neurodivergent or not, as a person. So the message is clear – no one should be labelled or judged because of their neurodivergence.

The acknowledgement of the challenges faced by neurodivergent people is a key factor in determining how to create anti-bullying strategies. Linda recognises that targeted support is essential, which needs to be personalised to each neurodivergent child and their experiences and vulnerabilities. Through this action, BulliesOut works side by side with a wider movement for acceptance and understanding.

Our conversation with Linda James gave us an important understanding of the difficult topic of bullying, pointing out the necessity of immediate action, support and preventative measures.

BulliesOut's diverse solution, which involves victim support, intervention with the perpetrators and community education, demonstrates a complete strategy to deal with this ubiquitous social problem. As we struggle to accommodate technological demands and societal pressures, empathy, kindness and prevention of risky situations should be paramount in ensuring a safe space for our children and teenagers.

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