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Bullying can be unprovoked and involves behaviours which disrespect, hurt, threaten or frighten another person or group of people. It involves a perpetrator or perpetrators, a target or targets and witnesses.

Bullying can have a long-term effect on children and young people's educational, emotional and social development, which sometimes lasts into adult life. Some children may refuse to go to school and/or become ill, while others may become socially isolated and lonely. Schoolwork can suffer. Over a period of time, their self-esteem can be affected and a few children may become depressed or, in extreme cases, even attempt suicide.

Bullying is characterised by an imbalance and misuse of power between the perpetrator and the target. Often bullying is hidden as targets do not tell about their experience for fear of escalation and retaliation. It can continue for long periods.

Bullying methods

Bullying methods may be physical, social or psychological and include:

  • verbal: name-calling, taunting, mocking, making offensive comments, gossiping, mimicking, spreading hurtful and untruthful rumours

  • physical: kicking, hitting, pushing, fighting, taking or damaging belongings, stealing money with threats

  • indirect bullying: spreading hurtful rumours, socially excluding people, sometimes through silent bullying, from groups and activities to hurt and lower their self esteem

  • cyberbullying: sending inappropriate text messaging and email through websites; abuse via social networking sites, chat rooms and Instant Messenger; sending offensive or degrading images by phone or via the internet, and bullying via online gaming.

Prejudice-related bullying

Prejudice-related bullying (also known as identity-based bullying or bias bullying) refers to any form of bullying related to the characteristics considered unique to a child's identity, such as:

  • bullying due to race, religion, beliefs (spiritual, moral, social and cultural development)
  • bullying because of special educational needs and disabilities
  • bullying about appearance and health
  • bullying related to gender identity such as homophobic bullying or sexual bullying
  • bullying due to home circumstances such as young carers or children in care.

These forms of bullying are not only targeted at an individual, but reflect negative attitudes towards a wider sub-community or group to whom that individual identifies with (or is believed to identify with).

Who gets bullied?

Anyone can be bullied and sometimes children and young people may be a target of bullying and bullying others at the same time. Some children are bullied for no obvious reason, while others are bullied because they are seen to be different in some way. For example, they may have special educational needs, look different or come from a different cultural background.

Bullying and other behaviour

Bullying is sometimes used as a convenient label but it is not an 'all or nothing' phenomenon. There is a point at which play becomes coercive, lively interaction and banter between people becomes abusive and humour becomes wounding. In relationship conflict random aggressive acts or interactions may occur, but the use of power between the equals involved does not become destructive.

Bullying does not come about as a result of fixed personality traits leading to children and young people becoming a permanent 'bully' or a 'victim'. Research suggests that many 'perfectly nice' and popular children use bullying behaviours on occasions, and many are unaware of the devastating impact which their behaviour has on those they target.

National helplines

Childline tel: 0800 11 11
Kidscape tel: 0845 205 204 - bullying counsellors
Family Lives tel: 0808 800 2222 – free confidential help for anyone looking after a child
Get Connected tel: 0808 8084994 – free confidential helpline for young people
Samaritans tel: 08457 90 90 90 – helpline for those in distress

Websites

Childline is a free, confidential 24 hour counselling service for children and young people in trouble or danger. They offer advice and support to children, young people and adults on a range of topics including child abuse and bullying.

Kidscape helps to prevent bullying and child abuse. They provide information, advice and resources on how to keep children safe from harm.

GOV.UK bullying gives information, support and advice to parents and carers on what to do if their child is being bullied.

Bullying UK is an award-winning charity which is dedicated to providing detailed help and advice for the victims of bullying and their parents and carers.

UniCEF Rights Respecting schools award is an award for transforming whole schools into places where children feel safe, nurtured and in control of their futures.

Also see