There are many different reasons why a young person may be bullied by other young people or adults. The issue can be difficult to deal with, and there are some unhelpful myths about bullying that can complicate things further.
Bullying refers to any harmful behaviour directed at a person or a group. It can be physical, psychological or socially harmful behaviours than inflict harm, stress or injury.
We’ve compiled 5 popular bullying myths to help you understand some of the most common notions about bullying.
Many adults have experienced bullying at school in their early years and most escaped the situation unscathed. Advice we often got as children was to ‘just ignore it’ and that it would ‘go away’ by itself. But there is nothing normal about being bullied, and this idea can allow harmful behaviours to go unchecked. It also sends a negative message that bullying is something to be tolerated.
No child or adult should be bullied, everyone has the right to live a life free from violence, fear or intimidation.
When a young person in our care is experiencing violent bullying, it can be tempting to tell them to fight back and stand up for themselves. This is especially true when a young person appears ‘soft’ or an ‘easy’ target.
But retaliating in one off circumstance can often make the situation worse, or get the young person into trouble. There is also the danger that a young person could respond in disproportionate ways, which could land them in serious trouble with the law.
But, we need to be honest and clear with young people, because asking them to ‘not fight back’ could potentially endanger their life in circumstances of extreme and repeated violence. Self-defence is reasonable in certain circumstances and understanding when it’s appropriate to walk away vs defend yourself during a violent attack that show no signs of ending is a difficult call.
Tackling bullying early has a major advantage in preventing harmful escalations like this.
For many adults bullying might have been a ‘normal’ experience, but normal does not equal OK. Schools have long worked to tackling bullying in all forms, and awareness of the issue has seen ‘whole school’ approaches to tackling these behaviours more visible.
The old idea that bullying makes young people tougher is not unheard of, and for some who have experienced bullying this might be a reference to their survivorship.
But the impact of bullying on young people’s self-esteem, mental health and physical health cannot be understated. This is particularly true when bullies attack the very core of their identity in cases of racist or homophobic bullying.
For many young people bullying is confined to school environments, where there is a clear support network, policies and safeguarding professionals trained to tackle the issue. But bullying does happen outside of school. Indeed, young people can be bullied by friends, strangers and even family members outside of school.
This issue can be complicated to deal with, but where informal conversations with other young people’s care givers fail, and bullying includes criminal elements– asking the police to intervene can be appropriate to help remedy the problem.
Young people often fear that bullying will escalate if they tell a trusted. While this can be true in certain circumstances, steps can be taken to tackle these behaviours. Safeguarding professionals are acutely aware of this, and work to mitigate any negative impacts of a young person reporting harmful behaviour.
Young people who report bullying are not ‘snitches’ or ‘grasses’ they are standing up for themselves. They should be encouraged to approach a trusted adult for support and know that they have the right to be safe at all times.
Signposting to Supports
For confidential parenting and family support you can contact Family Lives on their website or on 0808 800 2222.
If you have concerns about the immediate safety of a young person, you should contact the emergency services on 999 (emergency number).