As we saw yesterday, bullying comes in lots of different forms, and can focus on lots of different things. What many people don’t realise is that bullying isn’t always obvious. Bullies can make subtle comments over time, and sometimes might not even realise they are bullying others.
Sometimes bullies feel like they are just joking around, without realising that they are actually hurting someone’s feelings. ‘Banter’ is something lots of people do around their friends, and often don’t mean what they say harmfully – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t hurtful. You shouldn’t assume that things are okay just because someone says them about themselves, or seems to laugh along – even with friends. It is always better to check that someone really is comfortable with the jokes you tell.
Are you being bullied?
Bullying is far more common than most people think, but can have deep, long lasting effects on us. Perhaps you’ve been bullied in the past, are being bullied now, or there was just a one off incident – your experience is still important, and bullying is never okay.
- The most important thing to remember is that you do not deserve to be bullied. It is not about you, and is not a true reflection of who you are.
- Often we feel like we can’t speak out about bullying. Maybe you feel like it will make things worse, you’re embarrassed by it, or you don’t feel you deserve the help – we’re here to tell you that as hard as it may seem, you deserve to get help and to be treated better. Talking to someone you trust can really help. This might be a friend or family member, or a teacher.
If you don’t feel you can talk to someone you know, you can contact organisations such as Childine which exist to support children and young people with their problems.
- Try to focus on the things you love, especially the things you love about yourself. Even though bullying is not really about things that are wrong with you, it doesn’t stop the actions of others from hurting us. Even when you know it is more about a bully seeking power, than about you, these things can feel very personal.
- Try to keep a record of what is being said or done. This could be writing down what has happened and when, but if you are receiving messages via text or on social media you can screenshot these. Having a record of what is happening can help to support you if you decide to talk to anyone. It can be hard to talk, so showing someone can sometimes ease this difficulty.
- Remember, bullies are often seeking control or power. Not giving this to them, or taking it back, can change the balance in your favour. That can simply be blocking their messages, or ignoring them in school. Talking to someone in authority (a teacher, a parent, a boss) can also help you take control back over the situation, and empower you to change your situation.
Are you worried that someone you know is being bullied?
Although the person you are worried about may not have confided in you about being bullied, you may have seen it happening or may be worried about behavioural changes. If someone you know is being bullied, you may notice the following changes:
- Becoming withdrawn and quiet
- Avoidance of school or social activities
- Getting upset during or after using their phone/tablet etc.
- Broken or missing belongings
- Illness, for example headaches or stomach aches
It is always worth trying to talk to the person you are worried about if you notice these signs. Try talking to them when things are quiet, and reassure them that it is okay to talk. They may not be ready to talk, and that’s okay. Knowing you are there to listen will help them to trust you if/when the time comes for them to confide in you. You could even offer to help them talk to someone about the issue as well.
I’m an adult – how can I support a young person?
Sometimes where there is an age-gap, it can be difficult to know how to start a conversation, particularly a sensitive one. Something adults can do to support young people, is to begin by talking about respect, empathy and rights from a young age. It is really important to teach young people how they can expect to be treated, as well as how they should treat others. Bullying can begin with people not realising that what they are doing is hurtful – there are lots of interesting techniques to teach the ways in which our words and actions can affect others.
You may have heard of the toothpaste example – squeeze out a tube of toothpaste, and then ask for it to be put back in the tube – showing them that once something has been said or done, it cannot be undone or made new. Some other, less messy, examples can be found here.
What can you do if you think you may have bullied someone?
It is of course important to help people who are being bullied, but we believe that it is important to remember that bullies are often seeking control or power in their own lives.
If you have bullied someone, or think you might have, admitting that is a pretty big step. Perhaps you have been through some difficult times in your own life, and that’s okay. What isn’t okay is bullying others. There are lots of other ways to take control of what is going on for you, talking to someone about it can help you too, just as it would for someone being bullied.
It’s important to know that it is never too late to change your behaviour. Even if you feel you have been bullying someone, or have done something really bad, deciding to stop this will be a step in the right direction. You may not be able to fix what has been done, but you can make sure you take control over not repeating your actions over and over.
It is only by all working together that we can stop bullying in it’s tracks. Being different is okay, and we may not always like people who are different to us, but bullying is never the answer to this. Tomorrow, we will be exploring a bit more about tolerance and things you can do to be more accepting of others.