This week is Anti-Bullying Week, raising awareness on the issue of bullying and the harmful effect it can have on its victims, as well as the different ways in which people from all corners of society can confront and deal with the issue. The week is coordinated by the Anti-Bullying Alliance taking place from the 14th-18th across the country and it offers a vital opportunity for the subject to be raised once more into the public discourse.
The seriousness of bullying behaviour is often downplayed or ignored; people sometimes view such incidences of bullying as harmless, childish messing around and even as a character-forming experience for the victim. Such rationalizations excuse destructive behaviour and, as a result, the bullying can go on unchallenged.
Adding to this, the lack of self-awareness and maturity among children and the powerful need to feel included among their peers can lead to a situation where multiple children have singled out one child to pick on. All of this can leave a victim of bullying feeling that the rest of the world is against them and make them even more reluctant to get help.
And while no parent wants their child to be a victim of bullying, there are many who are unsure of how to breach the subject with their children or recognise that there might be a problem in the first place.
As a social issue, everyone has a role to play in helping to create a society where bullying is recognised for what it is and that its victims are able to get the best support possible from those around them.
The effect bullying can have on a child is deeply felt and goes beyond simply providing a miserable school experience. The effects can include lasting mental health problems – it has been suggested by various studies that bullied children are more likely to develop issues with depression and anxiety, are more likely to experience a loss of interest in the activities and hobbies that they used to enjoy and are more prone to developing a low sense of self-worth and confidence. Bullied children are also less likely to achieve high grades in school and more likely to drop out or fail their studies altogether.
Its clear to see that bullying has many wide-reaching, negative consequences but it hasn’t been until relatively recently that large-scale efforts have been made to combat its presence in schools across the country. Now politicians, journalists and school leaders discuss and propose ideas on how best to deal with this problem, with varying degrees of success. But while government policy often fails to provide adequate safeguards against bullying, the fact that the topic is being raised at all is a positive step in the right direction – however, the issue is still far from being resolved.
The fact that no data is required to be collected from education authorities on incidences of bullying at schools makes it impossible to get an accurate sense of just how prevalent it can be. Along with this, we have the emergence of cyberbullying, where children are targeted and harassed online by their peers through social networks, often from bullies who hide behind the anonymity afforded to them by the internet. Cyberbullying can be a particularly difficult issue for parents to deal with, having likely never experienced it for themselves, and this only adds to the feeling of hopelessness a child might feel who is being bullied online.
As the internet takes an increasingly larger role in the lives of children everywhere, the problem of cyberbullying is one to be taken seriously and not to be dismissed as a problem that can be simply solved just by switching off a tablet or laptop.
Bullying remains an important and relevant issue, the problem far from being stamped out. Public awareness has improved massively over the years and this has spilled over into government policy – all of which shows the vital importance and impact of awareness campaigns such as Anti-Bullying Week and their power to improve the lives of thousands who, otherwise, may not have had a voice.