We would recommend that every school, college, organisation and service has a clear definition of bullying that is shared with everyone in the community.
The best definitions are agreed collectively – involving staff, young people, children and parent/carers.
The Anti-Bullying Alliance includes the following principles in its definition of bullying:
- Bullying behaviour deliberately causes hurt (either physically or emotionally)
- Bullying behaviour is repetitive (though one-off incidents such as the posting of an image, or the sending of a text that is then forwarded to a group, can quickly become repetitive and spiral into bullying behaviour)
- Bullying behaviour involves an imbalance of power (the person on the receiving end feels like they can’t defend themselves)
Bullying is not:
- Teasing and banter between friends without intention to cause hurt
- Falling out between friends after a quarrel or disagreement
- Behaviour that all parties have consented to and enjoy (though watch this one as coercion can be very subtle)
What is Bullying?
Bullying is a conscious act to cause hurt by one or more people against another person or people.
Bullying can last for a short period or go on for years and is an abuse of power by those who carry it out. It is sometimes premeditated, sometimes opportunistic, sometimes occurs randomly and sometimes serially.
Bullying relies on observers, onlookers, watchers doing nothing to stop the bullying or becoming actively involved in supporting it. Although bullying can take many forms it can broadly be categorised as physical and non-physical bullying.
Non-physical bullying can be verbal or non-verbal. Verbal bullying includes name-calling, threats, spreading false rumours or teasing. Non-verbal bullying such as exclusion, ignoring, graffiti, spiteful texts and emails and ruining friendships has been found to cause the most damage in terms of mental health and yet is the hardest to recognise and respond to.
Children, young people and adults can all be involved in bullying. It is important to note that bullying can be student to student, teacher to student, student to teacher, parent to teacher and teacher to parent. Types and forms of bullying are also constantly evolving as society and technology develops. There is no getting away from the fact that, for some children and young people in our care, bullying is at least devastating and at worst a life or death situation. There are on average 14 suicides by young people every year in the UK that are known to be a direct result of bullying. Statistics are worrying reading. Yet we know that bullying is part of a social process and is extremely common. It has a far-reaching, negative impact on all concerned.
It is therefore essential that schools, organisations, services and their communities take into account culture, environment, attitudes and procedures that may silently condone or actively encourage bullying behaviours. All of these dynamics should be considered within the whole school or organisation policy. In order to address these issues, opportunities for discussion and participation will enable children and young people to share an understanding of what bullying is and fully engage in the processes to challenge bullying behaviour. The whole school or organisation’s community needs to regularly engage in activities to raise awareness of the nature of bullying behaviour in their community.