Advice on Bullying
Government guidance says that bullying means behaviour by an individual or group, repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally. Bullying can take many forms, including cyber-bullying and is often motivated by prejudice against certain groups or because another child is seen as different.
Government guidance says that state schools should have an anti-bullying policy which sets out the way that bullying should be dealt with in the school. This includes:
- bullying related to race, religion and culture
- bullying pupils with disabilities or special educational needs
- sexist bullying and harassment
- bullying pupils because of their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation
- cyberbullying (the use of mobile phones and the internet to bully pupils).
If there is no policy, you should contact the head teacher.
In England, the Government Guidance says that schools should discipline pupils who bully, whether inside or outside the school premises. At the same time, the school should look at why they bully and identifying whether they themselves need help.
If bullying is so serious that your child is too frightened to go to school, or you fear for your child’s safety, you may wish to keep your child at home. However, this might be in breach of your duty to provide your child with a suitable education. If your child is too unwell to attend school because of fear or stress, your child should go to the doctor's and the doctor should be asked to provide medical evidence for the school. If your child cannot get a medical certificate, you should make sure that in any letters you write to the school you state that, in your opinion, it is not reasonable for your child to attend school because of bullying.
If the bullying is extremely serious and the bully is over the age of ten, the bully could be prosecuted for a criminal offence, for example, assault or harassment. If the school has been unable to stop the bullying, you may wish to report the matter to the police.
If you’ve suffered abuse at school this may also be a hate incident or hate crime. You can report a hate incident or crime to the police. For more information on hate crime, see Hate crime.
If the police will not act, or if the bully is under the age of ten, you could seek advice from a solicitor about other legal action. For example, it may be possible to take legal action for negligence against the school and the local education authority for failure in their duty of care to the pupil.
Cyber Bullying is a growing issue and can be much worse because sometimes the person affected may feel that there is no escape from the bully. This is something many parents find difficult to undewrstand as it simply didn't exist when they were young.
Cyberbullying involves using technology to bully people. It can include texting, instant messaging, and posting on social media and gaming websites.
Coping with cyberbullying can be difficult because it can happen at any time of the day.
To make matters worse, bullying messages and images can be shared so they are seen by more people for longer than other kinds of bullying. And this kind of sharing can quickly get out of control.
What is cyberbullying?
Examples of cyberbullying include:
- emailing or texting threatening or nasty messages to people
- posting an embarrassing or humiliating video of someone on a video-hosting site such as YouTube
- harassing someone by repeatedly sending texts or instant messages through an app or in a chat room
- setting up profiles on social networking sites, such as Facebook, to make fun of someone
- "happy slapping" – when people use their mobiles to film and share videos of physical attacks
- posting or forwarding someone else's personal or private information or images without their permission – known as "sexting" when the content is sexually explicit
- sending viruses that can damage another person's computer
- making abusive comments about another user on a gaming site
Are you a cyberbully?
Even if you're not the one who started the bullying, you become part of it when you laugh at a message that could be hurtful or threatening to someone else, or forward it on.
Don't let yourself get dragged into cyberbullying. Think about the impact of what you say in instant messages, chat rooms and emails. Could your words be used to hurt someone else, or could they be turned against you?
In some cases, cyberbullying can be a criminal offence. For example, it could be treated as a form of harassment or threatening behaviour.
How to respond to cyberbullying
- Talk to someone you trust. This could be a teacher, parent, carer or friend. Schools have a responsibility to ensure students aren't bullied, and they can take action even if the bullying is happening outside school. You can also call ChildLine confidentially on 0800 1111.
- Report the bullying to the internet service provider (ISP) if the bullying happened online. Ask a parent or teacher for help, or look at Chatdanger for safety advice about mobiles and internet use.
- Report the bullying to your mobile phone provider if you've received bullying texts or calls on your mobile. You may even have to change your number if you're repeatedly bullied.
- Block instant messages and emails. Ask a parent or teacher for help, or visit Chatdanger for advice on how to do this.
- Report serious bullying, such as physical or sexual threats, to the police.
- Don't delete the upsetting emails or messages. Keep the evidence. This will help to identify the bully if the bullying is anonymous. Even people who use a false name or email can be traced.
- Don't reply. This is what the bully wants, and it might make things worse.
How to avoid being cyberbullied
The best way to avoid being cyberbullied is to use the internet and mobile phones carefully.
- Don't give out personal details, such as your phone number or address.
- Think carefully before posting photos or videos of you or your friends online.
- Only give your mobile number to close friends.
- Protect passwords, and never give your friends access to your accounts.
- Use the privacy settings on social media.
- Don't forward nasty emails.
- Learn how to block instant messages or use mail filters to block emails.
- Know how to report bullying to social media sites, internet service providers or website administrators. Ask a parent or teacher for help, or look at the advice on the following sites.
Information and help with cyberbullying
Anti-bullying ambassadors offers tips on how to stay safe online, including how to report abuse on social media sites and apps.
In England, guidance about bullying for parents, pupils and teachers is available from the GOV.UK website at: www.gov.uk/bullying-at-school/the-law.
In Wales, information for children and parents on what to do about bullying is available on the Welsh Government website at: www.wales.gov.uk.
For more information about other organisations which can help, see Education: organisations which give information and advice.
For more information about organisations which can help parents, see Education: organisations which give information and advice.