Thursday, 26 October 2017

Anti-bullying. We're getting there but there's still so much that could be done - A ReadItTorial

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Bullying is definitely one of my buttons, and if you dare to press it, expect a fiery response. Unfortunately sometimes when the subject comes up at home, I'm so sensitive to any mention of it that my first reaction is anger and an absolute determination to "do something about it" before rationalised thinking begins to kick in (with my wife usually offering the rationality), and I calm down enough to think the problem through, break it down and begin to see it from both sides.

Obviously when things happen to Charlotte that fall into the large complex umbrella of terms surrounding bullying, I remember back to my own school days and how ineffectively bullying was dealt with there, and how much better things have become in an era where parents have more access to school policies and more of a listening ear from teachers and heads than they have ever had before.

The particular instance that inspired this ReadItTorial would have been so low-level on most parents' radar that a lot of folk would probably scoff at it, calling it a case of over-sensitivity on my / my daughter's part rather than a clear example of bullying.

Though we've come so far in addressing both sides of any incidents of bullying in schools, there's still such a long way to go and it still feels like there's no 100% effective method of nipping it in the bud before it can turn into something more serious, often in early teen years when bullying can become something more insidious entirely.

In the most extreme cases, kids are victimised to the point where they see no other way out of the situation than to take their own lives.

National statistics are alarmingly on the rise in recent years.

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that in 2015 there were 168 males aged 10 to 19 and 63 females in the same age group who took their own lives.

A study in 2016 found 22 per cent of young suicide victims had been bullied and 15 per cent had suffered other forms of domestic abuse or neglect. There have also been clear links made between the rise in popularity of social media (and the early adoption of its use increasingly with younger children who often use it unchecked) and in addition factors around exam stress, extreme pressure put on youngsters to achieve better results in school, and of course a metric ton of social pressure inside and outside school too.

The key problem with the way bullying is dealt with stems from trying to achieve a balance of understanding for each side of the issue. On one level, there needs to be a better method of fully understanding what the victim of bullying is going through, and what direct impact the incidents are having on their daily lives, not only in school but outside of it too (though school is often where most incidents take place, there's also a clear increase in incidents taking place outside of school, in particular across social media, as we've already said kids seem to access it at a far younger age with every passing year - often against most sites' Terms and Conditions but with little or no action to check this by the bigger players in current social media trends).

There also needs to be a clearer understanding of why a particular bully or aggressor is doing what they're doing. Quite often bullies have problems of their own at home or in school that are not always caught and addressed early enough in a cycle or pattern of behaviour - with schools often having no choice but to opt for suspension rather than having adequate time and resources to put towards getting to the heart of why a bully becomes a bully.

The toughest thing for us is trying to describe to our daughter that being sensitive is fine, but also trying to prepare them for a world where - most of the time sadly - they will encounter a form of bullying, whether it's as low level as 'girls being bitchy girls' (which again seems to happen at an earlier age nowadays) or something more insidious that she may inevitably have to deal with later on (the recent disgusting and foul behaviour unearthed as a result of the complaints made against Harvey Weinstein may revolve around the movie industry, but are inevitably deeply rooted in just about every part of society that a woman will encounter in their work / home life and that really, really has to change).

Recent child-targetted campaigns such as "Be Cool Be Nice" have their heart in the right place, and have adopted a very strong social media presence with a ton of web-based support and information to back up the campaign. Though this campaign mostly addresses online (cyber) bullying, the messages are pretty useful for 'off net' occurrences of bullying too.

Bullying is extremely tough to deal with, and parents and their kids really do need all the help they can get - it's clear though that schools and local authorities are often blamed in cases that reach the news but when they're both pushed to the max when it comes to resources and time, it's clear that something else is needed to try and plug the gaps.