Stop and think

It’s not always fist fights and elbows shoved in stomachs. We are even at risk of words typed through a 2-inch screen.

It’s not always fist fights and elbows shoved in stomachs. As we continue in a world of constant communication, we are even at risk of words typed through a 2-inch screen.

Verbal bullying can cause just as much harm as physical bullying, as this year’s Anti-Bullying Week (Nov. 14-18) highlights with the campaign slogan: Stop and think–words can hurt.

“The use of offensive and negative language is all too common in our schools and communities and often turns into verbal bullying. This is just as serious as physical bullying and it’s very important that it doesn’t go unchallenged,” says Sue Steel, Coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA).

Verbal bullying is the persistent use of language to belittle or cause harm to someone else, and typically includes name-calling, threats, manipulation, mockery, slander, spreading lies and gossip.

Some of these may sound like common childhood challenges, but in an extreme form they can have a dangerous and detrimental effect on social, psychological, and emotional development.

The ABA, part of leading charity National Children’s Bureau, provides resources for young people, parents, carers, and educators.

Their tips for parents to help spot signs of bullying:

You may be unsure if your child is being bullied. If you suspect that this may be happening, look out for the following signs. You may see one or more signs, for example your child could:

• Show signs of stress – being moody, silent or crying, or bullying a younger sibling or friend

• Make excuses to miss school, such as stomach complaints or headaches (or your child may be skipping school altogether)

• Seem upset after using the Internet or mobile, or change their behaviour – for example, no longer wanting to look at new text messages immediately –and be secretive and unwilling to talk about their online activities and phone use

• Be withdrawn in their behaviour

• Have more bruises or scrapes than usual

• Change their eating habits

• Have torn clothes, school things that are broken or missing, or have ‘lost’ money

• Sleep badly

• Wet the bed.

Ideas for good ways to handle the issue of bullying with your children:

• If you think your child is being bullied, don’t panic– try to keep an open mind: Your key role is listening, calming and providing reassurance that the situation can get better when action is taken. Provide a quiet, calm place where they can talk about what is happening.

Listen and reassure them that coming to you was the right thing to do: It may not be easy for a child to talk about being bullied so it is important to try to find out how they are feeling, what has happened, when and where. Though at this stage it is not so much about establishing a set of facts as encouraging, talking and listening.

Assure them that the bullying is not their fault and that you are there to support them: remind them that they can also have the support of family and friends.

Find out what the child or young person wants to happen: help them to identify the choices available to them and the potential next steps to take; and the skills they may have to help solve the problems.

Discuss the situation with your child’s school: the law requires all schools to have a behaviour policy which sets out the measures that will be taken to encourage good behavior and respect for others and to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils. Parents can get advice and support through Family Lives – 0808 800 2222

Want to encourage your children to handle bullying in a strong manner? Specific things you can say to a young person facing bullying:

• Bullying is not your fault. It is always wrong and you do not have to put up with it.

• Let someone know what is happening as soon as possible. Talk things through with a friend, your family, or your teachers.

• Do not do or say anything in response to the bully. Stay calm and remove yourself from the situation wherever possible. If it is happening through your phone or the Internet, keep a copy of the messages or images but do not reply or respond.

• Keep a note or a diary of what is happening.

• Be confident – you have done nothing to deserve this.

• Be assertive.

• You could say ‘This is not funny. This is bullying. This is wrong.’

• Think who can help you – young people or adults.

• Seek help from other young people e.g. school might have a peer mentor or buddy scheme

• Say to someone ‘Please would you watch what is happening here’ and ask them to help you report the incident.

• Sometimes it can help to talk to someone outside of the situation. You could call ChildLine on 0800 11 11.

Anti-Bullying Week 2011 aims to challenge the casual use of derogatory language in our schools and communities to prevent an environment where bullying can flourish, and raise awareness of the consequences of children and young people using demeaning and harassing language to bully others through technology.


Resources for help & advice:


ChildLine is the UK’s free, confidential helpline for children and young people. Trained volunteers are on hand to provide advice and support, by phone and online, 24 hours a day. Call Childline on 0800 1111 or visit


CyberMentors is a safe social networking site providing information and support for young people affected by bullying. Young people aged 11-25 are trained as CyberMentors in schools and online, so that they can offer support and advice to other young people. CyberMentors are also supported by trained counsellors, who are available online if needed. For more information and free CyberMentors resources for teachers visit

The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA)

The ABA is a unique coalition of over 130 members from the voluntary, public and private sectors, who work together to reduce bullying and create safer environments in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn. ABA is based at the National Children’s Bureau. For more information visit






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