Today’s digital age means that bullying can be relentless. A child can feel like there’s no escape because it can happen wherever they are, at any time of day or night.
It is one of the most common reasons for a young person to ring Childline. Last year, there were more than 24,000 Childline counselling sessions with children about bullying. More than 5,000 were about online bullying.
Young people spoke about malicious and hurtful messages being posted about them on their profiles, blogs, online pictures or posts.
The negative messages ranged from abusive comments about how they looked, to telling them they should go and kill themselves. In some situations, forums or pages on networking sites were set up about the young person as a place to post bullying content.
Many said that the online abuse led to verbal and physical bullying at school, and they talked about feeling trapped because the bullies could reach them anywhere.
Bullying, regardless of whether it occurs in person or online, can have a devastating impact on a child, affecting their self-worth; leaving them feeling isolated and potentially triggering depression.
The effects can last into adulthood. At its worst, bullying has driven children and young people to self-harm and even take their own lives.
It is vital that when a child who is being bullied confides in an adult, they get a supportive and understanding response.
All schools should have an anti-bullying policy in place which is regularly updated, widely available and promoted to the whole school community, children and parents. This should make it clear what action the school will take in the case of a bullying incident and what it regularly does to prevent bullying.
Our counsellors at Childline will listen to any young person experiencing bullying, support them to talk about their feelings and help to build their self-esteem, and give them and their family strategies to bring the problem to the school’s attention.
Adults concerned about a child can contact the NSPCC’s free and confidential helpline on 0808 800 5000 while children and young people with any worries can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or www.childline.org.uk.