Bullying: society's new norm? Preparing for Anti-Bullying Week

Bullying: society's new norm? Preparing for Anti-Bullying Week

Lady Gaga. Barack Obama. Justin Timberlake. Rihanna. Tyra Banks. Kate Winslet. Kate Middleton. Robert Pattinson. Jennifer Lawrence. Jackie Chan. Chris Rock. Jessica Alba. Beyonce.

It reads like many people’s fantasy dinner party, but what unites these glittering A-Listers, other than levels of talent, success and a bank balance that most of us can only dream of?

The fact that they were all bullied as children.

November 13th - 17th is Anti-Bullying Week, and it’s never been more needed. The most powerful nation on Earth elected a leader who controversially brags about his bullying behaviour; the stars of our own TV shows taunt, speak over, and disparage those whom they deem to be lower than themselves. A recent poll by the TUC showed that up to a third of adults have experienced bullying in the workplace. Not to mention the toxic internet trolls, who have dragged civilised discourse back a couple of thousand years, their racist, sexist, homophobic threats making us yearn for humanity’s glory days as a bunch of gilled amoebas floating around in a tropical sea....or has there ever even been a time in our history without bullying?

Since we live in a society so steeped in bullying, it’s even more vital that we instill the anti-bullying message in our children. It’s through education that we shape the future generations, and it’s through future generations that things change. Children themselves are among the worst victims of bullying, with more than 16,000 children absent from school due to bullying. This generation of young people is also among the first to be subjected to cyberbullying in its most relentless form: 24-hour access to social media, far from achieving a utopian connectedness, is actually making some young people’s lives a living hell. When we were at school, we could at least shut the bullies out when we went home (if we were lucky). Today’s young people face online abuse that is as damaging as it is pervasive: last year, the NSPCC reported an 88% increase in children seeking help for online abuse.

So how should schools begin to address this crisis? Strong leadership will take a two-pronged approach: zero tolerance of bullying behaviour, whether physical, verbal or online; and a high-profile culture which actively celebrates difference. The Anti-Bullying Alliance has made the theme of this year’s Anti-Bullying Week all about diversity: ‘All Different, All Equal’. Their secondary resource pack contains 50 ideas for school activities, including peer support schemes, and a ‘sorry box’ where students can post anonymous apologies for bullying behaviour. Teachers can help with the culture of celebration in a school: those teachers who enjoy excellent relationships with their students can use their high status to normalise and elevate certain traits that some students might be bullied for: this could be anything from homosexuality to a love of Science. This obviously has to be managed very carefully, since in the sensitive, popularity-centered world of teens, we all know a teacher’s approval can often be the kiss of death.

Ultimately, a lot of bullying is based on perceived difference, and within that difference, a perceived inferiority. Taking away the stigma of difference can go a considerable way towards reducing the impact of bullying.

And imagine what the future Beyonces, Obamas, and Gagas of the world would make of that.

Looking for anti-bullying resources?

Here is an excellent free, fully resourced lesson which focuses on the difference between teasing and banter or bullying.

These new free lesson plans created by EC Publishing for The Children's Commissioner help your students navigate the trolls, cyber-bullies and regulations of the online world.

If you're after a full unit of lessons, this fully resourced, ten lesson Anti-Bullying Bundle has excellent ratings and covers all sorts of types of bullying.