We know that bullying can have a huge impact on children and young people’s mental and physical wellbeing. It can leave them with feelings of depression and anxiety, cause them to socially withdraw, and even lead them to have suicidal thoughts.
As we mark Anti-Bullying Week, we can reveal that in 2019/20 Childline received almost 600 contacts from children living in Scotland who were concerned about either online or in-person bullying and fears for their safety.
Since lockdown in March, children have been spending a lot of time online to keep in touch with friends, entertain themselves, and complete school work. For children who are bullied, this greater amount of time on online devices may have caused them to feel that the bullying was harder to escape.
It may be difficult to tell if your child is being bullied online, so it’s important to have conversations about what they are spending their time doing and who they are speaking to while on their digital devices. It is so important that they know they can come to you with anything that is making them feel anxious or sad and that you will listen and reassure them. It is helpful to ask them what the issues are, where they take place and how they would like us as adults to respond.
You may want to show your child how to report or block messages from someone who is upsetting or worrying them, but try not to take their device away, as that may make them feel that whatever has happened is their fault. Instead, suggest they take some time away from the app they received the messages on and get involved in another online activity they enjoy, such as playing a game.
If your child is being bullied in person, signs could include their belongings getting ‘lost’ or damaged, physical injuries, such as unexplained bruises, or not wanting to go to school.
The effects of bullying can be profound and long-lasting and can cause those who experience this type of abuse to develop mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.
Last week, together with respectme, Scotland’s anti-bullying service, we launched a toolkit to help schools across Scotland run youth-led campaigns to tackle online bullying.
We designed the ‘Think B4 You Type’ toolkit alongside a group of young people, who helped run anti-bullying campaigns in Angus.
Any school teachers and staff who would like to start conversations with young people about bullying, can download the toolkit here (recommended from P7 upwards): https://bit.ly/3lCe2qe
Children can contact Childline for free on 0800 1111 or childline.org.uk 365 days a year, and speak to a counsellor about any worry or concern they may have.
If you’re worried about a child for any reason, our NSPCC helpline can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0808 800 5000.