Nobody likes a bully and the act of bullying is something that people don’t ever willingly admit to.
It is something we all purport to abhor and there isn’t a civilised society anywhere in the world where it is openly tolerated. So why do so many people, many of them children, fall victim to bullies on a daily basis?
Because most bullies escape the not-so-long arm of beleaguered PC Plod along with the fact that this scourge is under reported by vulnerable victims, there aren’t reliable statistics available for us to understand the full scale of the problem. But what we do know, thanks to the NSPCC, is that as many as 16,000 schoolchildren are kept away from the classroom due to bullying. We also know that in one year, nearly 26,000 young victims received counselling from Childline.
It appears that we are living in a new age of bullying, where the advancement of technology means that there is very little chance that the victim of sustained torment will be able to avoid it even once they are in the sanctuary of their own home.
Smartphones, tablets and laptops are a portal to another world of abuse although it is very difficult for those of us who haven’t grown up in the digital age to understand it. The reaction from many, old enough to remember when entertainment centred around just four television channels, is ‘why don’t you just turn the damn thing off? They won’t get you then.’ But that is to miss the point of what it is like to be young in the early part of the 21st Century - devices are an extension of their world and to be cut off from that is beyond the comprehension of most teenagers and young people.
Most parents spend their lives in a semi-permanent state of anxiety about their children and the thought that one of their own could be the victim of teasing or, worse still, bullying is a sickening prospect.
This was hammered home powerfully in the BBC’s compelling Reporting Missing series which captured the pain of bullying so powerfully when the programme first aired last week.
This episode focused on two vulnerable children who went missing from home, including a 13-year-old who was having a particularly hard time at home and disappeared after leaving a desperate note for her family.
Anybody who watched the programme will not have failed to have been moved by the torment that the young girl’s mum and partner went through while teams of police and volunteers searched quarries and countryside for the teen.
The tense documentary underlined that the agony caused by bullying extends beyond the victims and those at home will have breathed a collective relief when she returned home safely. When the cameras returned some months later they captured a very sensible young lady who was reconciled with the fact that she wasn’t one of the ‘cool kids’ and that the bullies really weren’t worth it.
All schools are compelled by law to have a stringent anti-bullying policy but clearly more needs to be done as the problem persists. Changing attitudes is the key and maybe the answer is that victims and maybe even the bullies themselves visit schools, colleges and even workplaces to tell their stories.
Progress has helped solved so many of society’s ills - so why is bullying still such a problem?
0808 800 5000