Creating an inclusive environment: how to prevent bullying
A quick search on Google will uncover a wealth of worrying statistics relating to bullying at school. Moreso, according to the Anti-bullying Alliance, a staggering 40% of young people were bullied within the last 12 months.
Bullying can have a detrimental impact on a child's physical and mental health. A sustained bullying campaign has the potential to cause emotional issues, stress, social problems, physical disorders and, in some serious cases, self-harm or even death.
The physical and mental impact of bullying-related health issues can affect a child's behaviour and relationships at home and in school.
What are some of the most common types of bullying?
Bullying behaviour takes many forms; some are obvious to spot, while others are more covert. Bullying incidents typically fall under four main categories, psychological, verbal, physical and cyberbullying.
Physical bullying includes damaging property, hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching and pushing. Physical bullying can cause both short-term and long-term damage to a victim's well-being.
Verbal bullying includes name-calling, insults, teasing, intimidation, verbal abuse, or racist or homophobic remarks. While verbal bullying can start off as harmless, it usually escalates to levels that can affect the victim’s self esteem.
Social bullying, also known as covert bullying, is harder to spot and typically carried out behind victims' backs. Its aim is to damage a victim's social reputation and cause humiliation. Social bullying includes:
- lying and spreading rumours
- negative facial or physical gestures, menacing or scornful looks
- distasteful jokes that embarrass and humiliate
- encouraging peers to socially exclude the victim
- damaging the victims' social reputation or acceptance.
According to Gov.uk, cyberbullying is defined as a form of bullying behaviour which is carried out via electronic communication, including mobile phones, the internet, and social media. Cyberbullying is both overt and covert; it can happen at any time, whether in public or in private. Cyberbullying can include:
- abusive or hurtful text messages, images, videos, or social media posts
- excluding the victim from online forums and conversation
- non-evidential gossiping or rumours
- imitating a victim online.
How to stop bullying in schools
Bullying, especially if ignored, can become a barrier to a child's learning and have a serious effect on their mental health. Bullying at school not only affects a child's development, but the effects can stay with them well into adulthood. By either stopping bullying at its root or effectively tackling it as it starts, school administrators and teaching staff can help create a safe space where pupils are able to learn and reach their potential.
Bullying prevention strategies which parents, trusted adults and family members, caregivers, or teachers and school staff can adopt include helping a child understand what bullying is and the effect it has on its victims. Other strategies include maintaining a line of communication, which can encourage a child to participate in activities or hobbies they enjoy.
Educating children about what bullying is and its effects on others is a key step to preventing bullying. If a child is more aware of their actions and the consequences, they may change their behaviour towards others.
Deterring verbal bullying and harassment
Educate and work with children by making a list of derogatory and offensive comments. Allowing a child to view the words can help them see what a derogatory word looks like. If a child can then acknowledge and express how they would feel if someone called them a listed word, it can encourage empathy.
Bullying situations typically begin with verbal harassment and can potentially spiral from here. How a child reacts to verbal aggression will determine whether a bully will continue to target them. If the child reacts in a way that gives the bully the reaction they want, they will continue.
When educating children, it's essential to highlight the impact it can have on the victim's mental health. It's also vital to encourage children to speak openly if they feel they are being harassed or bullied; they should be freely encouraged to speak to an adult, such as a guardian, teacher or parent.
Stand up to bullies
Teaching children to stand up to a bully by firmly saying 'stop' or using humour to deter the bully can be an effective measure. Other actions include walking away and informing an adult in authority.
For educators, empowering a child every step of the way from nursery through to college, will have a positive impact on their resilience as they move through life. Empowerment can also start at home by encouraging children to develop a set of basic social skills as well as displaying respectful and loving relationships. Children imitate their parents' actions and behaviours; therefore, if they view a parent as controlling or are subjected to physical harm, the child could potentially view this as acceptable behaviour. Using forceful behaviour demonstrates to a child that bullying is OK as a method of gaining an upper hand in a situation.
Reinforce social skills
Basic social skills can go a long way towards preventing bullying behaviour. Social skills encourage a child to stand up for themselves and build resilience.
Social skills can be built by performing role-play scenarios at home or at a child's school. This can be as simple as teaching a child how to ask to join in games or introducing them to other children. Unfortunately, there are some children who struggle socially and seek to gain peer acceptance from anyone. Therefore, they may be subject to group leaders mistreating them. This takes the form of bullying, and it is important for parents and carers to listen to their children when they are talking about their peer interactions. By listening to them, parents, carers and practitioners can support the child in understanding their own perceptions and working towards healthier relationship opportunities.
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