SO, WHAT IS BULLYING?
Bullying is behaviour that can make you feel threatened, left out and hurt. It can take something away from you so you feel less in control of your feelings. Bullying is never acceptable; it doesn't make you a better or stronger person, and should never be seen as a normal part of growing up.
The following advice is for children and young people who have felt like this and for those who might have made others feel that way too.
Bullying behaviour can be:
• Being called names, being teased or made fun of
• Being hit, tripped, pushed or kicked
• Having belongings taken or damaged
• Being ignored, left out, or having rumours spread about you
• Receiving abusive text messages or nasty comments online
• Being targeted because of who you are or how people see you
People can get bullied just for being different - the colour of their skin, their accent, their beliefs, a disability or the clothes they wear. The truth is that everyone is different in their own way, but it can hurt because it's as if you're being bullied just for being you. This might make you want to act differently or change something about yourself just to 'fit in'. Remember - you have a right to be you! Being different isn't the problem - the problem is often other people's attitude towards what makes us different.
How might it make me feel?
Bullying can make you act and feel differently. You might feel as if others are in charge of how you're feeling.
• You are easily upset, crying for no reason or feel angry
• You don't want to go out and play with friends
• You are finding it hard to concentrate on your school work
• You are changing the route that you take to school
• You feel vulnerable and lonely
No-one deserves to feel like this, no-one deserves to be bullied.
How do I know...if it's bullying?
Some people think it's only bullying if it happens more than once, and the other person means to hurt you. A lot of bullying does happen over and over again, and the person doing it knows it's having an effect, but that isn't always the case. Something only needs to happen once for you to feel worried or scared to go to school or other places you enjoy going to. Just because someone doesn't realise how hurtful their behaviour is doesn't mean it's not bullying. What matters is how their behaviour makes you feel. If you are worried or scared, you might need help and support to deal with things.
At the same time, it's important to remember that fall outs and disagreements are a normal part of life for most people; we can't get on with everyone all the time and this isn't always bullying.
If you're being beaten up, this is assault, it's not bullying. If someone is filming this to post online or share with other people, it can provide evidence that can be used by the police.
Do you think you might have bullied someone?
Consider these statements:
• Do you join in when others are being nasty to or about someone?
• Do you laugh at people or the stories about them?
• Do you send or pass on hurtful messages or images of people?
• Do you think it is okay to threaten or frighten people that you don't like?
• Have you ever made someone else feel scared, anxious, worried or left out?
All of these can be seen as bullying behaviour. Sometimes people don't realise the impact their behaviour is having and sometimes they do, so try to be more aware of what you are saying and doing and how it might be affecting others.
Coping with your feelings
Everyone will deal with bullying behaviour differently. Some people can 'bounce back', but for others the feelings are harder to deal with.
We all need love, praise and recognition in our lives; we need friends and interests in and out of school and a place where we feel we belong. These things can give us confidence and help us to deal with problems. It is important to remember that feeling bad doesn't last forever and things can get better. Everyone in life has setbacks, and learning how to work through problems will make you more able to take control of your life.
There are good ways and some not so good ways to cope with bullying behaviour. Talking to friends or family, doing things you love, listening to music, playing games and staying active are all positive things you can do for yourself. They won't make bullying behaviour stop, but they will help you to manage your feelings. Just being listened to can help you to feel better, more supported and less alone; just as listening to a friend can help them feel better.
Arguing, taking out your anger on others, doing things to hurt yourself, missing school, drinking or smoking or stopping communicating with people may seem like the way to cope, but they are not healthy; they don't deal with the bullying or how it makes you feel.
If you don't feel there is anyone you can talk to, or anyone you can be yourself around, it might help to look for groups or clubs in your area or online, where you feel you can fit in better - such as groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender young people, groups for young people who care for sick parents, or groups that you feel represent you.
SO WHAT CAN I DO?
When it comes to bullying behaviour there's a lot of information out there telling you what you should do, some good and some not so good. There isn't always one 'right' answer. What worked for someone else might not always work for you, it will depend on your situation and what feels right, but you don't have to limit yourself trying just one thing.
To help make sense of it all here's our guide to some of the common advice which is given about bullying...
You could tell an adult
In most cases this is good advice. But does it feel right for you and your situation? Maybe you're worried about an over-reaction, being called a 'grass' or people finding out you've been bullied.
For some people, that can seem worse that the bullying itself. But remember that telling the right adult can really make a difference. Talk to someone you can trust. It might be a parent, teacher, brother or sister, football coach or a youth worker. It doesn't matter who they are, only that you trust them to do the best for you.
Don't bottle things up
If you're struggling it's important not to bottle up your feelings - this can make you feel worse. Even if you don't want help to stop the bullying behaviour, you can still talk to a friend or someone else about how you feel. You might find it easier to tell a friend than an adult. A good friend will listen without judging or trying to fix the situation. If you do need adult help but find it difficult to approach someone, a friend can help you by going with you or passing the information on.
Ignore it/Walk away/Pretend it doesn't bother you
Being able to walk away or act like it doesn't bother you is a good coping mechanism; it can show people you're confident and can deal with situations. But it's not always easy to laugh off nasty comments or other types of bullying behaviour and pretend that you're okay when you're not. You might be able to hide your feelings from people, but those feelings are still there and you need to do something to help you deal with them.
Keep a diary of what happens
Keeping a diary doesn't suit everyone, but writing things down can be a really useful way of coping with how you're feeling; especially if you aren't ready to talk to someone about it.
Recording incidents can also make it easier if you do decide to tell someone and it can act as evidence if other parties need to get involved. Similarly, if you're being bullied online, you should keep any texts or messages.
Ask them to stop
If you can do this then try it - the person bullying you might not be aware of how they're affecting you, and this might change the way they behave towards you. But some people aren't so approachable and you might not have the confidence to speak to them, or you might be worried what will happen if you do. If you feel this might make things worse then it's best to explore another option.
Use a witty/clever comeback
Some people are witty enough to respond to people who are actually bullying them with a clever comeback. But you have to be quite confident to do this; it's not something that everyone will be able to do, and you should weigh up the situation and be prepared for the reaction you might get. Try to judge whether you might make things worse before taking this approach.
Get your own back
This is a common piece of advice, but it isn't always helpful! It takes a lot of courage to confront someone who is making you feel intimidated, scared, sad or lonely. Violence can leave you and others badly hurt - or in serious trouble - and it can make you feel bad about yourself. If someone is violent towards you then this can be assault and it might be a good idea to involve the police. Hitting back is a choice- but it's a risky one. Remember, if you hit someone back you could be charged with assault.
Bullying behaviour isn't always physical. If you're being bullied online, it can be easy to send back nasty comments or spread rumours about someone else on your MSN or Facebook page, but again this is risky. There are also laws about cyberbullying and every online message or text can be traced. Despite what people think, responding to bullying with more bullying doesn't make it go away.
So there are lots of different options available to you if you're being bullied, and you might not know where to start! Whatever you decide, make sure it feels right for you. If it's all a bit much and you're not sure where to turn, it might help to talk to someone in confidence.
Bullying is never acceptable. It can make you feel frightened, hurt, threatened and anxious. Some of you will cope better with this than others. Some people will need to try different things before finding something that works - what works for one person might not work for you, but you have choices and you don't have to go through this on your own.
For more information and advice, please read - Bullying...what can I do