Bullying

Bullying involves deliberate violent, harmful, or hurtful behaviour towards others.

Overview

Bullying is sometimes viewed as “normal” behaviour that is a part of “growing up”. However, it can be extremely distressing for the victim who can be put at risk of significant harm due to bullying behaviour e.g. direct physical or psychological damage, self-harm, faked illness (e.g. to avoid school) and, in the worst case scenario, suicide. It should also be remember that bullying can occur as the result of perceived “weaknesses” or “differences” in the victim – which can include teasing over known family problems or picking on a child who is withdrawn or who has a poor physical appearance e.g. due to abuse or neglect. Similarly, a child who bullies other may, in some circumstances, be displaying problematic behaviours due to difficulty in their home life. Bullying can, therefore, be a child protection issue in itself and/or can, in some circumstances, be an indication of child protection issues in the home.

This section of the procedures considers types of bullying behaviour, the signs that may indicate that bullying may be taking place and action to be taken once when a professional is aware/suspects that a child is a victim of bullying.

Types of bullying behaviour

The charity BullyingUK state that bullying includes:

  • Calling someone names 
  • Making things up to get someone into trouble 
  • Hitting, pinching, biting, pushing and shoving 
  • Taking things away from someone 
  • Damaging belongings 
  • Stealing a person’s money 
  • Taking a person’s friends away from them 
  • Posting insulting messages on the internet or by IM (cyberbullying) 
  • Spreading rumours 
  • Threats and intimidation 
  • Making silent or abusive phone calls 
  • Sending offensive phone texts 

These behaviours are often repeated over a period of time. Bullying can occur in situations where children spend time/live together e.g. at school, in residential children’s homes or youth detention establishments.

Symptoms of bullying behaviour

These may include the following:
  • bruises 
  • broken or missing possessions 
  • withdrawal 
  • changes in eating or sleeping habits/patterns 
  • complaints of headaches or stomach aches or other illness 
  • bed-wetting 
  • worrying about going to school. 
It should be noted, however, that there may be other reasons for such behaviours.

Professional response to bullying

In the first instance, the professional who is aware that bullying is/may be taking place, should consider whether the issue can be adequately dealt with within their own agency guidelines (e.g. for a teacher at school or for a residential social worker). If the bullying has escalated, or is of a serious nature, a referral should be made to the local authority for consideration. A referral may be needed for the victim and for the child/ren carrying out the bullying. If the bullying involves a crime (e.g. theft of property or assault) the police may need to be informed.

Further information

The DfE has published the following good practice guidance for dealing with bullying: