Anti-Bullying NetworkYoung People's Section

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Bullying is very common. Research studies from across the world have found that almost half of children say that they have bullied others at some time. Most children who are involved in bullying would not be if they fully understood the effect of their actions.

Children accused of bullying may need just as much help as those being bullied. Their behaviour may be connected to personal or social problems; they may be being manipulated by other children; individuals may be playing a small part in group bullying and not understand the harm being done to a victim. And, of course, children may be falsely or mistakenly accused.

Why do people bully?
Experts say there are two reasons why people bully others. One is because they enjoy the feeling of power it gives them. The second is because members of a group can feel closer to each other by picking on an 'outsider'.

Children have their own explanations:

  • Some say they are forced into doing it by peer pressure.
  • Many say it's normal - everybody does it.
  • Some say that they are just behaving the way that adults behave.
  • Some say that it's fun to bully.
  • Nearly all children who bully say that their victims deserve it.

These explanations, and the last one in particular, provide a clue as to what it is that allows normal, happy, loving sons and daughters to behave in ways that other parents see as being cruel and inexcusable. Bullying children don't usually see their behaviour as being particularly wrong and, anyway, it is justified by something the victim is or does:

"She's really annoying"
"He's thick"
"They always smell funny"
"He's just so gay, you know".

Most importantly, when a group bullies an individual there may be little sense of guilt because of the shared responsibility - even if the effect on the victim is devastating.

How do people bully?
Bullying is not one thing but many. It may be carried out by a group or an individual. It may involve hitting, kicking, threats, name-calling, or less obvious forms such as "sending to Coventry". New types of bullying - such as sending abusive text messages - occasionally appear. Bullying is similar to harassment and other forms of abuse such as racism, sexism and the abuse of children by adults. It may involve criminal acts. The person or people doing the bullying may be the same age or older or younger than their victim. Both sexes bully and are bullied.

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