Words can hurt

This year’s theme for Anti-Bullying Week, which runs from 14-18 November, is ‘Stop and think – words can hurt’.

Focusing on verbal bullying, the campaign aims to challenge the casual use of derogatory language in schools, colleges and communities.

Derogatory language and name-calling can have significant consequences. Those on the receiving end may feel vulnerable, leading to a lack of self-esteem and social confidence which can affect their personal relationships.

Chartered Psychologist Dr Karen Majors suggests that: “Young people affected by bullying may feel ashamed and reluctant to tell others of their feelings as it might make the situation worse.

“If the bullying is persistent, they may also experience trauma affecting their wellbeing and attainment into the future.”

Now that we live in a digital age, bullying just doesn’t happen in the playground. Many are victims of cyber-bullying which can occur throughout the day via text messaging, phone calls and the internet.

Anti-Bullying Week hopes to raise awareness of the consequences of using demeaning and harassing language through technology.

Dr Majors states: “In cases of cyber bullying, a young person may or may not know who is responsible. The attempts to offend and humiliate the victim may reach a very wide audience causing great distress, anger, despair, trauma and even suicide.”

If a young person is being bullied, they should not keep it to themselves. Telling a trusted friend, teacher or parent is the first step to take action. Parents and carers can reassure young people that they do not need to feel ashamed.

Dr Majors suggests that: “Parents and carers can listen carefully to the young person’s experience and feelings.

“They need to jointly problem solve with the young person what action to take and who to talk to.”

Anyone can be a target of bullying. In less inclusive environments where perceived differences are not tolerated, certain young people may feel especially vulnerable. For example, children with special educational needs or those who simply start school mid-term when friendship groups have already been established.

Fortunately, there has been much research on effective interventions for preventing bullying in schools by creating safe and friendly communities.

Another aim of Anti-Bullying Week is to give children and young people the tools to challenge others when they use derogatory language, to find new ways of expressing how they feel if they are angry or upset, and to make a conscious effort to speak positively and to compliment others.

For more information about the campaign, visit the Anti-Bullying Week website.