Bullying – the unspoken facts
One of the great things about running a business in 2014 is Twitter. It really is a fantastic forum for raising your profile, communicating with like minded individuals on meaningful topics and keeping in touch. Through Twitter, I found both @opp_plusSW and @BoostTorbay who are great organisations which host this blog. Since November 2013, I have been working hard to build the Social Media presence of Our Community Matters and now have over 600 followers. Through Twitter, I also engaged with local councillors in Torbay, such as Matthew James.
One of the many fantastic pieces of work Councillor James is involved in is the proposed Anti-Bullying Strategy for Torbay. Having experienced bullying, mostly due to racism and ignorance, both as a young girl, teenager, adult and business owner, it is a subject close to my heart. We exchanged messages on Twitter, I responded to the consultation and was recently invited to present at a recent Task Force meeting. As a result, I now sit on the steering group and the consortium of Healthwatch Torbay.
The strategy is a step in the right direction. My response to the consultation was that actions in the strategy were UK-centric, focused on UK nationals and did not consider foreign nationals. They didn’t factor in those families and children who struggle to understand English. Furthermore, a common misunderstanding is that those foreign nationals who do speak English even to the extent that they are bilingual are also bicultural. This is not the case. The group listened and amended the strategy, which you can read here.
Bullying is often perceived to be child to child. However attitudes and opinions start with the family. If the family is ‘hard-to-reach’, interventions with the child are largely pointless. Unacceptable behaviour can only be challenged if people are aware of the reasons why it is unacceptable in the first place – and even more critically, have tools to ensure that it never happens again.
Here are six of the most commonly cited reasons that young people give for not intervening in bullying:
• ‘Someone else will surely step in’
Not true. Most bullying happens when an adult isn’t looking. Even if an adult does see the bullying, they may not understand it. In Torbay a teacher will not understand Polish on Polish bullying for example – or Polish groups bullying English children using the Polish language. Even more worrying is when there are instances of abuse within families which are not spotted.
• ‘I don’t like what she is doing, but she is still my friend’
Sustaining a relationship in the face of conflict is difficult. This is even more so when you factor in linguistic and cultural differences.
• ‘I would say something, but he and I aren’t really friends’
Until a child integrates, this will always be the case. This goes for foreign nationals and native speakers who are ostracised, whatever the reason.
• You’re asking me to stand out on purpose?’
Most children, especially in their teens, want to blend in not stand out. Cultural differences can make this difficult if not impossible.
• I just don’t know what to do to make it stop’
Everyone is helpless when confronted with linguistic and cultural differences. Strategies, posters, e-learning, government initiatives, appeals boards, multi-agency work, goodwill and research do help. But not enough. We need action.
Regardless of nationality, when children who are different are excluded from class, monitored by volunteers in a corridor for months at a time before being moved to yet another school, how can bullying not exist in Torbay or anywhere else in the UK? Something needs to be done, and the strategy is a great start. I hope to be able to help turn it from a strategy into something meaningful.
Guest Blog Post by Kasia McClure – Our Community Matters