Let's talk about bullying
When I was in the Police I was asked to give assemblies at the schools I was the SPOC (single point of contact) on a number of things, one of them was bullying.
"Good morning/afternoon, first of all a few likes and dislikes so we know where we stand. I don't like gossips, I don't like being spoken to by someone with a mouth full of gum, I don't like whispering, I don't like boys with their hands down their trousers, I don't expect anyone to be tapping on their phone, I don't like Bounty Bars, I do however like Peanut M&Ms, I don't like bullying and I will tell you why .....
When I was 9 my dad died and my friend told me that I was not allowed to play at her house or go to her party because I didn't have a dad. So, at the age of 9, not only did I have to come to terms with the fact that my father had died but my friend was ostracising me for that. Not much of a friend was she? I later found out that her parents were splitting up and she was lashing out, sadly she lashed out at me. At the time I wouldn't have known what to do but her circumstances were affecting her behaviour and I was suffering as a consequence. Now, however, I know what to do.
When my brother was 10 he was bullied by his friends because we had a black labrador when all his friends had golden labradors.
Can you see how pathetic this sounds but back in the day it hurt and mattered.
I didn't know who I could talk to as it was a strange and sad time, stiff upper lip and get on with it as it was back in the day. Thankfully I moved schools and I was away from her. I have never seen her since."
I would then get about 30-40 pupils up on stage and do a game of Chinese whispers. I would start off by telling the first person my regular sentence of "I like to drink coffee and eat peanut M&Ms on a Friday evening". This message was then passed along the queue and by the time it got to the last person there was no coffee, no M&Ms and it certainly wasn't Friday!! I would ask along the line what they heard and when someone had skewed my words I would say "and that's how rumours start". The child that had altered my words made the rumour their business and then moved the rumour along further. I don't like gossips.
When anyone tells me anything I see it as a test. I feel if I have been told something in confidence and word got out that it originated from me I would be the gossip. I don't want to be the one to spread unfortunate news or distorted facts, if I was told something about somebody I won't dish it out all over. There are however people in this world who thrive on gossip, who hear something and twist it to their own agenda so that they feel part of it. What's the rationale behind that? Gossips cause problems and then won't be the ones to admit it. If someone tells me something of a gossipy nature I won't tell because it's not my news and not my story.
I also saw a lot of social media arguing that got out of hand, the one way to stop this is to remove yourself from social media altogether but will this stop the issue? NO. The only way to not get involved and embroiled in spats is to step away. Words can't be taken back, an apology can be offered but it won't take the words away. The best thing to do is take a deep breath and walk away. Countless arguments start over he said/she said and it would then impact on home and school. Whilst some social media spats take place away from the school environment it is often talked about in school and the more flames in the fire the more it is kept alight.
Another question I would ask was "in a bullying situation how many victims are there?". Most people would answer 1 or 2 but some children would say more. I feel that anyone who is aware of bullying is also a victim as they are aware. Who isn't affected by news that someone who has being bullied has taken their own life? If you know anyone who is being bullied don't keep it to yourself, tell someone. If you know and don't do anything about it then you're not helping anyone and you're allowing it to continue.
Of course the bully itself might be a victim as well, as shown in my childhood bully experience, not all bullies are naturally mean or vindictive they might be bullying as cry for help. They too need patience and understanding to appreciate what is going on in their life. If you know someone is a bully then say something, so the bully can be helped and hostile situations can be overcome.
I don't profess to be an expert in anything but I do have plenty of experience of sympathetically handling bullying experiences and would be only too happy to chat should you feel you need to.
After all bullying thrives on victims being scared they are not able to talk about it, but in talking about it then someone will be able to help.