Paul Mawer is a Chartered Child Psychologist in the UK and is a member of the Association of Educational Psychologists. He spoke to NoBullying.com about his views on the causes of Bullying and how to talk to children about the causes of bullying.
What would be your definition of Bullying? What are the causes of Bullying?
To a certain extent it is in the eye of the beholder. For example giving bad looks could be regarded as bullying if the child is upset by this (this seems to be reported more by girls than boys). Certainly frequency comes into it, for example with children repeatedly being called names however innocuous could be called bullying if it causes the child to be upset.
With increased media coverage on Bullying and Cyber Bullying is the situation improving?
Difficult to say. There seems to be spates and social media websites have caused problems in the past.
Is Bullying or Cyber Bullying a big issue in your local area?
I visit a large comprehensive one day a week and it does not seem to be a problem that is increasing in terms of the number of cases reported.
Are parents, teachers, and employers dealing with bullied victims or bullies in the right way?Do they understand the causes of bullying?
Not always. Sometimes strategies such as getting the bully to apologise do not have the desired effect. I would say that apart from warning bullies off and occasionally excluding them they do not always help the situation in schools. I always ask children and adults that I see if they have been bullied and when they do report it a good 50% feel that it was not dealt with appropriately.
Are children/people more aggressive online and offline than in the past?
There have been a number of recent cases where children have taken their own lives due to online bullying. In my own experience I know of one student who on their social network site threatened to rape a teacher in one school and this resulted in the child being permanently excluded.
What should a school, parent or manager watch out for in a child’s behaviour that might be a warning sign?
In my personal view, tell tale signs could be becoming less open when using the internet and/or behaviour changing in some way, for example more aggressive with members of the family or more withdrawn.
What can schools/workplaces do to ensure they provide the best education and advice to children/staff on Bullying?
I gave a talk on bullying to students at a local secondary school. The students reported that methods used to stop bullying such as ‘bully boxes’ did not always work as all students could see the box and would know if a student was reporting bullying. Methods such as these need to be carefully thought out and pupils’ views on any methods implemented need to be taken into account. For example, making bully boxes more discrete. Role play would also help and may help with empathizing with the bullied child. Peer mediation has been used successfully in some school with pupils being trained on how to resolve conflicts. With groups of children it is possible to get them to identify where bullying takes place in the school and for the school to take action to stop this, for example staff patrols. It is important to encourage children to report any bullying that they see.
Have you knowledge of any severe cases and consequences and causes of Bullying?
Not severe but I am currently involved with a boy who has not attended school for some considerable time. He has reported to his parents that he has been bullied but refuses to say anything to school for fear of reprisal. He spends most of his time in his bedroom and it is proving almost impossible to get him to go out and come back to school.
What is your view on the openness of the internet – for example online dating, meeting strangers online, befriending people you do not know on social networks?
A great problem especially to vulnerable children. I have known children in Care who have managed to contact their natural parents through social network sites and this has caused tremendous problem within foster placements.
Any tips or advice on how a parent should approach Bullying with their children to ensure they understand how wrong it is?
Encouraging children to report bullying. Following it up with school repeatedly if the bullying does not stop. Looking at websites that offer advice such as Kidscape.
If a child has been Bullied – what is the best advice for them?
Ignoring comments and being encouraged to do this. Organising for the child to have a student or teacher mentor that they can go to in school. Trying to avoid places where bullying is likely to occur in school. Trying to go round with a group rather than on their own and encouraging their friends to either intervene or report bullying. Some children have found Karate helpful, not so they can retaliate but for the confidence it can give them.
Is there likely to be long term effects on children who are Bullied?
Adults have reported to me that being bullied at school has had a long term effect on them and they report that they are less confident and can have difficulties trusting people. Fortunately, in 15 years I have only encountered one university student that was being bullied at university by fellow students.