In Expert Interviews

Interview: Identifying Bullying

Dr Neville Watson is a Clinical Psychologist who works within a Child & Adolescent Community Health Service (CAMHS).   He also runs a Child & Family Clinical Psychology service called Bright Ideas Psychology, which offers psychological assessment and therapy for children, adolescents, young adults, and their families.

Is bullying as big an issue today as it was say 10 years ago?

I would say yes for two reasons.  The first is that I think it is more widely talked about so we have more awareness of it now.  The second reason being the emergence of ‘cyber bullying’, which now means that bullying is no longer just predominantly ‘face-to-face’ but can occur anywhere at any time.

Do you see a difference in how bullying happens today – for example social media, mobile phones?

I do see a difference as bullying can now occur 24/7 through the use of social media and mobile phones.  Before the use of such, children were able to get away from the direct face-to-face impact of bullying when they were in the safety of their own homes away from the place where the bullying occurred (i.e. school, local neighbourhood etc.)  Now, because of the advancements and availability of smartphones, children can receive bullying phone calls, texts, photo messages, emails, Facebook / twitter messages etc. anytime and anywhere

Have you knowledge of any severe cases and consequences of Bullying?

Within my therapeutic work a lot of the low mood, anxiety, difficulties with confidence / self-esteem that I see, stem from incidents of bullying.  At times I have worked with children who have self-harmed following such incidents because they did not know how else to cope with the thoughts and feelings it caused.

How do you access people who have been bullied in your practice?

Children are not usually referred to me specifically because they are being bullied but because of the psychological affects it is having on them.  It is only through the process of assessment or the therapeutic work that the bullying comes to light.

What types of Cyber bullying have you come across?

I have seen types of cyber bullying that has varied in its nature and severity, but nonetheless still been as upsetting for the young person.  Sometimes it can occur in chat forums / message boards, or quite often through Facebook and Twitter.  I have come across cases of persistent online bullying that has involved individuals encouraging someone to harm themselves (or in extreme cases kill themselves), sending them abusive messages (text and pictures) through every means of electronic media that they can access, and managing to do so even when the victim changes their mobile number or email address.

What is the best advice to give a child who is being bullied?

To immediately tell their parents, teacher, an adult whom they trust and who can act upon their disclosure, or to at least contact an organization such as child line.  If it is happening on a social media site then I would recommend they block the bullies and immediately notify the people running the site.  I would also recommend contacting the police if these options fail to stop it from happening.

Is there likely to be long term effects on people who are Bullied?

For some people yes; but it depends on the nature of the bullying, the length of time it occurs, and the person who is being bullied.  Some people may be able to come through it and move on feeling that they have overcome it and have a sense of resolve.  Others may continue to be affected by if it has had a significant impact upon their psychological wellbeing and self-esteem.

It is likely Cyber Bullying impacts school performance and a child’s relationships?

I think it is very likely.  The bullies quite often attend the same school as the individuals.  But, even if they do not it will still impact upon school performance and relationships.  A child who has been bullied can feel anxious, withdrawn, low in mood, and this can result in difficulties with attention / concentration during lessons and difficulties in initiating and sustaining relationships with their peers.

Are parents and teachers dealing with bullied victims or bullies in the right way?

In my experience in the case of non-cyber bullying parents and teachers often do all they can, but sometimes the bullying can still occur despite their best efforts.  With regards to cyber bullying I think the parents and teachers are often behind the bullies with regards to their technological knowledge and understanding of the various means by which it can occur.  Again. I think parents and teachers try their best but it is very hard to keep young people from accessing social media and using mobile phones, emails, messaging etc as it forms the basis of how young people socialize now.

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