Preventing and responding to bullying
Bullying can have serious and long-term effects on a child. This procedure aims to provide detailed guidance so that you will know what to do if an incident of bullying occurs between children.
If an adult is bullying a child, this should be reported under our child protection procedures.
If a child is bullying another child to the extent that it may cause significant harm, then it will also need to be dealt with under child protection procedures.
What is bullying?
Bullying is behaviour, usually repeated over time, which intentionally hurts another individual or group, physically or emotionally. It can include:
- Verbal teasing or making fun of someone
- Excluding children from games or conversations
- Pressuring other children not to be friends with the person who is being bullied
- Spreading hurtful rumours or passing around inappropriate photographs, images or drawings
- Cyberbullying (i.e. using computers or mobile phones to bully someone)
- Shouting at or verbally abusing someone
- Stealing or damaging someone’s possessions
- Making threats
- Forcing someone to do something embarrassing, harmful or dangerous
- Harassment on the basis of race, gender, sexuality or disability
- Physical or sexual assault (although all sexual incidents and all but very minor physical incidents constitute abuse and must be dealt with in accordance with child protection procedures).
If someone is being bullied, they might not tell anyone directly. This could be because they have been threatened and are afraid to say anything or because they believe that nothing can be done about it and that telling someone will only make it worse. It could also be because they don’t recognise that what is happening to them is bullying. Signs that someone may be being bullied could include:
- Being unhappy, withdrawn and unwilling to spend time in a group, especially during unstructured periods (e.g. break times)
- Being without friends
- Missing meetings and activities at YAC and/or expressing reluctance to attend
- Being clingy with adults
- Appearing to lose possessions or money (things that may really have been stolen by or given away to bullies)
- Unexplained injuries
- Uncharacteristic illness or aggression.
Some of these signs might also indicate abuse at the hands of adults or other negative experiences, so they should be treated with caution.
What to do if you observe a child being bullied or if someone tells you that s/he or another child is being bullied
- Take the child seriously.
- Do not tell her/him to stop being silly or to keep out of the way of the bullies. This will not help and will make the child feel let down and less inclined to tell anyone else.
- Listen to the child’s full account of what is happening and make notes with the child as soon as possible.
If you observe the bullying directly, act assertively to put a stop to it. Explain to all concerned that the incident will have to be reported properly to stop it happening again. Report the bullying to your YAC Leader.
Unless the incident is minor and can be dealt with informally, the child’s parent or carer should be informed. If possible, talk to the parent privately then cover the main points again with the child present. This may help it to be an open topic between them.
If the bullying is taking place in another environment (e.g. at school) you should ask what support the child and parent would like in order to engage with whoever the responsible agencies might be.
If the bullying is taking place within your YAC club the child and parent should be reassured that it will be dealt with as a priority and should be asked for their views on what would be helpful to deal with the situation.
Your YAC Leader should, having spoken to the child who has been bullied and the child’s parent/carer, also speak to the child or children accused of bullying and obtain their account of what has happened (if the child is involved in your club). This should also be noted in writing and the parents/carers of the alleged bully informed. The child and his/her parents should be asked for their views on what should be done to put a stop to any further bullying and to repair the damage that has been done.
Apart from very minor incidents that have been directly observed by an adult and dealt with at the time, all bullying that takes place at a YAC should be discussed with your team within one week. Please do involve YAC HQ if you would like any additional support, even if it’s just a friendly ear. The incident should be discussed and the details of a draft plan drawn up to address the situation, taking into account any suggestions made by the children involved and their parents/carers. The following areas should be covered:
- Details of any apology that has or should be offered by the bully (or bullies)
- Details of any support for the person who has been bullied (e.g. use of a ‘buddy’ scheme, extra input from one of the Branch team, referral to another service such as Child Line 0800 11 11)
- Details of any consequences for the bully, in addition to making an apology
- Details of any support for the bully
- Details of any further work to be done with others in the group, including children who may have observed or encouraged the bullying
- Details of any changes in how the Branch may handle bullying in the future.
The plan should be shared with the children concerned and their parents, and should be reviewed regularly.
If you find out that a child is being cyberbullied using technology it is just as important to take action as it is with other forms of bullying. There are several additional things that you can do to help the child:
- Help the child to keep evidence – e.g. emails, text messages, screen shots and web addresses
- Support them in finding out how to block people, change details or leave certain services where appropriate
- Support the child in containing the material – if you know the person, ask them to remove the content
- Contact the relevant service provider to get the content taken downIf the content is illegal, or you suspect it to be illegal, contact the relevant authorities
- Keep a record in the same way that you would with offline bullying.
Follow up the incident in the same way that you would for offline bullying, using the guidance above.
Adults, especially those working with children, should always behave to the highest professional standards in the online environment. They should consider very carefully their conduct with children via information technology, especially via email, mobile phone and on social networks. Where possible, YAC volunteers should not engage with children online and, where this cannot be avoided, they should behave in the same way that they do offline.
What to do if you are an adult being bullied by a child in YAC
Unfortunately, children sometimes bully adults, either face-to-face or online. It is important that if you believe this is happening to you, you keep an evidence trail and report the incident to your YAC Leader or to YAC HQ. The person being bullied may need support and there may be additional measures to put in place. In addition, the child who is acting as the bully may have needs that should be addressed.