New research has found that 69 per cent of young people will experience some degree of bullying before the age of 18 – that is seven in every 10.
Furthermore, 43 per cent of young people experience “high intensity” verbal abuse, while 16 per cent also tell us that they are suffering physical attacks on a highly frequent basis.
The research, produced by anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label, is based on a sample of more than 2,000 students aged from 16 upwards and from across schools and colleges in the UK.
It finds that teachers remain high on the list of those who victims would turn to for help, but when asked to rank their satisfaction with the support that teachers have offered, victims in the study averaged a response of 5.5 out of 10.
Also highlighted within the data is a rise in cyber-bullying, with 21 per cent of students falling victim to high intensity abuse online, something which we fear may be on the increase.
We predict that cyber-bullying will rise given the increased availability and transparency of social networking websites and so it is important to work proactively to try and combat it.
Emphasis must be placed on educating young people about the dangers of using online social networks and forums, with special interest towards “sexting” and the sharing of explicit images. They need to also be taught about the criminal liability of content that is posted online with motives to harass, intimidate, attack or to slander others.
Also highlighted within the research is a list of minority groups most likely to be exposed to high-intensity bullying. Ditch the Label found that those youths with a disability, those from ethnic and religious minorities and LGBT students are most at risk.
Furthermore, the charity has been able to identify not just how experiences of bullying differed between 52 different demographic profiles, but also the behaviours that such groups are likely to exhibit as a result, and the sources of support that were accessed.
When asked why bullies were targeting them, 60 per cent of survey respondents claimed that it was because of their appearance, which highlights a huge issue among the modern youth community.
Thirty-eight per cent of victims told the charity that the bullying was having a huge impact upon their self-esteem, with 25 per cent experiencing suicidal thoughts and 17 per cent truanting from school or college.
Schools and colleges across the UK need to address the issue of appearance-based bullying as a matter of urgency. Outside of the school environment, youths are being bombarded with unrealistic visions of beauty and many are using edited imagery as something that they aspire to look like or as a basis for bullying.
It is up to schools and colleges to educate young people about the deception of these images and to promote “real beauty” and a more diverse way of looking at physical difference. Campaigns, workshops and inspirational speakers are a great way to educate students in a way that is highly interactive and has a high impact.
Among appearance, dimensions such as interests, sexuality, disabilities, household income and race were commonly dubbed as being key sources of bullying by British youths.
When asked to rank chosen sources of support and their satisfaction levels, students found that family members and teachers were the most approachable, closely followed by friends.
Counselling services proved to be a much less popular option, with some students commenting that they felt such services came with unwanted stereotypes and stigmas.
Many students who are bullied continue to experience severe effects on their self-esteem and social lives, with many reporting suicidal thoughts and self-harming tendencies.
Counselling services are essential in rebuilding self-esteem, confidence and good mental health. Available services should be promoted and possibly rebranded to encourage more students to engage with them.
When asked to rank their satisfaction with the support they have received, the 38 per cent of students who turned to a teacher for help and advice gave them an average mark of 5.5 out of 10.
We received several accounts from students who told us that teachers often tended to be dismissive and saw bullying in a less serious light.
Teacher training on bullying protocol is absolutely essential, as teachers increasingly become the first point of call for many students in need. It is important for teachers to understand the warning signs of bullying and to be as approachable as possible so that a student feels comfortable in confiding in him or her.
Ditch the Label is currently operating the first ever peer-to-peer support social network, which has over 34,000 members and is free for anybody to join. We are also hoping to launch our own professional online counselling service in the near future, accessible to teens from across the country.
Case Study: Female aged 18
“When I was 11, I moved to secondary school. Some boys and girls in my class started to laugh at me because of how I looked and they used to whisper behind their hands really loudly about me. Some of them used to trip me up in the corridors, which lasted throughout year 7.
When I was 13, some boys in my year started targeting me and properly shoving me around, it ended up with me being cornered by about 30 people chanting things at me. I told a teacher after this, and it stopped.
At 14, the boys who bullied me in year 7 started again, but this time they said really mean things to me. They said that I shouldn’t be alive.
I have never done anything like self-harm, but bullying did make me think about it. I woke up every day dreading school. I was scared to go to the lessons that they were in with me, and nobody would help.
In the long-term, the bullying has affected my confidence, I have no confidence now, and I find it hard to give my ideas, in case somebody laughs at me.”
Case Study: Male aged 17
“I have been bullied a lot for my sexuality and for my choice in clothes. I like women’s clothes and have been caught wearing small things like knee high socks and have been criticized and called names a lot for it as well.
All of the bullying on sexuality and how I chose to be has made my self-confidence drop.
I have had depression more than once. I would say I have mainly been affected in self-confidence and how I think about myself.
I feel like more support could have been offered or given from other sources, such as private chatrooms and in other ways as well.” Ditch the LabelDitch the Label is a UK anti-bullying charity which provides research and consultancy services to schools and colleges of all sizes. Its work is targeted at 15 to 21-year-olds, while its message is focused on spreading empowerment and inspiration, and showing young people that it is okay to be different. Download the Annual Bullying Survey 2013 at www.ditchthelabel.org/uk-bullying-statistics-2013