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Ditch the Label’s Annual Bullying Survey 2015 – Report Launched

16/04/2015

ABS2015Today, the anti-bullying charity, Ditch the Label published its annual bullying survey results fro 2015 (ABS 2015). The results, which have been widely cited by news media raise a number of issues for us in modern Society. While the headline that 1 in 2 young people say they have deliberately bullied someone else is eye catching, that is really not the main thrust of the story. I think we can all point to a time when we have said something that maybe hurtful or indeed sent an email that is perhaps unnecessarily harsh or has been interpreted so. For nearly 40 years we have described ‘bullying’ in terms of deliberate and repeated acts against an individual or group who are unable to offer an effective defence. But what about those one off or infrequent incidents that can also impact our lives significantly? Should we always stick to rigid definitions that say there has to be a pattern of behaviours before we act? In the US, there is a gradual move away from this. They recognise that bullying includes behaviours that have the potential to be repeated. In other words, teachers can intervene before any form of aggressive behaviour becomes a regular occurrence. Today I heard one deputy headteacher talk about resilience and more specifically teaching children resilience. I agree that resilience is important and the restorative justice practices he has in his school are remarkable, but in addition to resilience we need to understand why bullying happens – single as well as repeated incidents. We need to ensure that we understand all sides of the bullying conundrum. Often, for me, discussions around resilience can sound like arguments that we need to ‘toughen up’ those kids who are the targets of others’ taunts. But why should we always focus on changing the behaviour of those who are targeted by perpetrators of bullying, surely we should be taking steps to address the reasons why some people bully others?

So what was the real story behind ABS 2015? Well, it was simply this, some young people are bullied because of their appearance – the clothes they wear, their weight, size or body shape, or the colour of their skin. It seems we put a great deal of store by appearance and ridicule those who do not live up to certain expectations. Have we become so shallow that we do not see the value in each and every human being? Have we all become disciples of the religion that is size zero or the ‘V’ shape physique? In this period of austerity, there are many children and young people who do not own nor may ever own the right sort of trainers or the right branded goods. Many of us will never be the ‘right’ shape (whatever that is!) or fit in because we have differing beliefs, heritage, language or accent. Here is what 3,023 young people from UK schools and colleges said:

  • 69% of the total sample had witnessed somebody else being bullied, 43% of whom see it at least once a week.
  • 43% of the total sample had been bullied, 44% of whom are bullied at least once a week.

And appearance?

  • Appearance was cited as the number one reason for  bullying, with 51% of those who were bullied saying they were bullied because of attitudes towards how they look. Of that number: 26% said their weight was targeted, 21% said their bullying related to body shape, 18%  to clothing, 14% to facial features, 9% to the fact that they wore glasses, and 8% because of their hair colour.

In terms of impact:

  • 47% said that they wanted to change their appearance. of that number, 48% wanted teeth whitening, 17% breast implants, 6% liposuction, and 5% botox.

Of those who reported being bullied (just over half the targets of bullying):

  • 92% told a teacher but only 49% of that number were satisfied with the outcome.
  • 86% told a family member and 82% of that number were satisfied with the outcome.
  • 69% to a friend and of that number 72% were satisfied with the outcome.

Of those who did not report being bullied:

  • 32% of which felt it would not be taken seriously.
  • 32% said they were too embarrassed
  • 26% said they were scared of it getting worse.

A copy of the full report can be accessed here.

Ditch The Label has been running anti-bullying surveys for over three years. More so than ever before we understand the reasons why young people are bullied, and this latest report also looks at what young people say about their own aggressive behaviour. Research by anti-bullying charities such as Ditch The Label is incredibly important because, unlike those of us who research it in universities, they work with schools and colleges to improve the life experiences of young people on a daily basis. So the question for me now is, what do I do with this information? There are over three thousand voices in this report, a number I nor any of us can afford to ignore. Yes, methodological purists might argue there are issues with respect to representativeness, but I have found charities are increasingly skilled in undertaking research and much more effective in attracting policy makers. They generate impact and that is something from which we can all learn.

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