The musings of a juggling mother

Rants & raves about life as a woman today, juggling work, home, kids, family, life the universe & everything.

© Mrs Aginoth. The right of Mrs Aginoth to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents act 1988

Monday, November 14, 2005

An "epidemic of bullying"?

Professor Aynsley-Green, who is the children's commissioner for England, has claimed there is an epidemic of bullying in the UK.

Today, once again, the news is headlining a serious assault of a teenager at school

Childline has reported a 42% rise in calls about bullying to its counsellors

But sometimes I wonder - is this another of the scare stories, or is it a real problem?

I know that bullying is a real problem. I'm not denying that it exists, or the damage that it causes. But has it got worse?

I was bullied pretty much every day in primary school, and certainly through the earlier years of secondary school - leading to stays in hospital, surgery and permenant physical damage. I tried all the ways of stopping it that I had heard of: fighting back (I got hurt more & told off by teachers), meekly taking it (frequency increased), making friends with the head bully (she just got to hurt me "in fun"), getting a "gang" of my own (it turned into gang war-fare). To be honest, it only really stopped when I grew & learned how to outsmart the bullies - not an option available to everyone!

The media has been highlighting a number of bullying attacks with weapons, which I never had to face. So are we going the way of America, and soon to have multiple murders in schools? Or is it just that the media has started reporting on something that was mostly hidden before? Either way, is there any solution to the problem?

All schools have had anti-bullying policies for years now, so if it is still increasing (or even if it's just not decreasing) where are we going wrong?


  • At Monday, November 14, 2005 5:14:00 pm, Blogger Stephen (aka Q) said…

    This is an interesting subject. Like you, I suffered a fair amount of bullying when I was in secondary school — though I was never injured to the point of hospitalization!

    I think the kind of violence we're seeing now is more serious. In addition to the school shootings in the USA, and one in Tabor, Alberta, there was that incident in Britain where two teenagers killed a small child. In Canada, we also had the heartless murder of Reena Virk, a British Columbia teenager, ostensibly for sleeping with someone else's boyfriend:

    Reena Virk, 14, is swarmed and beaten under a bridge in Saanich on Vancouver Island by a group of teenagers, mainly girls. Battered and bloodied, she manages to get up and stagger across the bridge toward a bus stop to make her way home. Two of the original attackers drag her back and beat her again and leave her in Victoria's Gorge waterway. That's where police find her body eight days later. Witnesses later testified that one of the accused bragged that she had one foot on Virk's head and smoked a cigarette as Virk lay in the water.

    We've also had several cases in Canada where continual bullying led someone to commit suicide.

    How to account for it, I don't know. It would be nice to point to something like violent video games as an explanation; but I suspect they're only a symptom of a larger problem.

    If you can't identify the cause, it's going to be difficult to identify a solution. But I do think the problem is real.

  • At Monday, November 14, 2005 5:29:00 pm, Blogger Juggling Mother said…

    thanks Q - although I would clarify the Bulger Case (2 x 8yr old boys abducted & killed 2 yr old James Bulger) had nothing to do with bullying, which is defined as ongoing abuse by a person in a position of power.

    I know there were a couple of suicides in my 6th form (16-18yrs) from bullying. they certainly recieved no media coverage, even locally, let alone nationally. Puberty is a pretty vulnerable time emotionally. I don't know if the statistics show a rise in suicide or not - I'll have to check. I know more suicides are attributed to bullying, but suspect that may be because it was never cited as a cause previously.

  • At Tuesday, November 15, 2005 1:25:00 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Look at bullying from a comparative perspective, too. It's only in Anglo-Saxon countries that it gets so horrific. Yet these countries are reputed to have the kindest, friendliest grown-up populations (well, except for the chavs in britain and the rednecks in the States).

    So what's up with that?

    Maybe a law that allows the parents of the bulied child to sue the parents (if any!) of the bully may put a dent in this phenomenon.

  • At Tuesday, November 15, 2005 1:43:00 pm, Blogger Juggling Mother said…

    IMHO sueing NEVER stops things happening. It just makes lawyers rich.

    Despite the TV adverts, we do not have much of a compensation culture in the UK. Nor do I think we want one.

    Also, fining parents for allowing their children to truent has worked so well that since it's introduction, truency figures have increased term on term. I dont think fining parent for their childrens bullying would have any different impact.

  • At Tuesday, November 15, 2005 3:28:00 pm, Blogger Simon Peter said…

    Interesting. I received a little bullying for a while at senior school. Although I was already six foot tall by the age of fourteen, I would periodically be picked on by groups (never a single person) of four, five or six people. I used to fight back and would usually give a good account of myself, but didn't have the skills to really deal with the problem until I took up Judo.

    Funnily enough, the bullying stopped the moment the word got around. Our school had a close knit group of martial arts kids. We never started trouble, but if you messed with one, you messed with us all. Problem solved.

    I understand that some people say that bullies just need to be understood and violence is not the way to solve the problem, but for me I sure did understand them and the absolute promise of violence if any bullying was attempted shut it down in a heartbeat. Just one data point, but I've spoken with enough other martial artists to believe that it's not unusual.

    Alot of the guys who are attracted to martial arts don't like to fight (not a paradox, we like the fitness and self-control side of things) and so they seem like good targets for bullying. Until they start training and gaining martial ability.

  • At Tuesday, November 15, 2005 4:15:00 pm, Blogger Juggling Mother said…

    I think that's a good point Simon. Understanding the bullies is rarely going to make any difference (unless there is a specific problem for specific child who is dealing with it through violence).

    As you were already 6ft when you were bullied and "gave a good account of yourself" I don't think fighting back works very often either.

    What worked was getting your own "gang". It's what finally worked for me too. Enough total wimps together are no good as targets.

    What does that say about our attempts to reduce teenage gangs?


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