What to do in school bullying situations

45School bullying is present in different forms. Denouncing, name calling, threatening, nullifying, isolating, pushing, hitting and damaging another person’s property is part of the everyday life of thousands of pupils. Approximately 15 % of children and young people encounter different forms of bullying and violence in school. The use of violence, threatening, defamation and damaging another’s property is prohibited by law and it may also meet the criteria of a criminal offense. The offender may be liable to criminal charges and compensation for his/her actions. Children under the age of 15 years are not legally liable, but he/she may still be liable to compensated for damages. Bullied children and young people have to put up with nervousness, fear and anxiety on a daily basis. The negative emotions caused by bullying and violence quickly have an impact on a child’s self-esteem and mind. At its worst, an experience of bullying may make life difficult still as an adult. Recurring bullying is violence - and violence always leaves a mark. Violence impacts the lives of all parties in some way.

Every one of us can act to reduce bullying and violence.

A bully uses violence as an instrument of power. Violent acts and their threat prevents the bullied person from functioning. The bullied person often feels left out and isolated. Bullying increases the sense of shame, which increases the threshold to ask for help. Unfortunately, a bullied person rarely has the courage to tell anyone about it.

Therefore, all of us, friends, teachers and parent are needed for help and support.

Each of us has the duty to take the first step. We can start with building up the courage to say that all threats of violence or the use of violence is wrong. We can address bullying and defend the bullied person. It is important to listen to the bullied person’s story and take it seriously. Together with the victim of violence, we can think about what would be good to do and where help could be found. With small steps, we can all create a caring culture of our close ones and an atmosphere against violence.

Advice for you, who is being bullied

Do not keep your experiences to yourself. Tell about the bullying at home, school and with friends. By openly talking about the matter, you reduce the bully’s opportunities to use power and continue bullying.

Ask for help and support. Ask a reliable adult to make some time for you to discuss with him/her. This adult may be your own parent, teacher, school curator, school nurse, youth worker or another reliable adult. Demand the adult to intervene. If this does not happen, tell about your concerns to another adult.

Come up with a plan with your friends about how they can best support you, if any bullying takes place.
If asking for help seems difficult or you feel you are not being taken seriously, you can come and chat to RIKUchat. If you wish, you can also remain anonymous. In the chat, it is possible to consider different options for your situation. The chat can be found at the right-hand bottom edge of RIKU’s website and it is open on weekdays at 9.00 am - 3.00 pm, whenever our employees are at their workstation. RIKUchat is open with most certainty on Mondays at 5.00 pm - 7.00 pm.

Advice for the parents and friends of bullied children and young people

Listen and take it seriously, if your child or friend tells you that he/she is being bullied. Be available to the bullied child or young person. Listen calmly and do not get irritated. In many situations, the child or young person does not want to tell anyone they are being bullied, because they are worried about the strong reactions of the listener.

Set out to firmly end the bullying. If necessary, contact the school and make sure that a plan is prepared in school to end the bullying and that its implementation is also followed.
Arrange enough time to discuss with the child, young person or your friend. Together think about why the bullies are bullying and what is wrong with their behaviour. When talking confirm the good and strong features of the bullied person.

Discuss, what bullying feels like and think about what would be good to do in case of each feeling.
Teach the child or young person to calm down. You can practice this together by breathing in deeply, even if you are scared or nervous. Tell him/her that anyone can end up bullied. If the bullied person learns to calm down, he/she will find it easier to understand the idea that he/she will no longer allow bullying.

Remember that even if bullying can be ended, it may have left its mark in the child’s or young person’s self-esteem. Help the bullied person to strengthen his/her self-esteem and enjoy their everyday life. If necessary, seek professional help.

Source: Helsingin Sanomat 7/8/2014 and MLL