In 2023, we'd hope that bullying was a thing of the past in UK schools, but sadly children and teens are still being picked on by other kids and the latest statistics are worrying.
Tessy Ojo, CEO of anti-bullying charity The Diana Award, has told HELLO! that a shocking one in two children experience bullying here in the UK, and the charity's research reports a similar situation each year.
Tessy says: "Sadly, the statistics show bullying behaviour is still a huge issue. We want to get our anti-bullying ambassadors programme in every school."
New research commissioned by the charity for its #BacktoBullying campaign reveals 65 per cent of UK children felt scared of going back to school, and a staggering half of parents dreaded sending their children back to school due to bullying.
Even more concerning is that 24% of parents worry that bullying at school may result in self-harm, whilst 15% worry about their child taking their own life.
The charity, which was founded as a legacy to the late Princess Diana and supported by Princes William and Harry, spoke to 2,000 UK parents and their children aged between 9-15 years old.
Reassuringly, children are feeling supported at home, as almost three quarters feel comfortable enough to confide in their parents or carers if they were being bullied.
This is encouraging, but the statistics are still deeply concerning and clearly more needs to be done to help young people, like The Diana Award's Anti Bullying Ambassadors Programme in schools.
The Diana Award's Tessy Ojo talks to HELLO!...
Tell us about The Diana Award's #BackToBullying campaign – why is it needed so much this year?
Tessy explains: "Each year we’re bombarded with ‘back-to-school’ adverts that depict happy, giggling young people returning to the classroom, [but] our alarming #BackToBullying research results reveal a stark alternate reality for many young people who are frightened to go back to school.
"Parents are often not factored into the back-to-school narrative, as a lot of the time we think they are happy that their children are back off to school. Again, the reality for many families shows it can be an anxious time for the entire family.
"The current cost of living crisis means parents have the additional financial worries of ensuring they kit their children out in the 'right gear' so their child fits in - all of this creates layers of anxiety that isn’t talked about.
"We included these issues in our #BackToBullying campaign this year, which you can see in our emotive film with a shocking twist.
"Our campaign also included an installation which stunned shoppers at Westfield Stratford, featuring child mannequins in new school uniforms posed in scenes of bullying, such as being punched or tripped up by other pupils."
Sixty-five per cent of children have felt scared of going back to school because of bullying. That's a sad statistic. How does that compare to previous years?
"Sadly, year on year our stats reveal a similar story. One in two children experience bullying here in the UK.
"It sometimes feels like there’s an acceptance or normalisation of this as a right of passage. However, given the mental fragility that young people are experiencing at the moment, it is critical that we collectively tackle this both in our schools and in our homes as well."
Why do you think bullying is still such a problem in schools? Children also now have the online world to deal with which continues at home…
"As you say, bullying doesn’t stop at the school gate, but we know children spend their formative years at school. We want to make those years safe, happy and free from bullying.
"We know, from previous research, that the impact of bullying at school can last well into adulthood, having a long-lasting effect on people’s lives and mental health.
"At The Diana Award we empower young people to be front and centre of our work so they can shape positive behaviours in their schools and communities."
What should a child or teen do if they are being bullied?
"Don’t suffer in silence and don’t face it alone. Tell a trusted adult. We hear time and time again how it’s a transformational moment when a young person speaks out to someone they trust."
Are schools being proactive about sorting out bullying cases or is it largely left to parents to help their children?
"We’ve been working with schools for well over two decades and we’ve seen some incredible work to tackle bullying but there’s always more that can be done.
"Sadly, the statistics show bullying behaviour is still a huge issue. We want to get our anti-bullying ambassadors programme in every school."
What should parents do if they suspect their child is being bullied?
"Listen to your child and give them the time to confide in you. Encourage them to be open about their feelings but don’t pressure them.
"Work with the school to tackle the problem and seek solutions. Invest your energy in your child’s wellbeing, giving them the tools to bounce back.
"It is vitally important to offer hope for a better tomorrow. One thing we advise parents never to do is to confront another child who might be in conflict with their child."
The statistics about parents' fears of self-harm and suicide are so worrying. How can we help both children and parents in this situation?
"These are startling statistics. Worrying that your child may be self-harming or suicidal is incredibly hard.
"Show your child that you’re there for whenever they choose to talk. Let them know they can be honest with you about what they’re going through.
"You can also direct them to other external sources for help. For example, we have The Diana Award advice messenger which offers 24/7 text support at diana-award.org.uk."
What help is available for encouraging bullies to change their behaviour?
"This is one of the key areas our Anti Bullying Ambassadors Programme addresses, helping children build empathy as well as the ability to understand the impact of their behaviour on others.
"We believe that this ability to take responsibility for your own behaviour is a critical part of changing the pattern of bullying."
How will The Diana Award’s #BacktoBullying campaign and new video help raise awareness of the bullying that students experience?
"As millions of young people start a new school year, we want to show the stark reality for many who are feeling frightened.
"Everyone in the school community has a role to play in tackling bullying. We want to raise awareness of the issue and let people know that support is out there.
"For anyone wanting to support our work, they can also go directly to our website and help us extend this incredible programme into many more schools."
Show your support for children as they face #BackToBullying this year and for more information, anti-bullying resources and to donate, visit backtobullying.com