Bullying is something that everyone comes across in life at some stage be it at school, in the
work place or in social situations. If you’re lucky enough to avoid it a close friend, colleague or family member is likely to have went through an experience of bullying. In the past, bullying in schools was easier for teachers to spot and deal with. It came in two main forms, verbal and physical. However in the last few years a new form of bullying has emerged that is far more difficult to deal with and often impossible to identify. The term Cyber bullying was unheard of until relatively recently, particularly in Ireland. Part of the issue of cyber bullying lies in the fact that parents and teachers find it so hard to understand; it is a completely foreign issue to them. It can be carried out over various mediums including text, Snapchat, Whatsapp, email, Facebook, Twitter and an abundance of other social media websites. Cyber bullying is an issue that is only going to grow and part of the problem with it is it often goes hand in hand with what would be identified as more conventional bullying. Indeed, it is extremely difficult to differentiate between the two in both primary and secondary education.
Bully4u is a company that set up in 2010, their goal was to provide workshops for schools to address the issue of cyber bullying along with bullying in general. Their workshops focus on informing parents on teachers on how to recognise, and combat all forms of bullying. As well as information evenings for parents Bully4u provide staff in- service days to help educate teachers in the complex method of spotting signs of cyber bullying within a classroom. Student workshops are another one of the tools used by Bully4u. All workshops work in the same manner with a basic three point plan. Empowering the victims of bullying is their first step. They do this by encouraging them to reach out for help whether it is through a parent, guardian or a teacher. The second is to deal with the bullies themselves. The aim is to help them recognise and alter their behaviour. The third is probably the most difficult step, encouraging bystanders to help by reporting bullies. These three steps are of course nothing new, you will recognise them as familiar methods in combating bullying. However Bully4u are committed to following these steps intensively to secure the best possible outcome for both bullies and those being bullied. Understanding, Communicating and Empowering are the three buzzwords of the organisation. While Bully4u is a non-profit organisation, they employ a dedicated team of full time payed staff.
Jim Harding, Director of Bully4u, feels there is a lot more work to be done in getting parents involved although many are already on board, “I think parents are taking a very hands-off approach in general. They don’t seem to understand how much of a problem it is and while there has been a huge response they need to improve their attendance at our workshops.” Jim explains that cyber bullying is a huge challenge, “It certainly getting worse, an understanding of the mediums through which cyber bullying occurs is needed. Children using these social media apps are getting younger and younger so you have the root of the problem here. Added to the fact that there are constantly new forms of social media coming through such as Snapchat and Omeegle and it’s a very difficult issue to police.”
Bully4y have expanded since 2010 to service schools in 17 counties in Ireland at both primary and secondary school level. Jim explains that this is not the final goal as Bully4u hopes to reach out to every school in the country. Jim explains that cyber bullying is not only a problem with secondary schools as many parents seem to believe. “No that is simply not the case at all. It is prevalent in both primary and secondary education. Children have access to the internet and social media even if their parents or guardians are not aware of the fact. People are starting to recognise this and that is good, but we still have a lot of progress to make.”
Bully4u are accessible to students, parents and schools and as well as the workshops mentioned they are always available to organising private consultations. Jim foresees a positive future in constantly improving methods to dealing with bullying, however he stresses the fact it is an issue which is not likely to disappear anytime soon.