How has bullying changed in the last 5 years?

How has bullying changed in the last 5 years?

This week is Anti-Bullying Week. Head of Pastoral Care, Aodain Fleming, looks at how bullying has changed in the last 5 years, presenting us all with new challenges to tackle.

No school can say they have zero bullying and as a school we appreciate the dangers associated with complacent attitudes; we hope that our work with students means that when friendship fall outs occur we can work together as a community to resolve the issues.

So, what are the new challenges that students face in our rapidly changing world? The last decade of technological advances has meant that, whilst we enjoy the benefits of widened access to information, entertainment and communication, it’s also much easier for our children to be vulnerable to bullying online. At St Mary's, we use the 'Girls on Board' approach, teaching our students how to tackle the choppy waters of friendship so that friendship conflict does not lead to online bullying.

Despite a recent article that shows that cyber-bullying is the least common form of bullying, it is still a concern for many parents. How is the UK faring against other countries when it comes to cyber-bullying and online abuse? The answer, it seems, is not very well at all. A global study by OECD think tank the Teaching and Learning International Survey shockingly shows that England’s schools are the worst for cyberbullying. A worrying gendered dimension to cyberbullying has also emerged over recent years: a recent study carried out in Northern Ireland found that more than a quarter of girls who took part in the study, 27%, said they had recently experienced cyber-bullying, compared to 17% of boys. An earlier study conducted for children’s charity Plan International similarly showed that more girls than boys reported online abuse.  

Although it must be noted that boys are less likely to tell others that they have been cyber-bullied, nonetheless concerning gendered aspects to cyber-bullying remain. Commenting in an article in The Guardian, Lucy Russell, campaign manager at Plan International, said: “What we did find is the nature of abuse differs, and if you look at what girls are experiencing offline, for example, street sexual harassment, that is being echoed in the online world. So girls are being told what to wear, how to look, to shut up about their opinions … That really stood out for us.”

So, how do we go about tackling this crisis? Discussions with tutors and others who offer support in school as well as assemblies highlighting issues associated with bullying and internet safety take place throughout the year, and ensure that our girls are prepared to deal with the potential dangers that they could face online. But crucially, our core school values of integrity, justice and respect for human dignity, which are articulated to our girls throughout their school life, are key to ensuring that our girls strive for justice for all, are compassionate to others and aim to make the world a better place.

As we are an all-girls school, our message to your daughter is that #YesSheCan be whomever she wants to be. At St Mary’s, your daughter fulfils her potential, free from the limitations caused by sexist attitudes and sexual harassment that sadly is still an issue at many schools in the UK - one in three girls in mixed secondary schools say they have been sexually harassed. We build our girls’ self-confidence and provide them a space in which their intellectual and social confidence can flourish, so that they leave us as empowered young women who aim high.