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Your Interview: Den McCartney, Safety Net Manager
10:40am Saturday 13th July 2013 in News
LEN TRURO: Doesn’t a bit of playground banter – which could now be classed as bullying – build our character and resilience for real issues in later life? Are you conscious that anti-bullying measures are getting a bit too politically correct?
DEN MCCARTNEY (DM): The difficulty with this situation is that we cannot truly know how a person is feeling on the inside and therefore, what may be classed as “banter” by one person can be received as hurtful and critical depending upon the receiver’s past experience and their relationship with the giver of banter. If “banter” was to carry on over a number of playtimes and the same person or people were getting satisfaction from making the remarks, this is bullying.
We have a responsibility as a society to ensure that anti-bullying measures move with the times and ensure that all members of society feel safe. In our experience anti-bullying measures within schools are not getting too politically correct, they are adapting to a changing world.
BUDDY BOY (EMAIL): In your experience are most bullies also victims and if so how do you stop the cycle?
DM: People who bully can be victims of society as a whole. They may have difficulties with communicating in a positive way and feel isolated and angry and lash out as a result. Many parents whose child has been bullied hear that the bully has a troubled home life, they may have witnessed domestic violence themselves or have difficult relationships with their parents.
Sometimes they are children and young people with special needs who have been provoked and only know how to respond in a violent way. Some children use the power to mask their fear of not being accepted by their peers. These are not excuses for bullying behaviour but need careful consideration before we look at how to best help. Our fledgling secondary school programme for students who display bullying behaviour explores their right to feel safe and the responsibility to keep others safe.
MAGNIFICENT MICK (EMAIL): Whose responsibility is it to clamp down on online bullying and, realistically, is there much that can be done to tackle the problem?
DM: It is everyone’s responsibility to clamp down on online bullying and there is some positive work taking place in schools to address this issue. There needs to be more awareness among parents and children of the impact that a single statement or comments on a hate page can have within seconds upon a child or young person. This can last a lifetime.
It is a challenge to encourage children and young people to stop and think before they post information online or send unkind texts and emails as the impact is instant and impossible to retract. Safety Net is developing a programme to raise awareness of this issue with children and young people, they are the experts in this field and need to be consulted in the best way to tackle the problem. It is an ever evolving issue that, as new technology develops, they will always be the experts in this field.
ALPENZANCE, ONLINE: Do you think you will ever really stop bullying of all forms?
DM: No, but I think we need to continue to encourage society as a whole to look at our behaviour and model to children and young people how to respect and communicate in a positive and assertive way rather than resort to violence or verbal bullying to show how we feel. The work that Safety Net carries out gives children and young people some tools to build their self-esteem and strategies they can use to help to keep themselves safe. We all have the responsibility to keep others safe, too.
COLIN SLADE: As people become more accepting of different races and sexuality will other people become targets for bullies?
DM: I think that intentional bullying is about ignorance, power and fear. People who display bullying behaviour do not swap one category for another consciously and we can all be targeted, even if we do not fit within an identifiable group.
BRIAN PATTERSON: What’s the best thing to advise a child to do at the actual moment they are being bullied - walk away, hit out, come up with a good line? What is best? They may not have an adult nearby to turn to.
DM: This really depends on how unsafe they feel and their relationship with the perpetrator. At Safety Net we teach a strategy called Stop, Think, Go. This encourages the child to think in advance about how unsafe they might feel, what their options are and to make a safe choice for them, also thinking about the consequences.
If they are being verbally bullied they could try an assertive response, standing tall with clear eye contact and a strong tone of voice and then walk away – practising with a mirror at home can help. If it is a physical threat the best idea would be to get away from the person using the safest means, make up an excuse, create a distraction.
We cannot advise a child to fight back but we have taught break away techniques, which help children to feel confident that they could get out of a hold from another person and get to a safe place. Talking to someone afterwards is next on the list if an adult is not present to help at the time.
Graveyard of Success (email): Is bullying worse now people can do it online?
The impact of online bullying is more instant, wider-reaching and public online. Therefore it is an additional concern.
GEOFF BLUNKITT: Is it just a fact of life and kids have to accept it? Isn’t it character-forming?
DM: No. Life challenges, new experiences, learning from relationships and forming our own opinions are character forming. If we say that bullying is a fact of life this negates the impact that it has upon the individual and takes away the responsibility we all have to keep children safe.
NICKY FLYER: What kind of effect does bullying have on people once they’ve grown up?
DM: This depends on the person. Many famous people have experienced bullying – Rhianna, Prince Harry, Lady Ga Ga – and have gone on to be successful in their field. However, it can eat away at a person’s confidence for the rest of their lives. Some suffer from mental health issues, poor educational attainment, which affects their life chances and social exclusion.
Some people at Safety Net have experienced bullying in their past and have been so motivated to keep children safe that they work for an organisation that helps to make a difference.
Safety Net’s children and young people’s team deliver a range of programmes to children and young people who live across Brighton and Hove including: l Playground Buddies – training to help reduce bullying and improve inclusivity in primary school playgrounds.
- Peer mediators – secondary school training for young people in conflict resolution.
- R and R – a programme to increase awareness of young people’s rights and their responsibilities towards others.
- SNAP – Assertiveness training for children and young people who may have experienced bullying and have low self-esteem.
- SNAP ITS – a targeted support programme for children who live in the East Brighton area and have additional needs which could be helped by focussed small group work or 1:1 support.
- All of the programmes teach children that they have the right to feel safe and use the Protective Behaviours personal safety mode to help them to identify when they feel unsafe and the actions they can take to stay safe.
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