3 ways to identify covert and overt bullying in schools

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Bullying in schools is a persistent and alarming problem across the world. It can lead to a number of serious consequences, including mental health problems and self-harming behaviours – even after it has stopped.

In fact, bullying is one of the most prevalent life experiences that can lead to self-harming, which is a growing concern among young people, with rates of self-harm being higher among teenagers than any other age group.

While measuring the extent of bullying in schools and its impact on pupils is a complex and challenging task for educators, there are three key indicators that can help us to notice when an individual is having problems with bullying.

In this post, we’ll touch on each of these to give us a better understanding of how they can help us to identify harmful behaviours in educational settings.

Indicators of bullying

Physical indicators

Though pupils who are victims of bullying may avoid speaking up, there are often physical indicators that can help to identify when someone is being victimised.

The following may be indicative of physical bullying:

Victims may also experience:

While the latter can be more difficult for teachers to identify, they can get a good sense of any problems with a child’s behaviour or wellbeing outside of school by liaising with parents, if there are any concerns.

Though it can be uncomfortable to confront someone you suspect may be a victim, it’s important to pay attention to these physical signs of bullying and take steps to intervene when possible.

Teacher intervention can manifest itself in a number of different ways, and the appropriate course of action should be determined on a case-by-case basis.

For instance, the pupil may simply benefit from a conversation about what’s happening to help them realise what’s going on. Or, in more serious cases, you may deem it necessary to escalate the situation to your superiors.

By providing the necessary support, teachers can work toward creating a culture of kindness and respect, where everyone feels safe and valued.



Social indicators

Not all bullying will leave physical scars – social bullying or verbal bullying could affect people in different ways, including academic performance, emotional well-being, isolation and behavioural health.

For instance, you may notice a pupil who is usually sociable isolating themselves in a classroom setting, or spending their breaks away from their friends.

When it comes to academic performance, there are a plethora of reasons why you may notice a drop off, which is why it’s important to create a positive classroom culture, where pupils feel comfortable in having an open conversation around why they may be struggling.

These indicators offer critical insights into individual and group experiences of bullying and its effects on physical and mental health.

Through careful monitoring of these social indicators, policymakers and educators can create strategies to reduce bullying and help create a safer and more inclusive environment for all.

Technology-based indicators

Bullying has always been a pervasive issue in society, but with the increasing presence of technology, it has taken on a more insidious form. Cyberbullying can not only be easier to perpetrate but also much harder to detect.

Fortunately, technology-based indicators are helping schools and parents identify when their children are being targeted by a cyberbully. In particular, monitoring software can track online activity and alert adults to any instances of harassment.

Additionally, programs that analyse text and email messages can identify when someone is being targeted or threatened online.

While these technologies may not completely eradicate cyberbullying, they are an important tool in the battle against this harmful behaviour.


How to stop bullying

If you do identify any of these signs that someone is being bullied, there are several ways you can help to stop it.

First of all, make sure the victim is aware of the different avenues of support. These might include getting in contact with professional helplines for bullying or speaking to a parent or trusted teacher.

Policies on bullying in schools will vary between institutions, but no matter the individual approach, it’s important to create a positive classroom culture, where students feel supported and able to discuss any concerns they may have.

By law, all public schools across the country are required to have anti-bullying policies in place. Once these have been set, schools should be regularly reviewing and updating their plans, since methods of bullying can evolve and take on many different guises, as we’ve seen during the past decade with the rise of cyberbullying.

Strategies to help bullies change their behaviour

While it’s imperative that victims of bullying receive the support they need, it’s important to also remember that teachers’ duty of care extends to the entire classroom.

This means you should consider ways you can support the perpetrator as well, to help stop bullying from happening inside and out of the classroom. Often there are external factors that lead to someone exhibiting bullying behaviours, and it’s important that these are explored and understood.

One such strategy to suggest is cognitive-behavioural therapy, which can help bullies identify and challenge their negative thoughts and behaviours. You can also encourage them to identify with the victim, and consider how they may be feeling as a result of their actions.

Bullying in schools can acutely affect the victim’s wellbeing, and lead to a number of harmful outcomes including feelings of anxiety, fear or depression.

By communicating the clear consequences of bullying, you will be encouraging the pupil to think differently, which may be enough to help address the issue and modify their behaviour.

With the right resources and support, bullies can learn to change their behaviour and become kinder, more compassionate individuals.