This section is for young people who are concerned about bullying. Maybe you are being bullied or a friend is, or you have become involved in some type of bullying yourself?
The information here will help you to understand bullying as well as your rights and how you can get help. It’s important that you can understand the effects of bullying and figure out ways of getting help and stopping the problem.
‘Bullying is repeated aggression, verbal, psychological or physical, racial, sexual or relational, conducted by an individual or group against others.’ Cool School Anti Bullying Programme
Check out the Finding Help page for contact details of organisations, websites and help lines that provide information, advice and support.
If you are being bullied, you are not alone. Bullying is a common problem and help is available. All bullying is wrong and it is important that you talk about the problem with someone you can trust.
Bullying is a common problem among teens in Ireland. In September 2010, The Irish Independent newspaper reported that 70% of teens have experienced some kind of bullying. Verbal bullying was reported as the biggest problem (name calling, teasing or taunting).
Other types of bullying reported were ‘exclusion bullying’ – deliberately isolating or leaving someone out – and cyber bullying – using phones or the internet to bully someone.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (which Ireland signed up to in 1992) provides many rights to all children and young people. It says that you have the right:
For more information on your rights, check out this Unicef document.
If you are being bullied, remember, you are not alone. Bullying is a common problem and help is available. All bullying is wrong and it is important that you talk about the problem with someone you can trust.
A: Bullying involves repeatedly harming someone – emotionally, physically or both. It can involve:
‘Sometimes people say "sticks and stones may break your bones but names will never hurt you". This isn't true. Names do hurt. A lot! Sometimes you can hear the words in your head long after it's happened. It can be hard to forget what people say about you and the way people can laugh at you. You just have to try your best not to believe any of it is true.’ Carly, 13
A: There can be a number of reasons why people may choose to bully:
A: No, bullying is not a part of growing up. It is a serious problem.
Have you tried talking to someone but they said things like:
If you are being bullied, then it is bad and it is a big deal
Life always has its ups and downs and some problems, if ignored, do pass. Disagreements among friends, changing friendships and experiencing a range of feelings is a part of growing up – we all have good days and bad days. But when most days seem like bad days or problems don’t go away this is a bigger issue and you need help.
When you talk to an adult about this serious problem, choose a time when you know they are able to listen and give you their full attention. If the adult is busy or distracted and there is a lot going on, your problem may not be fully heard. It is important that you persist and make yourself heard.
Go to the section on what can I do below for ideas. If you don’t get a helpful response from an adult you are talking to, then try to think of someone else who will listen.
A: If you are being bullied you might:
A: Long-term bullying can lead to depression and feelings that you are worthless. Some of these effects can last for a long time, even into adulthood. A person who is bullied may become an adult who finds it hard to trust others, has problems making or keeping friends and lacks in confidence or self-worth.
If you have been bullied long term you may need specialised help from someone like a counsellor or therapist. Talk to someone as soon as possible. A parent or your family doctor will be able to help you find someone who can support you with your feelings of depression, stress or anxiety.
During times of depression, sadness, stress or emotional anxiety, some people may ‘self harm’ (e.g. self cutting, abusing alcohol) or they may feel suicidal. This is very serious. If this is happening for you, you need help as soon as possible.
A: Even if you think no one understands what you are going through, remember there is help available for you.
The first thing you should do is talk to someone about the self harming and the feelings you are having. Talk to a friend, family member or someone you know you can trust. Feeling depressed or stressed is not uncommon and when you talk about the problem you may feel a sense of relief. Even just talking about it can help.
You can link in with your school counsellor or doctor for advice also. Your GP (general practitioner – family doctor) can give advice about counselling services in your area.
It is important that you look after yourself at this time and take the right steps for you. Some of the tips in our Well Being section will also be helpful for you.
A: You probably ask yourself this question often. Why are they picking on me?
Some teenagers bully others because they are jealous, they have problems with anger, they are being bullied themselves or they have low self esteem and want to feel in control or that they have some kind of power.
Some young people are bullied for no particular reason, simply because they may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Someone who wants to bully will pick out something to be critical about. They may make cruel comments about:
Whatever it is, the person bullying will pick out something to try and ‘push your buttons’. It’s probably something that most other people don’t even notice or think about but for some reason, the person bullying uses it to target you.
For some people, the things they do or say can attract someone who bullies. Someone who brags or boasts about things may draw the attention of someone else who is jealous. Boasting can sometimes rub people up the wrong way. If you are proud of an achievement, remember to be modest about it. You can take pride in what you have done without making a big deal about it. Celebrate your achievements with people who are important to you – your friends and your family.
Whatever the reason, bullying is not fair and it’s not your fault.
A: It's good to talk with friends, they may be able to support you, but adult help is needed in order to get the best results.
Most adults know a lot about bullying and how to overcome it. Even if they don’t know what to do straight away, they will want to help you sort it out. If you go to an adult who doesn’t know what to do, find someone else who does.
There is no need to be embarrassed as many people are bullied and we all need help at times. Talking about bullying is not ‘telling tales’ or ‘snitching’.
You have a right to be safe and free from harassment or attacks.
No one should be silent about bullying. It’s a big issue so don't be scared about speaking out. The adults you talk with will most likely understand your worries. Trust that they will be discreet about the problem.
Say to whoever you choose to talk to if you're scared about making the report and that you think the bullying will get worse when you report it. Adults should take this into account when they are dealing with it. When dealing with the person bullying, the adults may not need to say where the information has come from. Even if the person bullying does find out you made reports, you will be safer. People who bully thrive on secrecy and thinking they are getting away with it.
Chances are you are not the only person being bullied. When you speak out you are probably helping other people too.
For someone who bullies, secrecy is their best weapon. Breaking the silence is the most important part in overcoming or ending the bullying.
A: The Department of Education recommends that all schools have an Anti-Bullying Policy in place. Bullying is a serious issue and should never be ignored. Information about your school policy should be available to you. If it’s not, ask for it.
Your school’s Anti-Bullying Policy may have information about types of bullying, your rights and responsibilities and what steps the school will take in dealing with bullying.
Your school may have a ‘Buddy System’ or a ‘Mentoring Programme’ where older pupils are trained in ‘listening skills’ and act as a support person for students who may need it.
Talk with your teacher or school counsellor about the problem you’re having.
Be sure to talk with your parents/carers also. If you feel you’re not getting enough help at school, your parents or another trusted adult may be able to help you with this.
A: While fighting back may seem like self defence, it could only make things worse for you. You are at risk of physical danger or of causing hurt to someone else.
Fighting back will not stop the problem. By becoming involved in fights, you are just involving yourself in anti-social behaviour. If you are physically assaulted by someone, defend yourself as much as you can, shout for help and get away from the situation as quickly as possible.
A: This is difficult as adults are role models and we expect them to do the right thing.
A: If you feel that a teacher regularly humiliates you, uses sarcasm, insults or makes negative comments about you, your appearance, background, personality or academic progress then this is a serious issue.
If you feel threatened or intimidated by a teacher, you will need to report this as soon as possible. Talk to your parents, the school counsellor, your year head or the school principal.
It may be helpful to bring a friend with you. If a teacher is bullying you, your classmates will certainly have noticed that something is happening. Ask them for their help.
As you go through secondary school, the relationship you have with some teachers may be less formal than with others, some teachers may enjoy some joking and light-hearted slagging in the classroom. If everyone in the classroom joins in with this and the slagging involves all people equally, then this is okay. If you think you are being singled out though, then this is a problem.
Also, a teacher may make a joke about something and classmates who are bullying may use this comment as another thing to jibe about. The teacher may not realise that this light-hearted comment will be used by the people who are bullying.
If this is happening to you, you could discreetly say this to your teacher, ‘I know you were just joking with me in the classroom, but in the yard I’ve been getting a hard time.’
Most likely your teacher will be glad you spoke up about it and will try to understand things from your point of view. Probably the teacher will also want to help you deal with what’s happening, or suggest that you talk to the Guidance Counsellor.
It is not bullying if a teacher criticises your work in a fair way or, if after you have done something wrong, your teacher puts in place some type of consequences for you such as extra homework or detention. Constructive criticism and discipline are a part of school life.
It is unfair if a student wrongly accuses a teacher of bullying just because they disagree or don’t like it when the teacher has to put rules in place.
A: This is homophobic bullying. Homophobia is the hatred of or when people discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people (LGBT), or people they think may be LGBT. The term includes biphobia (hatred of bisexual people) and transphobia (hatred of transgender people).
Anti-gay graffiti, spreading rumours that someone is gay, being abusive, jeering or violence towards someone who is LGBT are all types of homophobia.
Sometimes people who bully may target another because they are LGBT. People who are heterosexual (sexually and emotionally attracted to someone of the opposite sex) can also be victims of homophobia because the people bullying think that they are LGBT.
Transgender means someone whose gender differs from the one they were given at birth. Someone who is transgender may identify as male, female or feel that neither label fits. To express their gender, some transgender people may choose to change from their birth gender by changing their name or the way they dress. Others may choose to make a medical transition with the help of specialists who prescribe hormones and/or surgery.
Sometimes people use the word ‘gay’ in a casual manner to describe something they don’t like, e.g. ‘that car is so gay’. This homophobic language sends negative messages and could make people who are LGBT feel they don’t belong or there is something negative about being gay.
The victim of homophobic bullying can feel lonely and isolated. Because of homophobia, they might be afraid to talk to anyone about their sexual or gender identity. They may feel pressure to be in heterosexual relationships so bullying stops, hoping this will mean they are accepted by others.
Homophobia is just as serious as any other type of bullying. Everyone has the right to be treated equally and with respect.
Being LGBT is not just about physical attraction, it includes the basic need to be accepted, loved and loved in return. As with all close relationships, the relationships between people who are LGBT are private and personal.
If your friends have been bullying someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender you should call them up on it. Point out that what they are doing is wrong. Explain that saying ‘that’s gay’ is an offensive term.
Support the victim of the bullying by letting them know you disagree with it and do not want to be part of it. It is also important for teachers or supervisors to know about the bullying.
Breaking silence is the key to stopping it. Report the bullying.
A: Yes, this is called sexual bullying. It is wrong to put others under pressure to have sex or to do anything they aren’t happy about, this includes touching or being touched in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Both boys and girls can sexually bully another person. Sexual bullying doesn’t just happen in relationships, it can happen in groups of friends too. Check out the Q&A below for more information.
Sexual intimacy belongs in a relationship where there is respect, understanding and trust with both people feeling safe, valued and cared for.
Be as assertive as you can and let your partner know that you are feeling under pressure. You may need to say this several times to get your point across. If the pressure continues, it may be time for you to get out of the relationship.
Even if you really like the other person, if they cannot respect your wishes this is not good enough and means your relationship is unhealthy.
In Ireland, the age which someone can legally have sex is 17. This is known as the age of consent. If you go to the website Before You Decide you can find more information about this law as well as advice and tips regarding sexual relationships
Having sex with someone without their consent or forcing someone to do something sexual against their will is a criminal offence. Sexual assault is any unwanted sexual contact. You can find out more about this at Reach Out.
A: Some people stand by and watch bullying and people who bully love to have an audience. Those who laugh when someone is being harassed or picked on may as well be doing the bullying themselves as their laughter supports the bully. Others may see the bullying and disapprove of it but do nothing about it.
Ask yourself, have you ever thought some of these things…
Being a bystander is giving the message that bullying is ok and allows it to continue.
A: Think about it from your own perspective. How would you feel if this was happening to you? If you were being bullied what would you want others to do to help you?
Be a friend, stand up for your own principles and do what you believe is right.
If you see bullying, it’s important that you help out. It’s not just up to parents and teachers to sort out.
One of the best ways of ending and preventing bullying is when young people stand up for each other and say no to bullying.
A: If a friend is being bullied they will need your help. Check out the section above on 'What can I do?' for more tips.
Breaking the silence is the best way of putting a stop to bullying.
Check out Watch Your Space for more info, a short video and lots of tips about cyberbullying.
A: Being part of a group is an important part of growing up and helps you develop your relationship and communication skills. It helps you feel like you belong and gives you opportunities to learn about yourself and others.
In some friendship circles there may be one thing in common, for example an interest in a type of sport, fashion or music. People feel relaxed and welcome in the group.
Some young people may be part of several different types of groups as their interests grow or change.
Other groups or ‘cliques’ can have a strict membership code and may restrict people from joining. They may be more about being popular and the group itself may decide they are ‘cooler’ or better than others.
When people are in a clique, they tend to do everything together and may refuse to let other or ‘new’ people be part of their circle. There may be one person who seems to be the ‘leader’ and what he or she says goes.
People in cliques may jeer at others, humiliate people or choose to exclude. The ‘rules’ of the clique may be kept hidden from outsiders.
A: Maybe now that you have read about cliques, you realise that you are part of one.
If you think you have become part of a clique, maybe its time to leave it and find a group that has less rules and which is more fun to be part of. By leaving a clique, you will have opportunities to meet new friends and try out new things.
A: We are only having a laugh! So what is the difference between ‘joking’ and ‘jeering’?
There is a big difference between having a laugh with someone and taunting someone.
A bit of teasing, slagging or joking between people is fine but only if it is not meant to be hurtful and all people involved are laughing. If teasing turns into taunting then it needs to stop.
A: For all teenagers, feeling accepted and part of a group is important. Your peers (people the same age / school year / group) can influence you in many ways and you may have similar tastes in music, fashion or pastimes.
Your peers can be positive role models in your life, a friend who has goals and dreams may inspire you to have your own goals. Sometimes, however, within a group people can feel pressure to ‘fit in’. You may be pressured to break the rules or try something out, such as smoking or drinking alcohol.
Your friends should accept you for who you are and respect the positive choices you make.
With peer pressure, people will say things like ‘Come on, everyone's doing it’ or ‘What are you afraid of? No one will find out.’ While you may feel the ‘pressure’, your peers should be able to accept it when you say no.
If you feel forced into something or threatened if you don't join in then this is bullying. If you are excluded from a group because you won't join in this is also a type of bullying.
A: Some questions you can ask yourself.
If you answered yes to many of these things, you have probably been involved in bullying behaviour.
You may think you are popular among some people who laugh at your bullying behaviour. The truth is, those people are probably afraid of you too.
Talk to someone about what you’ve been involved in. A trusted adult like a parent or school counsellor may be able to help you in making a fresh start. Try to find new ways of managing anger – get active, develop positive friendships, talk to an adult about your feelings. Make a fresh start and try a new hobby so you can get to know new people.
If you are part of a clique, leave it and find a new friendship group.
It’s never too late to change.
It's important that you talk with someone and get some help. You could link in with your school counsellor or an adult you know and trust.
Think about how you approach people and the language you use. Sometimes people can use aggressive or hostile language without realising it.
Saying ‘Move it’ or ‘What’s your problem?’ could sound hostile. But saying ‘I need to get past’ or ‘Is there something wrong?’ sounds assertive without intimidating or scaring someone.