Who bullies the bully?

Posted on November 06, 2017 by Lahna Pottle
Categories: Primary, Secondary, 16-19s,

Anti-Bullying Week is 13th-17th November. In this blog, Lahna explains why we need to care for the bullies, and includes a whole lot of resources to use in assemblies, lessons and more...


None of us want to think about it, let alone admit it, but the statistics are telling. We all have bullies in our schools, and they're not always the ones we think of. So it’s shocking to most of us when it was recently revealed that more than a quarter of all 16-18 year olds have admitted to “bullying” or “insulting” someone online. Over a third or all boys have admitted to anti-social behaviour online, matched against 22% of all girls.

These young people aren’t a sort of different breed to those sweet students we see in our classes or groups, these are our students. With the average age of young people getting their first phone at 12, cyber bullying is something affecting our young people from the youngest to the oldest. For too long we’ve only spent our time and energy trying to support those being bullied or worrying about who might be targeted, without ever stopping to consider whether our young person is a bully.

It is important of course to continue to support those in our youth groups who are suffering abuse online and offline but it is imperative that we aim to tackle issues of bullying likely present in our groups. 9 in 10 of those young people who have bullied someone online, have themselves been targeted. These statistics reveal a cycle of bullying, where those who are the bullies become the victim of bullying themselves. We cannot simply support those being bullied without tackling the issue of those who are bullying others.

The reasons for this cycle of bullying are vast, and there is no one reason for it or one way to stop it. But talking honestly and openly with our young people is a start. Campaign group DEMOS is currently asking for schools to start teaching digital citizenship to tackle this, but in the meantime what can we be doing in our schools to help?

  • Let’s create spaces to talk about the issue, not afraid to be honest and open about it. Let’s use language that doesn’t box them in as solely receivers of online abuse. Let them share their stories of when and where they may have said something they shouldn’t have, and reflect on why and what they could have done differently.
  • Let’s continue to teach them about Christ’s radical approach to acceptance and love and what that might look like online. Let’s create challenges of online love, and create a culture where that is celebrated.
  • Let’s teach them emotional maturity and forgiveness, to show them how we respond to abuse. Let’s give them teaching and practical examples of how they can report but not respond to abuse. Let’s teach them healthy alternative ways to express anger, frustration or sadness. Let them discuss what forgiveness means, what letting go looks like and feels like. Let them explore with you and with each other how to break that cycle of bullying.

The video below by Ditch The Label, shows how we need to challenge our understandings of bullies, to recognise that they are facing their own hardships, and that we need to offer pastoral care to the perpetrator as well as the victim. Below are 4 ways you could use this video this Anti-Bullying Week.

1. Assembly; kick off anti-bullying week with an assembly. Use the Anti-Bullying Alliance resource here: https://www.anti-bullyingallia... You can use the video to kick the whole assembly off to get everyone's attention, or use it at the end as a challenging reflection.

2. TV screens around school; you could play the video around school. The brilliant thing about this video is that it doesn't need words, so you could play it silently on screens around school for students to see during breaks/lunch. You could have a sign underneath the screen with a challenge or question such as "Don't judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes".

3. Citizenship/ R.E/ Lessons; if you are covering bullying in any lessons during this week, check out anti-bullying alliance school resources here: https://www.anti-bullyingallia... including a fantastic lesson plan. You could incorporate the video into the lesson as a reflection.

If you are doing anything in schools to honour anti-bullying week, leave it in the comments below! It might just give someone else a helpful idea!