Bullying

28th April 2000 at 01:00
"It seemed like everyone was against me, egged on by a core of sods who thought it was funny to bully me... No one was my friend; it was me against the other 150 kids in my year." Oli, a 15-year-old Essex schoolboy, speaks of his own experience of being bullied on the website www.pupiline.net, which he and a friend set up with the aim of giving similarly victimised schoolchildren the chance to talk to each other. The site succeeds in doing what few others can - it speaks with the authentic, unselfconscious voice of victims comforting and advising other victims. As Pupiline.net boasts, it is "by us, for us".

After a quick browse around the forums (they cover other subjects, such as exam stress and "cool things", as well as bullying), I felt uncomfortably like an intruder or an eavesdropper. But, as anyone who has ever been bullied knows all too well, the physical and psychological damage is amplified by the isolation - and isolation is the one thing that the Internet is famously good at combating.

Another recently launched site, Bullying Online (www.bullying.co.uk), shifts the focus more towards teachers and parents of bullied children (though it does offer an expert advice page for young victims). The site provides examples of school bullying policy statements, and sample parents' letters to heads, as well as legal advice (illustrated with recent examples from the courts) and a direct link to the Anti-Bullying Campaign hotline.

Try not to confuse the last site with Bully Online (www.successunlimited.co.uk), the UK Naional Workplace Bullying Advice Line website. This is aimed at a much wider audience - the "half the population" who, it says, are bullied at work. Regular readers of The TES might not be surprised to learn that, at around 20 per cent of nearly 4,000 cases, teachers, lecturers and education professionals are the largest group of callers to the Advice Line.

Of the many other UK-based sites offering sensible advice and easily accessed information, the Scottish Council for Education Research Bullying at School Information pages (www.scre.ac.ukbully) are unusually concise and unpatronising, while Kidscape (www.kidscape.org.ukkidscapebullied.htm) provides good practical advice to pupils on running anti-bullying projects in school, and is sensibly cautious about publishing e-mail from victims (in case they are read by the bullies and just make things worse). Look also at the Childline website (www.childline.org.uk) for factsheets, and its Grapevine area for case histories.

BBC Online's comprehensive Bullying, a survival guide (www.bbc.co.ukeducation bully) offers, among much else (including an excellent links page) a set of celebrity case histories. This is where we learn how Sir Cliff Richard "used to get jumped on regularly and had to fight back all the time" - and about the teacher who used to give Boy George a hard time.

The BBC site - not uniquely - also offers a helping hand to the perpetrators, urging bullies to recognise what they are doing, then pointing them towards counselling.

BILL HICKS


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