One of my guilty pleasures now that I’m not working is sitting down with a cuppa to watch ‘This Morning’ on ITV. I like Phil and Holly; I know Holly-bashing is the in thing, but she seems nice enough to me and I love the banter she and Phil have. I also love that the programme is not afraid to tackle difficult subjects (although the lady they had on last week who had had a ‘vagina face lift’ was a bit too much for me!). Last week they launched a campaign to highlight the difficulties so many children have every single day due to bullying.
The campaign was sparked by a call in to the show during a phone-in about bullying. A shattered mother talked through her tears about how her son was suffering at school at the hands of bullies. There were also guests interviewed in the studio; Lucy Alexander – the mother of Felix Alexander, 17 – and Nicola Harteveld – the mother of 14-year-old Megan Evans – shared the tragic stories of how their children committed suicide after being bullied. These horrific stories created a huge response from viewers, leading to the campaign to encourage everyone, but particularly school children, to ‘Be Kind’.
The idea behind the campaign is to ‘pledge’ to watch the video of the stories of Felix and Megan with your children and to have an open conversation about bullying, encouraging them to be kind to those around them and to encourage it in others. It’s a lovely idea, and so simple; after all, kindness costs nothing and is something we are all capable of.
But then, watching yesterday, my heart sank.
Bullying was once again on the menu, with another phone-in open for viewers to talk about bullying issues affecting them. And I sat and watched in disgust, as one viewer spoke of how her visually-impaired granddaughter is bullied, teased and taunted, particularly for having a disability and a white cane.
Am I alone in being utterly appalled that children will do this to each other?
Have I led such a sheltered life that I have (thankfully) never experienced anything like this? It absolutely beggars belief that children feel they can behave like this – in school too – and not face any meaningful consequences. Schools have a legal duty to protect the children in their care from harm and most have strict anti-bullying policies, and yet it happens every day in, most likely, every school. Exclusions, in my day the ultimate punishment and to be avoided at all costs, are seen as an achievement and worn like a badge of honour. Many children simply do not respect authority at all these days. So how on earth can we stop this cruel behaviour?
I feel really sad, actually. And scared for my own children. Big has something of a sensitive nature, and Small is autistic, so already a potential target for bullies (well over half of children with autism are persistently bullied by peers – and that’s the ones we know about), so hearing the stories of parents like Lucy and Nicola frankly scares the crap out of me.
Don’t get me wrong – I know that there’s always been bullying in schools, but at least there was a little respite at the end of the school day once kids were safely back at home. Nowadays, with social media playing such a huge part in our children’s lives, there’s no escape. The bullies can find their victims at any time, night or day. It’s relentless.
I’m really not sure what the answer is. But, if we can at least take responsibility for teaching our children about basic kindness, surely that’s a good place to start?
You can see the ‘Be Kind’ video here.