Leading neuroscientist says bullying a worse problem than ever

Bullying a worse problem than ever

Bullying a worse problem than ever

With new session of schools having started and kids already back behind their desks, Dr Lynda Shaw, who is a leading child psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist, has given a clarion call to all parents, teachers and care givers to tackle bullying head on as it has become a huge social problem today.

Shaw says: “Bullying is unacceptable. Full stop. There is never a situation that justifies bullying.  It is too awful to contemplate that not only do many of our children not feel safe at school, they may also have problems when they are using their computers in their own home, because we are witnessing a rise in teenage cyber bullying.

It is common knowledge that if children and teenagers bully they often turn into adult bullies.  Bullying needs to be strongly addressed in school by teaching target children what precisely they need to do to help themselves, such as considering body language and how to be assertive, even if they feel insecure and downtrodden.”

Shaw suggests that getting the bully and target to talk is a good idea, but a third party needs to be involved whether it be a teacher, teaching assistant or school counsellor however, she estimates one in four teachers do not recognise even so called ‘light’ bullying and only intervene around 5% of the time.

“The NSPCC report that 38% of young people have been affected by cyber-bullying and 18% of children and young people who are worried about bullying said they would not talk to their parents about it.  8 out of 10 young people believe that cyber bullying is getting worse, according to research from the Diana Award Anti-Bullying Ambassadors programme.  Cyber bullying is spiralling out of control.”

Shaw emphasised not only are teenagers bullying each other but teenagers bullying their parents is also on the increase.  “Teenagers have so much more freedom and sometimes this leads to thoughtless behaviour that can develop into bullying.  Parents are not sure what to do and are afraid that they may alienate their child further or risk their child’s health and safety if they’re not compliant.”  If this is the case Shaw advises parents not to gang up on their teenager, but to find a way to help the teenager feel solidarity with both parents who need to show a united front.  “Female teenagers classically target their mother whilst befriending the father so mum thinks she is alone and victimised, which just fuels the fire.”

“Somewhere along the line we have forgotten how to talk to each other properly.  What we need to remember is bullying can be found in all walks of life and takes many forms. Often bullying leaves no visible scars, so goes unreported and therefore doesn’t show up in statistics. There is no question however that adult bullying is harder to quantify.”

Shaw argues that whenever anyone is made to feel bad about themselves, this can be a clear warning that they are being bullied.  Bullying is increasingly having tragic consequences, with targets often under achieving at school or work, becoming isolated, developing anxiety and depression, and in extreme cases being driven to end their own lives. Shaw believes that with the right help, the targets of bullies can deal with their emotions and bring a successful end to their bullying.

Shaw’s book, ‘Beat the Bullies: Use your brain’ has been designed to help children who are being bullied while giving them a clearer understanding of the wonders of the brain.



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