Bullying has been a problem for children for many years. Recent research has shown that it continues to be a major concern for children. The Growing Up in Ireland study found that 40% of children aged 9 reported being victims of bullying in the previous year. The EU Kids Online study reported that 23% of children in Ireland aged 9 to 16 years have experienced some form of bullying, both online and offline. Cyberbullying is an extension of traditional bullying. Most young people who are cyberbullied also experience traditional forms of bullying. Bullying is harmful to both victims and perpetrators and should always be taken seriously.
Sadly, bullying tends to hit the headlines linked to very sad cases of child and youth suicide. This generally results in a flurry of media interest and promises by politicians. More recently there have been some significant initiatives taken in response to media attention and public pressure. The Ombudsman for Children’s Office consulted with children and published a report, Dealing with
Bullying in Schools. The Department of Education and Skills convened an Anti-Bullying forum in 2012 and published an Action Plan on Bullying in January 2013. Time will tell whether this renewed focus on bullying in schools will make a difference.
In the context of the early childhood care and education (ECCE) sector, bullying does not receive much attention. At the time of writing this editorial, discussion is focusing on the aftermath of the RTÉ Breach of Trust investigation. That programme
featured children being bullied by early years staff whose role should have been to nurture and care for them. The ECCE sector needs to give attention to bullying as a potential issue, which may involve children, but also staff as perpetrators. The
focus needs to be on anti-bullying policy and procedures, prevention and best practice. Children in our care deserve no less.
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