Bullying is endemic in Irish society. It affects people of all ages in all walks of life and the explosion of new technology and social media has given those that engage in bullying behaviour the chance to target others in a whole new way.
In his new three part series for RTÉ Education, Clinical Psychologist David Coleman explores the issue of teenage bullying in Ireland. At the core of the series, David offers his therapeutic support to a number of teens and pre-teens, and their families, who have been affected by bullying - either as a target or as a bully. As well as counselling, David gives them practical tips they can use to protect themselves in an attempt to help these youngsters gain perspective on their bullying experiences and show them ways to rebuild their self-esteem. David's aim is to help them try to move beyond this negative period in their lives because the scars of bullying often last long into adulthood if they are not tackled and confronted.
One of the aims of this series is to highlight how traumatic and far-reaching the impact of bullying can be but just as importantly, it is essential that people understand that bullying does not have to be tolerated in silence. There are alternative approaches that can successfully change attitudes and behaviours and David hopes viewers come away from the series with the determination to stand up to every incidence of bullying that they may witness.
One of the challenges facing teenagers is that bullying occurs in every school in Ireland and despite the fact that each school is obliged to have an anti bullying policy in place, the reality is that some schools simply pay lip service to the idea of confronting bullying behaviour. An important message for parents is that a safe school is one that acknowledges bullying and attempts to do something constructive about it and in this series, David visits a number of schools and communities who are involved in progressive anti-bullying programmes that illustrate ways in which this issue can be tackled head on - in a way that others could easily follow if they had the determination to do so.
David points out that bullying is not a form of "toughening up" that children need to pass through as some form of character development, but rather it is an indication that adults are not in charge and are not being responsible. It may be tempting to do nothing until it is your child, but none of us can afford to wait, he says. David believes we need to be proactive and determined that we want a society where people treat each other with respect.
David's main goal is to explode people's sense of powerlessness when they are faced with a bullying situation, and also their lethargy when it comes to dealing with bullying where they have the power to do so because stopping bullying is everyone's responsibility.