Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Young hold key to silencing bullies

Bullying in schools is a serious problem. Recent research showed that 43% of primary school children and 29% of post-primary pupils believed they had been bullied at least once. This can have devastating effects on the victims, leading to academic underachievement, physical and emotion distress, and truancy.

It can manifest itself in eating disorders and, of course, there are well-documented cases of young people taking their lives because of bullying.

And bullying doesn't just take the form of physical confrontation in the playground or classroom. Cyber-bullying is a common phenomenon and is much harder to detect and confront given the plethora of communication devices which young people now have access to.

We often hear of the experiences of young people who have been bullied and how it scarred their lives, but seldom do those who carry out bullying speak out.

Dylan Stewart from Co Down bravely gave an insight into the mind of a bully at an awards ceremony in Dublin yesterday. He was a victim of bullying at primary school but then became a bully when he moved to secondary school.

It was only when he saw a video of the tragic effects of bullying on a young girl who took her own life that he realised the damage he was causing. He along with other pupils at New-Bridge Integrated College introduced a number of initiatives to assist students who were being bullied. Dylan has seen the problems of bullying from both sides and has put that experience to good use by helping his peers.

He is now one of 60 Diana Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, named after Princess Diana, who were given their awards yesterday.

It is encouraging that young people like Dylan, who is only 13, are prepared to stand up and be counted in fighting the scourge of bullying. That takes tremendous courage but then Dylan demonstrated that clearly when admitting that he was once a bully.

His peers are more likely to listen to his advice than that of the most well-meaning adult, because he speaks from experience.

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