Change Starts with Us: Together, let's stamp out bullying

We all know that bullying is a serious issue, but sometimes it’s difficult to know how we can make a difference.

I experienced bullying when I was at school, but felt safe every night when I got home to my supportive family unit, where the bullies couldn’t reach me. A lot of today’s children aren’t so lucky. As part of our work with the Anti-Bullying Alliance this Anti-Bullying Week, we’ve created the #ChangeStartsWithUs report to paint a picture of what bullying really means for young people today – when it’s happening, where it’s happening and most importantly, what we can all do to help stop it. And as a mum, the stats make for difficult reading.

Not only is bullying a widespread problem – 1 in 4 children report being bullied once a week or more – but for many kids, it’s going far beyond the playground. Today, bullying exists in many forms: in schools, in the community and online. And its effects are long lasting. In fact, people in their 50s who were bullied as children are more likely to be obese, to earn less, to experience mental health issues and to be out of employment.

Change starts with…

Despite the humbling stats, what came out loud and clear from the report was the message of encouragement from the young people involved, and I’d like to thank them again for their hard work and insights. They’ve given us all some concrete recommendations to help create safer spaces – on and offline – for everyone.

Last week I was very happy to represent O2 at a roundtable event with the Anti-Bullying Alliance, to discuss the report and plans to tackle bullying online and offline. We were joined by the incredible young people who worked on the report, who shared their experiences of bullying and the impact it’s had on them personally. It was easy to see the effect this had on everyone in the room – from heads of charities, to tech companies, parents, schools representatives and social media influencers – and we all left feeling galvanised to make a change.

Our pledge: supporting families

At O2, we’ve done a lot of work in this space, and we know that having a conversation about bullying can be difficult. Our own research found that 63% of parents are worried about bullying through a smart phone, but 48% don’t feel supported enough to deal with it. That’s why we continue to work hard to put the resources in place to help parents and their children feel more empowered and have the open conversations that can help.

For example, as well as our work with the Anti-Bullying Alliance, earlier this year in partnership with the NSPCC, we successfully relaunched NetAware – a website designed for parents to learn more about the latest apps, sites and games their children are using, along with technical and safeguarding tips to help them feel more confident about talking to their children about their online activity.

What’s next?

What’s become really clear through our work with the Anti-Bullying Alliance is that no one group has the silver bullet to tackle bullying. It’s only through working collaboratively with schools, parents, government, tech companies, the media, influencers and young people themselves that we are going to make it a thing of the past. Now, it’s up to each one of us to listen to the voices of the young people the report represents, to take these findings and turn them into real action to stamp out bullying once and for all.

Change starts with all of us.