Policing the Playground: do anti-bullying campaigns do more harm than good?

Sunday 1 November, 1.45pm until 3.15pm, Café

Monday 16 November is the start of the Anti-Bullying Alliance’s (ABA) 2009 Anti-Bullying Week, focusing on ‘cyberbullying’ by text and on the internet. The ABA aims to ‘reduce bullying’ and ‘create a safer environment for children’. But why has bullying become such a big issue in recent years? The notion that children can be ‘scarred for life’ as a result of insults hurled at them by their fellow pupils has become accepted as common sense. As a result, the raft of behavioural codes that now regulate playground behaviour, and the increasingly interventionist role of adults in children’s disputes, is seen as a necessary and humane development. Anti-bullying initiatives are widely considered an unquestionable good thing, since critics would appear to be apologising for bullies. But with the definition of bullying expanding to include electronic name-calling and even exclusion from particular friendship groups, is the issue less clear-cut than it seems? And do anti-bullying campaigns really work anyway?

Critics suggest anti-bullying initiatives can do more harm than good. If teachers are encouraged to protect pupils from every playground spat, could it undermine children’s ability to to handle difficult events in the future? Does the concern with cyberbullying reflect an unhelpful broadening of the definition of bullying? Or is it imperative that adults try to nip potential problems in the bud before they escalate?

Dr Simon Knight
senior youth work practitioner; vice chair, Play Scotland

Margaret Morrissey
founder, ParentsOutloud.com; chairman of a PTA; champion of parent’s views and parental involvement in education since 1980s

Jenni Russell
columnist and broadcaster; writer, Evening Standard, Sunday Times and Guardian; 2011 winner of Orwell Prize for Political Journalism

Professor Peter K Smith
head, Unit for School and Family Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London; co-editor, Bullying in Schools: how successful can interventions be?

Mark Vickers
educational consultant, Olive Education and Anti-Bullying Aliance; project lead, 'Tackling Bullying in the Playground'

Beverley Marshall
volunteer, The Samaritans

Produced by
Beverley Marshall volunteer, The Samaritans
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