This guide to managing bullying is written especially for young people growing up with a visible difference. View this resource and share it with your child.
Sadly, bullying is a common occurrence for young people who look, sound or seem different. As a parent, this can be hard to cope with. But there are things you can do.
On this page we look at some of the practical steps you can take to stop bullying – as well as the emotional support you can offer to your child.
The information on this page has been written to support you, as the parents and carers of young people with visible differences. We have produced separate advice and guidance for children and young people. You might want to share the guides linked below with your child or you could read them together.
- How to stop bullying because of your visible difference.
- A social media guide for young people with a visible difference.
Bullying is when a person or group of people repeatedly do things to upset, hurt or humiliate another person. It can include:
- Repeated and nasty teasing
- Threats and intimidation
- Physical violence
- Hurtful notes, letters or social media posts and comments
Unfortunately, bullying is relatively common among children and young people. Particular targets can be those who are different, which makes young people with a visible difference vulnerable to bullying.
In this video, young people with visible differences talk about their experiences of bullying:
Report it to the school
Bullying often happens at school when children are unsupervised or not being closely monitored, such as in the playground.
If you find out that your child is being bullied, the school has a duty to ensure that it is stopped. “Maintained schools” (schools controlled by the local authority, as opposed to academies) have a legal requirement to safeguard and promote the welfare of children under the Education Act 2002. Academies and private schools have a similar duty under the Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations 2014.
- Schools will generally be supportive if you let them know that your child is the victim of bullying.
- Most schools have their own anti-bullying policy.
- Once the school is informed, keep them up-to-date by reporting new incidents every time they happen and ask for feedback on action taken to stop the bullying.
- Any bullying is unacceptable, but if you can, clarify whether the bullying is related to your child’s visible difference, as this can offer extra legal protection. This is because “severe disfigurement” is classified as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and disability is a legally “protected characteristic”. Knowing the reason for the bullying is also useful context.
For example, if you discover that your child is being bullied because of their visible difference, you could phone (or email) the school and request to speak to the child’s form tutor, the pastoral team or even the senior management. You could say something like this:
Report it to the police
In some instances, the bullying may actually count as a crime and can be reported to the police to investigate. Here are some legal facts about bullying:
- The age when a young person can be charged with a crime in the UK is 10 years (except in Scotland, where it’s 12 years). This is known as the age of criminal responsibility.
- Physical violence such as hitting or kicking someone is assault.
- Harassment, malicious communications, stalking, threatening violence, incitement to violence are all crimes and have been for a long time. Under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, it is against the law to cause alarm or distress in the UK. It is not about the medium, it is about the offence. This applies whether done face to face, by phone, via the internet or on social media.
- Name-calling, repeated teasing or making rude gestures over and over again could also be seen as harassment.
Take a look at our page about hate crime and hate incidents.