What is mobbing?
Kids often behave aggressively to one another – fighting, scuffling and arguing. This does always indicate problems that require the intervention of grownups. However there is a particular form of kids’ violence – mobbing that can cause serious threats to physical and mental health. It has been proved that children involved in mobbing are at greater risk of experiencing mental health problems – anxiety, depression and addictive behaviour – they tend to have worse grades in school, a bigger likelihood of quitting school and work long-term life prospects. Moreover, the risks are bigger even for those, who do not actively participate in mobbing: in classes, where mobbing takes place worse grades are often observed and higher dissatisfaction with school among all children. Therefore it is vital that teachers pay attention and recognize the signs that can indicate that mobbing is occurring in class. In such a case, immediate intervention by grownups is required.
To help you act quickly, effectively and safely if you suspect mobbing, we advise to follow the ASAP scheme!
How can I recognize mobbing?
Mobbing is long-term abuse, hitting, humiliating or other forms of bullying of other people. It is usually done by several kids of the same age, who gang up on a weaker child:
- On purpose. A chance conflict in the school corridor is not mobbing. But if someone is specially picked on because he or she is weaker or different in some other way, is waited for after school, followed on the street or laughed at in the class WhatsApp correspondence, then this is mobbing.
- For a long time. One fight or one hurtful comment under an Instagram photo is not mobbing. But if someone is picked on, hurt or otherwise harmed day to day or maybe for months on end, then this is mobbing.
- Unequal. If two athletic boys try to find out who is the strongest, this is not mobbing. In a fight, if someone cannot defend themselves or if it’s always one and the same person being laughed at, then this is mobbing.
Mobbing can be in various forms:
- physical mobbing – physical suffering is inflicted or property is damaged, e.g. hitting or tearing up belongings;
- verbal mobbing – the victim suffers through words; for example, he or she is insulted, humiliated or frightened;
- hidden or relationship-based mobbing – the victim’s relations with friends are damaged or his standing among his contemporaries, for example by gossiping about him or excluding him from the group;
- cybermobbing – the victim is forced to suffer over the phone or on the internet, he is sent letter with threat or insults, mean letters or photographs are posted on the internet, etc. More information about cybermobbing can be found on Latvia’s Safer Internet Centre’s internet homepage: www.drossinternets.lv
How does mobbing affect victims, offenders and witnesses?
Mobbing has an equally negative effect on all those involved: victims, offenders and witnesses. If mobbing is occurring in class, then there’s a bigger likelihood that all pupils will experience various problems – worse grades, mental health problems, anxiety, bad moods or depression. Moreover, if somebody is being bullied, there is always the genuine risk of injury and even suicide.
What should I do in a mobbing situation?
Mobbing or suffering from it is not natural and is definitely not a required element of human development. To ensure a child’s safe development, it is important that parents regularly talk to their children and to know how their children are doing. To help you act quickly, effectively and safely if you suspect mobbing, we advise to follow the ASAP scheme:
A – Acknowledge it!
If you notice a schoolchild regularly being excluded from group activities or not taking part in joint activities with others, if during classes you notice marked tiredness or the inability to concentrate on the teaching process, which was not previously characteristic of the child, if you notice that a child is really depressed, anxious or suddenly avoids going to school – then it is worth making sure that the signs are not connected to violent relations in class or abuse.
S – Say it!
It is very important to start talking about mobbing as quickly as possible. If you recognize any of the signs of mobbing, talk and ask children about it. Younger children will often be ready to talk about it if they see that their parents or teacher is worried about them and cares about their problems. Older teenagers may be ashamed or afraid to reveal their experiences, but experience shows that other classmates will often tell grownups about if only they are openly asked about it.
A – Activate!
Most likely, you will need additional support to resolve this problem. Activate specialists, who can help you – the school psychologist, social teacher, other specialists or colleagues you trust. Sometimes teachers are not comfortable admitting that this problem has arisen in their class, but activating help will only prove that you are a professional, who is able to notice and prevent mobbing.
You can seek support:
P – Provide help!
When everything possible has been done to restrict mobbing, help those who have suffered the most from it. Sometimes a simple chat with a child and paying them more attention than unusual can provide him or her with support and significantly reduce risks. Remember that the victim and the offender face the biggest psychic health and ostracization risks, so both will require additional care. In some cases, when you notice worrying signs, for example, scars on hands from self-cutting, frequent wandering about or intoxication caused by substance abuse – help the child to find a specialist or institution that can provide him or her with the necessary support.
How can I start talking to pupils if there are concerns about possible mobbing?
It is important to remember that the problem usually does not lie with just one pupil – mobbing indicates more widespread problems. Therefore it cannot be resolved by punishing one guilty party alone. The most important thinks is to reduce the manifestations of mobbing to a minimum and to identify pupils, who need additional support.
Talk to each person involved individually. This will allow each person to say what they think and to feel heard. “I am concerned about what is happening in class. Therefore, your opinion matters a lot to me – what do you think is really going on?”
Validate emotions, but do not support abuse. “I understand that you feel angry and livid, you have every right to feel like this. But hitting another person is no solution. We cannot allow this.”
Identify risks and help to provide help. “I can see that you are depressed and are spending a lot of time alone. Sometime adolescents in your can manifest problems in the form of a depressive mood, anxiety or even in the desire to self-harm. Do you know a specialist to talk to about this, if necessary?”
It is worth remembering that a child’s parents are his or her lawful representatives and they are entitled to know everything about potential risks to their child. You can never predict how a mobbing situation will develop further, therefore it is always worth informing parents, even if right now the risks do not seem all that great.” At the same time, it is worth preparing an action plan and assessing the extent to which the parents themselves should get involved in resolving the situation. The clearer your action plan, the more the parents will trust your ability to resolve a conflict situation.
How can mobbing be prevented?
The situation must be assessed
To reduce mobbing in schools, the whole school audience must be involved: school staff, parents and schoolchildren in order to:
- define the school’s values and activate them;
- develop an action plan to resolve and prevent mobbing situations;
- implement training for school staff, parents and schoolchildren – what should I do in a mobbing situation?
- implement training for school staff, parents and schoolchildren about inclusion, acceptance of diversity, and mutually respectful communication;
- set an example and implement the knowledge acquired during training in practice and resolve mobbing situations by studying the causes;
- regularly monitoring the situation in school.