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Can't Bully Me: Beating The Bullies

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Dana Stevens | 14:55 UK time, Thursday, 25 November 2010

What happens when bullying gets so bad that you can't even go to school? That's the dilemma faced by the students featured in tonight's programme Can't Bully Me. Too traumatised for mainstream school, they're given the opportunity for a fresh start by the Red Balloon Learner Centres where specialist support helps them develop their self-confidence and rebuild their lives. Director of Can't Bully Me, Kate Taunton, explains why she wanted to share these inspiring stories:

The young people in the film were all bullied at their previous schools but their experiences were very varied. They each tell their individual stories in their own unique way in the film and express themselves brilliantly. It's taken real courage for them to speak so honestly and I'm sure their accounts will chime with many people watching. I felt it was important to show the huge impact bullying can have, but also that it is possible to recover from these experiences and that being a victim of bullying doesn't have to be the end of the story - things can improve.

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We filmed with a small crew of two over eight months at the Red Balloon Learner centre in Cambridge and a little bit at the centre in London. What struck me was that the relationships between the staff and students were very strong and very positive. There was always someone to turn to when something was up and the students felt that the staff were on their side. Some of the young people had lost their trust in adults as well as other teenagers, so this was particularly important if they were going to move on. I'm really grateful to the staff for letting us in to see the recovery process first hand, it's down to them that the kids felt able to be so open and I think they do an incredible job.

Can't Bully Me (Billy)

Billy, a student featured in Can't Bully Me

It's been really inspiring getting to know the staff and students of Red Balloon over the past year. I know that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a Red Balloon centre on their doorstep, but I hope that the film will raise awareness of the impact of bullying more generally and spark a useful discussion about ways we can address it.

Have you got advice about how to beat the bullies? Share your experiences and advice here on the blog.

Kate Taunton is the director of Can't Bully Me on BBC Three tonight at 9pm.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Excellent programme. I picked up some really useful tips from the Pupils/Teenagers who have been bullied. Well done and very brave of them. Hopefully with some of this advice, we can move forward now.

    My child (13 now) has been bullied at Boarding School for at least 2yrs and as Parents we are really distraught as to what to do to help. It has got to a point now that we are going to move School. We have complained constantly to the School about the Child that is doing the bullying and no one seems to listen to us, they aren't doing anything about the Child/Teenager who is doing the bullying and just say that they should both try to get along, but it is the evil tactics the bully is doing behind the Adults backs, she is destroying my childs confidence and self asteme and ostrasising and alienating her from all other pupils who in turn do not want to become victims. My daughter was such a confident, outgoing, friendly and clever person but this has all turned her into a near nervous wreck. We have to act now before its too late.
    Thank you again for this useful programme.

  • Comment number 2.

    I agree, a really good program to raise awareness. What really upsets me is that the victims or targets of bullying have to find ways to cope with bullies, and yet the bullies just carry on living their lives. It is a fact that *most* bullies are underachieving both accademically and socially. They lack empathy and senstivity and all in all are pretty miserable and unhappy people who score up by taking their negative paridigm of the world out on others. In all, these kids are growing into adults that don't really have much of a contribution to make to the world. And it is also a fact that most victims or targets of bullying are senstive, empathic, normally gifted in some way, and generally interesting people to hang out with. This is demonstrated in the film when Billy strikes up his friendship with Dan, and Dan comments on how interesting Billy is. All in all, these kids have much to offer the world. And yet the jealous, resentful, or just those that have no sense of diversity rip away the lives of these amazing children.

    This has got to stop. We need support systems in place for the victims, but moreover, we need to well and truley figure out put and end to the bullies. There was a comment in the film that erked me slightly, which was when they where listing ways on the white board to be 'bully-proof'. What a shame that those that have had their right to education and childhood ripped away, then have to find coping strategies. I know this is immportant to build their confidence up, but more energy needs to be put into changing the culture of bullying and giving bullies coping strategies I.E. how they can learn not to bully anymore!

    If somebody gets mugged, they may like in the future to learn self defence and have some counselling etc but we would mainly like to see the mugger locked away. Ofcourse we can't lock bullies away, but harsher action needs to be taken.

    Most schools have anti-bullying procedures to follow now, but as Ems expresses above, they do not always seem to work. Ems do they have an anti-bully procedure in the school? My son has just started at a state school and they do have one in place. But still my son tells me that there is fighting on the field and no-body intervenes. Also, a lot of bullying happens outside of school now - especially IF the bullies know the teachers are on to them. This was well illustrated in the film. My son got thrown into someone's garden on the way back from school today, and even though he hates fighting, violence of any kind, he hit out at the bully for the first time. This ended in near disater when the bully turned to beat him up. Luckily his freind was with him and managed to push the bully kid away. But it's hard fopr friends to keep sticking up for the victims because they don't want to be picked on either!

    It's my son's first year in high scool, and i really hope these incidents are isolated. I am 34 now and had my LIFE RUINED by bullying. I look back on all the things i was too scared to do, and you know what, i was pretty clever, i could have been something. It's only now that i am able to socialise and have a good circle of friends. I went through life assuming i was unlikeable. It's frustrating to look back and realise that i was fine all along.

    Times are changing. But we need a zero-tollerence policy for bullying. And you know what, these bullies need help to stop. They are destroying lives and they get off on the power. We ahd a guy commit suicide at my school through bullying. And they were STILL writing nasty things about him on the tables and loo walls etc (before facebook, ofcourse that is the replacement now) So they are dangerous and pathological in theior actions. It is not a fact of life. If it was survival of the fittest like some people say, normally those laws in nature work on who is strong and valuable to the eco-system in general. Well this would eminate most victims of bullying, not the bullies. Like i say, the victims normally have amazing qualities to offer a school and a community and if we are supporting diversity which we should be, we need to turn this whole thing around.

  • Comment number 3.

    Good Show, Is It Ever On Again?

  • Comment number 4.

    Good show, when is it on agen?

  • Comment number 5.

    For over 30 years I have been invoved in trying to understand and overcome the problems of bullying, and this programme was a great help. It clearly illustrates that the victims of bullying have poor development of the 8 skills we need to succeed, especially the last five (social and emotional skils).
    1. Effective Learning Skills - We need to learn to survive but unless we develop our ability to learn throughout our life the continually changing situations and difficulties in the 21st century will destroy/defeat us.
    2. Communication skills – concentration, verbal skills (speaking, listening, reading, writing), non-verbal skills (visual gestures, body language, touch)
    3. Cognitive (thinking) skills - analytical and conceptual (systemic) thinking
    4. Self-awareness
    5. Managing Feelings
    6. Motivation
    7. Empathy
    8. Social skills
    Red ballon is attempting to help with the learning of these skills (self-esteem is dependent on them and I thought the programme showed that unless these factors are understood and addressed, any child can become a serious victim of bullying.
    Therefore if our society is to be really improved – developing these 8 skills is essential.

  • Comment number 6.

    I was the victim of bullying for more than 10 years culminating in getting stabbed in a street brawl by one of my tormentors. He was not convicted due to a technicality, leaving me even further frustrated by a seemingly failing process.

    @keeffeeley, you are basing you assumption on a sample of 8 people shown in this great documentary.

    I personally have an IQ of 138, am highly self motivated and have no difficulty communicating.

    I have since gone on to be an IT Executive with a team of 1,000 people all over the world. Hope is not lost for the victims of bullying, I simply urge you to battle on.

  • Comment number 7.

    Keefeeley, it's interesting that i read your post first thinking you were reffering to bullies, not the targets of....then i re-read and was surprised. All of those 8 skills you have listed apply to those that bully, baring the obvious problems that come with autism or asberger. I wish i could remember the author of a really well researched book on bullying, i will look it up for you because it might be of some help in your research. It is actually the other way round in *most* case, although of course their are always exceptions on both sides because we are dealing with individuals.

    It is a fact that most targets of bullying are gifted and empathic to a high degree. The obvious old-hat name call would be that of a 'swat' ie. it's not cool to learn. People who bully find it hard to express their emotions, and some of the frustrations they suffer stem from learned behaviour at home (this is not always a condition of deprivation either, many that bully come from comparatively privledged backgounds, but lack nurturing in terms of healthy emotional and social developement, albiet they may be clever which in turn can cause even more manipulative bullying. People that bully are unhappy, and that is why they want to drag the rest of the world down with them. Being unhappy demonstrates a probable failer in all the '8 skills' you listed. Best of luck in your on-going research.

  • Comment number 8.

    Oh, and just an afterthought. It is highly probable (and certainly in my case as i was forced to leave school, at 14) that all these skills are driven out of the victims of bullying, due to the huge depleating effect that bullying has. If a person is being assessed on their emotional, social and accademic state within these criteria after bullying has taken place, ofcourse all of these components will be effected. You can not address a true foundation of persoanlity in a person who has had that ripped away. I went on in later life after masses of counselling to complete a degree for which i recieved an honours, a masters for which i recieved a distiction and am now persuing creative interests that i never had the confidence to take part in before. In the past i could not engage in social situations, lacked comminication skills etc but this was the EFFECT that bullying had. All of those componants where always there, but were surpressed.

    People is also important that we live diversly. It is well known that people with personality 'quirks' for want of a better word (!) have a more lateral way of thinking and in this way are of great benefit to society in terms of creativity and innovations. Do we really want to be systematic robots ticking all the right boxes for which a social consensus verifies as being 'normal'? Some of the great guniuses of the past and present - artists, writers, musicions and even some polititions (!!) phsycoanalysts (Jung for eg) and other medical and scientific pioneers - all have *interesting* personality traits that challenge the bounderies of the general infrastructure of education, social 'norms' and 'ideals'. Most of these in that case would have been classic targets for bullying - we know many were!

  • Comment number 9.

    @Lost_David...testomony to what i am talking about. What an amazing success story...yes we will battle on. As Bob Dylan said...times they are a-changing...

  • Comment number 10.

    i think this programme is a waste of time and money and i think what they do for these kids is stupid if they cant deal with getting bullied at school well all i can say is good luck at a work place i think bullying is rediculous and shouldnt be looked on so much its a waste of time i was bullied for 2 years at high school and i stuck my neck out and did something about it and i never missed a day at school i never complained i got on with things because its life if anyone said to me about bullying i would just say grow up and deal with it!.

  • Comment number 11.

    A really interesting programme and its great that the these centres are there for these children, especially those that have parents that want them to go back to school or are unaware of other options.

    But I didn't hear anything about Home Education being an option, there are an awful lot of children who have been bullied or who are on the Autistic Spectrum who being Home Educated and meeting peers in a realxed manner without having to worry about going back into the School enviroment, which is terrifying for a lot of these kids.

  • Comment number 12.

    good show i went through this and ended up getting beaten up and called names this went on for 5 years throughout high school i just developed a thicker skin as it dosent matter what they say to you it cant harm you its only words im not just trying to put people down as i do not mean any offence by this but i think anyone who is getting bullyed should just take one day out and just take a deep breath look at what is happening from a third persons perpective and thinking how can i make them think what they are doing is not working for example if they call you names just responed with "and your point is and laugh" (not at them but as if they just made a joke) just remember its only for a couple of year and that there can be no good if there is no bad and that the only reason they are hurting you is because someone bigger is hurting them so be the more mature person and stop the endless circle of violence as pain = more pain

  • Comment number 13.

    This programme really touched my heart and this programme was not a waste of time or money. It shows people how much bullying effects someones life. It is amazing for these young people to have the support from Red Balloon. I would love to work with young people who have had problems with bullying as it is an amazing transformation that they go through when they are returning to school.

  • Comment number 14.

    Great programme, brought back memories of when I dropped out of school. Although I wasn't exactly bullied, I can relate to some of the things the people in the programme were feeling. I have now been diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, which is on the Autistic Spectrum. This has helped me a lot in understanding myself. I think one of the boys on the programme, Billy, may also have Aspergers Syndrome from the things he said and did. I wish them all the best in life and hope they all achieve their life goals. x


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