15 June 2009 - Guides stand up to new trends in female bullying

  • A new poll has revealed that over a quarter (28 per cent) of 10 to 18 year old girls have been bullied over the internet.
  • Guides team up with expert charity partners to help girls manage the effects
  • 10,000 girls take anti-bullying pledge as part of Girlguiding UK's biggest ever community action project

Girlguiding has issued the latest in its new series of 'Guiding's guide to', which give advice on the issues facing the modern girl. Launched with expert charity partners the Mental Health Foundation and Kidscape, the guide recognises the new methods girls are using to bully each other and the serious emotional and psychological effect it is having on girls of guiding age. The resource, for 10 to 14 year olds, offers advice on how to deal with bullying and is part of Girlguiding's programme to help girls handle the new issues they face growing up in today's world.

Research has shown that girls are using new technologies to psychologically bully, singling out girls over the internet and mobile phone. New polling conducted amongst over 1,000 members of Girlguiding has revealed that over a quarter (28%) have been bullied by internet or email. Girls also say that they feel more at risk online because adults don't properly understand the virtual world in which they are engaged.

Bullying was recently identified by members of Girlguiding as one of the principal factors contributing to mental health problems in girls and young women. This is supported by evidence from Kidscape revealing that girls who are bullied are six times more likely to contemplate suicide. Research also exposed an expanding checklist of physical 'ideals' that girls feel they are judged against and which are used by bullies to single individuals out.

Guiding's Guide to saying No to Bullying advises girls not to ignore bullying or turn the other cheek but to find mechanisms for coping with it. Girls are advised to keep social networking profiles and mobile numbers private to prevent bullies using them to harass or intimidate. It also points out the importance of being self-aware as in a recent research report conducted by Girlguiding, girls admitted that the stress they are under sometimes makes them feel angry towards those around them.

Girlguiding has teamed up with Kidscape and the Mental Health Foundation as part of the Changing the World project, its largest ever community action project, in which the organisation's 575,000 members are supporting a range of charitable causes. The 'Don't be a bully – be my friend' project with Kidscape and the 'Friendship Challenge' with the Mental Health Foundation aims to teach members how to be a good friend, and recognise the importance of relating well to other girls and women as a skill for life. So far over 11,000 girls have taken the Friendship Pledge to help make a positive difference to their local communities. Girlguiding's Girls Shout Out! report on Teenage Mental Health revealed how important friends are in dealing with difficult emotional problems, arguing that girls without support are more susceptible to mental health problems.

Pippa Gardner, a young member of Girlguiding, said: "Some people think that girl-on-girl bullying is just calling names or whispering behind people's backs and they tell you to just ignore it. But girls can be just as aggressive as boys and I know people who have had bullies sending them horrible messages online and on their phone.

"It is really good to have a guide which tells you how you can deal with bullies and not to ignore it because that doesn't make it go away. It's also important to make you think about how nice you are to your friends because they are what make you happy."

Denise King, Chief Executive of Girlguiding said: "As the UK's largest organisation providing a safe female-only space for girls and young women, we see it as our responsibility to give girls and young women the knowledge and self-confidence to deal with issues that worry them. With girl-on-girl bullying on the increase and bullies using new methods to single-out individuals we know this is a serious issue for thousands of girls and young women. However, we also want to emphasise to girls the skills involved in being a good friend and these are important not just when you are young but throughout your life. Girlguiding is somewhere girls can come and make friends that they will keep forever and we want to equip them with the skills to do that."

Kathryn Hill, Director at the Mental Health Foundation charity, said: "Bullying is a problem that many girls living in Britain experience nowadays and it can have lasting negative effects on a young person's emotional wellbeing and self-esteem. We hope that this guide is helpful to girls, their friends and families."

Brenda Stafford from Kidscape said: "As we are seeing increasing incidences of girl-on-girl bullying and bullies using new media to target girls, Kidscape is delighted to be able to contribute to the Guiding's Guide to saying No to Bullying which builds on the work we have done for the Changing the World project."

Guiding's Guide to saying No to Bullying

  • Don't ignore it – get support
  • Get equipped – practice responding to comments with friends and family
  • Look confident – pretending not to be there is likely to draw more attention
  • Know good friends – don't hang around with people who aren't nice to you
  • Be proactive – find friends in other places
  • Be a good friend – show your friends they matter to you
  • Keep private – cyber bullies thrive on personal information
  • Avoid fighting – just walk away
  • Keep company – try not to be on your own when out and about
  • Be self-aware – don't let thoughtlessness lead you to bully others.

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Guiding has had a positive impact on girls' lives for the past 100 years.