The level of playground bullying among children has been inflated by parents and teachers, who have harmed the social behaviour of kids by raising them in an over-protected environment, a child expert says.
According to Tim Gill, a former government adviser who led a major review into children's play, pampering children by branding 'unpleasant behaviour' as bullying is preventing them from developing the skills they will need to protect themselves as adults.
In a book published on Oct 28, Gill argues that children must learn to cope with name-calling and teasing to help them develop resilience.
Parents, teachers, police and officialdom are all to blame for over-reacting to risks such as injury, abduction and abuse, he says.
"I have spoken to teachers and educational psychologists who say that parents and children are labelling as bullying what are actually minor fallings-out," the Daily Mail quoted Gill, as saying.
"Children are not always nice to each other, but people are not always nice to each other. The world is not like that," he added.
Gill related an incident in which his own daughter complained that she was being bullied after three boys teased her about a game she was playing in the park. "What struck me was the use of the word bullying to describe that. Bullying is where the victimisation is sustained and there is a power imbalance. I do not mean we should allow unbridled cruelty, just that one option is asking, 'Can you sort it out yourself?'" he said.
In 'No Fear: Growing up in a Risk-averse Society', Gill argues that society is 'bubble-wrapping' children by overreacting to risks such as 'stranger danger', injury and abuse. "It's a little bit like the health and safety culture. Teachers are in danger of feeling they can't take a commonsense approach. We are running the risk of children growing up who are not going to be able to look after themselves in social situations," he said.
He also warns that children are being branded antisocial for harmless activities such as street football, playing hopscotch or climbing trees.
"This is being labelled as antisocial behaviour and police or neighbourhood wardens are clamping down. For me, this is an identical issue," he said.