"I am 16 and a victim of bullying"
'I should have gone to my parents from the very beginning'
Sinead Doyle was bullied from the age of seven. Her mother Sue knew something was wrong from the start. Here are their stories.
By Sinéad Doyle, aged 16: Having been bullied in the school playground as a child, 16-year-old Sinéad Doyle has no intention of making herself a target for similar or worse experiences at the hands of online trolls.
"I was only seven when two girls started to turn on me. Let's call them Girl A and Girl B. One day Girl B and I called to Girl A's house. Girl B walked in ahead of me and as I went to follow her, Girl A blocked my way and said, 'Not you!'
"Feeling confused, I turned to walk away, but she called me back, yet as I got to the door the second time, she said again, 'Not you!'
"I felt bewildered, hurt and rejected as I walked home alone. Over the following days and weeks, this kind of behaviour continued.
"The girls would be really nice to me one minute and then suddenly tell me I couldn't hang out with them. I wanted their friendship, so I put up with their shoddy treatment.
"I was a little lonely as a child and I reasoned it was better to have these so-called friends than to be on my own all the time.
"Things got worse and some of their friends joined in the bullying, including a little boy who started tormenting me regularly.
"One day as I sat with other kids on a ring in the local playground, he told me to get off and when I didn't, he kicked my shins until I fell off. I cried all the way home.
"The bullying escalated from there, with more kids joining in until I was left alone in the schoolyard day after day, with no one to talk to or play with.
"One of the worst episodes happened as we all lined up in the school yard at the end of break one day when a girl behind me pulled down my tracksuit bottoms. I was mortified.
"It makes me angry thinking of all the things they did, but at seven years of age, I didn't know how to deal with any of this stuff. I have no idea why I kept it to myself for so long, but eventually I had a long chat with my mother and told her all about it.
"If I had gone to my parents in the first place, I would have saved myself a lot of hurt.
"It's really hard to stand up to people who terrorise you day after day and although I will never forget the pain of my own experience at the hands of bullies, I count myself lucky that it happened before I hit my teens. There is so much more ammunition at that age and social media doesn't help. That's partly why I don't use Facebook, Twitter or other social media websites, and I'm very careful about giving out my email address. These are just some of the precautions I take, because I am determined that I will never let anything like that happen to me again.
"As a teenager you already have many insecurities and if you have a physical distinction or anything perceived as 'different,' other teenagers can pick up on that and use it against you.
"But whatever age you are, once you stand up to these people and tell them they're not worth your time and that you don't care any more, it will be like a weight off your chest.
"In my case, my parents and I felt I had no choice but to move to another school, and once that happened I didn't see much of my tormentors until, a few years later, Girl A approached me once again.
"By this time, I had learned not to let her intimidate me so, instead of giving in to yet another heap of abuse, I told her exactly what I thought of her.
"I knew then that she couldn't hurt me anymore and I felt on top of the world.
"I would urge other kids who are bullied to talk to somebody they can trust.
"I should have told my parents earlier.
"Your parents and family – brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles – only want to help, so please don't be afraid to tell them what's going on. It will help, I swear.
"Don't go to school every morning feeling awful. You can fix it, not by yourself, but you can start the ball rolling by telling somebody who can fix it.
"Don't put yourself through torture because of embarrassment.