Bullying is one of those taboo conversations. People know that it happens but they pretend like it doesn’t and often turn a blind eye to it. Until it happens to them or a loved one. Read more to understand bullying and ways of dealing with it.
Bullying is a worldwide problem. It’s found in most schools regardless of race, class, area or size of the children. It’s one of the biggest problems found in South African schools. Adults are often unaware of the bullying that is taking place and research shows that the reality is that most South African children are somehow involved in bullying. Whether they’re victims, bystanders/witnesses or bullies themselves. Bullying doesn’t only happen to children, there are often reports on teachers who are physically or verbally attacked by their students.
Bullying in it self is completely against our nations Bill of Rights.Our rights state that everyone has the right to be free from all forms of violence, not to be treated or punished in a cruel, inhumane and degrading way. And still bullying at school is a daily fear in the lives of many children. It’s now made worse by the increase of technology. How? Cyberbullying has become a real threat to children and has increased the levels and effect of harassment. It no longer only happens at school – but at home too. A 2012 Unisa study with 3 300 grade 8-12 students showed that 67.7% of students had been bullied and 74.5% had been cyber-bullied.
What is bullying?
“Bullying is persistent victimisation and often includes a power imbalance. It takes many forms, some of which may seem trivial to someone else, but they can drive the victim to desperation. It includes verbal attacks, cellphone pestering, excessive teasing, spreading of malicious rumours, physical violence and intimidation, and humiliating behaviour of many kinds.”
Thomas Burkhalter explains:
“People bully for a variety of reasons. The bully may be a troubled child from a dysfunctional family, where aggression is an accepted way of asserting needs or authority. The child may be bullied at home and so may bully at school, dominating others in order to elevate their own self-esteem and sense of powerlessness. Children who are bullied are obviously at risk. Being ostracised or a victim of repeated bullying can lead to severe emotional distress, and at its most severe is a common cause of teenage suicide. The bully, too, is vulnerable, and is perhaps also a victim in another context.”
What happens if bullying is not stopped?
The problem doesn’t only lie with the victim, but with the bully too. It doesn’t help dealing with the trauma with the victim if the bully isn’t getting help for the underlying causes of bullying. If it isn’t stopped in early childhood, aggressive behaviour becomes a habit and could lead to serious issues later on in life, like criminal behaviour and domestic violence. “A Scandinavian study found that of the boys identified as bullies between Grades 6 and 9, two thirds of them had criminal convictions by the time they were twenty four”, says Thomas.
The victims of bullying and even those observing the bullying can start to suffer from all sorts of health issues – both physical and emotional. The effects of bullying can cause severe emotional and psychological problems, sometimes lasting a lifetime. It has an impact on school drop-out rates, incidences of self-harm and far too often results in suicide.
How to deal with bullying
Life Talk likes to encourage all parties to help solve the problem. Using a more holistic approach with involvement from all parties – the students, the parents and the school system. Work needs to be done both at home and at school by maintaining discipline, encouraging good behaviour and addressing the bullying issue is critical.
It is advised to talk about the issue of bullying with children from a young age to teach them what acceptable behaviour is and what is not. If your child is the bully – seek the help that they need immediately. Too often, all of the attention is given to the victim to encourage them to stand up for themselves. The bully is often forgotten and the root reason of why they bully is never dealt with. It’s best to deal with them in a caring and constructive manner, if it is dealt with negatively they will most likely react negatively.
If your child’s school doesn’t have a published anti-bullying policy, request that they publish it so that all students understand their rights and how to respond if their rights have been violated. All forms of bullying need to be included, even if some may seem silly. Life Talks suggests that teenagers are included in writing the anti-bullying policy so that they feel included and part of the bigger picture rather than being told what to do. This increases them being interested in and promoting the anti-bullying policy. It’s also important to encourage discussions on bullying in Life Orientation, essays, and in art and drama so that students can actively address the issue in a supervised environment.
Bullying often takes place in areas where teachers are not present like the bathrooms, corridors and during break time. Chat to your child’s school about increasing supervision in the quieter areas and during break. Increasing the presence of teachers, student council members or even cameras will help decrease the chances of bullying.
Bullying is not a normal part of childhood. It causes hectic trauma that could stay with your child into adulthood. Whether they’re being bullied or doing the bullying, it has lifelong effects and something must be done to avoid this and to make life happier for either party. Be open with your children and allow a safe space to talk – judgement free. If everyone works together, bullying incidences can be minimised and children can once again feel safe and accepted at school and at home.