A 2018 survey by UNICEF reported that eight out of 10 children experience bullying in school. 70% of the 2,000 students who participated in the survey stated that they have witnessed a friend being bullied based on their appearance. Bullying is a serious issue across schools in the country and if not addressed may affect students negatively in terms of mental health, academic performance, social skills and overall well-being.
Here are some important things you should know about bullying in schools.
1. There are different types of bullying
The simple definition of bullying is the infliction of repeated hurtful behaviour by a stronger individual on a weaker individual. In schools, four main types of bullying are prevalent.
Physical: This is the most well-known form of bullying which involves physical intimidation (hitting, kicking, pushing and blocking, among others). Physical bullying is commonly seen among male students.
Verbal: Individuals who verbally bully others name-call, threaten and say disrespectful things about someone’s appearance, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.
Relational: This form of bullying is seen more among female students. They use exclusionary tactics such as forming cliques to prevent someone from being part of their group.
Cyber: Cyberbullying is rampant as most students own mobile devices which connect to the Internet. It involves harassing and embarrassing others by spreading rumours, lies and inappropriate photos through text messages and social media posts.
2. Ways to identify a bully
According to Ellis Lee, Chief Executive of Kingsley International School, bullies commonly lack pastoral care or counselling from their parents to release their anger or emotions. Therefore, they resort to bullying to make them feel better. Generally, male bullies tend to be physically stronger than others whereas female bullies are perceived as popular in school. Some of the common characteristics of school bullies are anger management issues, lack of empathy, disregard for authority and rebellious behaviour. Bullies tend to be involved in fights or skip school often. In addition, bullies are manipulative and intimidating individuals with the ability to control others.
3. Ways to identify a victim of bullying
Both parents and educators should look out for the following signs to identify if someone has been bullied:
Physical: Unexplained cuts, scratches or bruises, missing or damaged clothes, and complaints of headaches and stomach aches.
Verbal: Withdrawn behaviour, mood swings and loss in appetite. Individuals may share something hurtful that was said about them and ask you if you think it’s true.
Relational: Mood swings, not going to social events and wanting to be alone most of the time.
Cyber: Spending many hours on mobile devices but appear to be sad or anxious afterwards.
4. What schools can do to help
There are a few measures schools can take to reduce bullying in school. Counselling should be provided to both the bully and the victim. For example, Kingsley International School initiates a ‘carefrontation’ where the bully and the victim have an opportunity to resolve the issue at hand. Schools should also spread as much awareness as possible on bullying through class lessons and special projects. Students must be able to report bullying cases effectively and be familiar with bullying language and behaviour. Furthermore, schools should have a proper procedure in place when a bullying case is reported. Bullies should be made aware of the consequences of their actions and schools need to take necessary measures to ensure those actions are not repeated. Finally, schools should find ways to work with parents to resolve bullying cases in a constructive way without getting law enforcement involved.
5. What parents can do to help
Physical: Communicate with your child openly on what’s happening at school and establish good relationships with teachers and school counsellors. It is also important to record the dates and times of the bullying incidents. Depending on the severity of the case, you may contact the school or local authorities for further action to be taken.
Verbal: Teach your children safe and constructive phrases to respond to a bully. For example, “That wasn’t nice.” or “Please leave me alone.” in a firm tone. They should not talk back to the bully to prevent the situation from getting worse.
Relational: Encourage your children by reminding them of their good qualities and that they are always loved. You can improve their self-esteem and confidence by enrolling them in classes that reflect their interests such as music or art.
Cyber: Familiarise yourself with the apps and digital devices your children use and let them know you will be supervising their online activities. Advise them not to respond or forward any messages received due to cyberbullying.
The issue of bullying in schools should be taken seriously by schools and parents alike. Many victims still keep their attacks to themselves which prevents them from getting the help they need. All children deserve to call their school a safe place where they can learn and be the best versions of themselves.