Article by Ms. Upasana Saraf (Head-HRD at Bombay Cambridge Gurukul)
Bullying does NOT have to be a part of growing up. While no real statistics are available for the extent of bullying in high schools in India, there is growing awareness of the psychological and physical impact of bullying. The Anti-Ragging Act was introduced in 2009 to check the spiralling nature of student-to-student violence. Newspaper reports of serious crimes perpetrated by children such as rape, murder, kidnapping, and extortion are possibly the culmination of smaller acts of anger and violence that unchecked, led to irreversible damages to another child.
School and play-ground bullying has serious implications for a child’s academic, social, and emotional progress. Victims are likely to show low school attendance, poor self esteem, self injurious behaviours, further victimization, depression, anxiety, and phobias.
Witnessing bullying has been known to cause in other children feelings of anxiety and depression, higher school refusal, and substance abuse.
Studies show that without intervention, the bully may drop out of school, continue the abusive behaviour well into adulthood, and is more likely to be involved with substance abuse and petty crime.
WHAT IS BULLYING?
Bullying is an act of aggression causing fear, humiliation, pain or discomfort to someone who is younger, weaker or more helpless.
It has three defining characteristics:
- It is Deliberate—a bully’s intention is to hurt someone physically or emotionally
- It is Repeated—a bully often targets the same victim again and again
- There is a Power Imbalance—a bully chooses victims he or she perceives as vulnerable
Who are most at risk?
- Children who belong to a minority racial or ethnic group
- Children with mental or physical disabilities
- Children who are overweight
- Children who are new to the community
- Children who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered
- Children who don’t “fit in” or are “different”
FORMS OF BULLYING
Understanding what bullying looks like can help us recognize it and stop it. Bullying may be planned and organised or random, and it may be perpetrated by individuals or by groups of children. It occurs in many different forms, with varying levels of severity. Bullying may be:
- Using physical aggression such as hitting, pushing, spitting, tripping
- Threatening or intimidating or dominating someone through gestures or non-verbal behavior
- Interfering with another person’s property by stealing, hiding or damaging it
- Using extortion or blackmail with another child or forcing them to do something they don’t want to
- Not allowing someone to eat during break or damaging his/her food
- Name calling, using offensive names, distorting names, or substituting a name
- Threatening, yelling, taunting, insulting, humiliating someone using words
- Using abusive or foul language with intent to hurt
- Ridiculing another child’s appearance, way of speaking or personal mannerisms
- Belittling someone’s abilities and achievements
- Writing offensive notes or graffiti about another child
- Spreading rumours about another child or his/her family.
- Isolating or excluding someone from a group activity.
- Getting another child to hurt someone (manipulating)
- Instigating children against another child
- Using blackmail to extort things or cause harmful actions
- Pairing a child with another of the same gender or another gender
- Stalking, harassing, annoying or troubling someone
- Using internet to hurt or humiliate another person
- Posting personal information or images of a person
- Making rude, derogatory, or hurtful comments about someone’s post
- Using abusive, offensive or vulgar language online for someone
- Spreading rumours or posting false information
- Getting other people to post or send hurtful messages
- Excluding someone from an online group
- Ganging up against a person to trouble or harass them online
WHAT ADULTS CAN DO:
Bullying begins in the preschool years, peaks in early adolescence, and continues, but with less frequency, into the high school years. Teachers, parents, and other concerned adults can help prevent bullying as well as help children to protect themselves.
- Intervene when children are young. Children who bully are not born bullies and children who are victimized are not born victims. Many young children engage in aggressive behaviors that may lead to bullying, while others react by submitting or fighting back. Adults can stop these patterns before they are established by encouraging cooperative behaviors such as sharing, helping, and problem-solving, and by preventing aggressive responses such as hostility, hurting, and rejection.
- Teach bullying prevention strategies to all children. Don’t assume that only “challenging” children become bullies or that only “weak” children become victims. All children can benefit from learning to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors; how to stand up for themselves and others; and when to turn to an adult for help.
- Take bullying seriously. Pay careful attention to the warning signs and to children most at risk. Make sure children know that bullying will not be tolerated and that you will work with them to make bullying stop. Act immediately when you know about bullying or if you see it.
- Teach by example. Be an effective role model. Children learn how to behave by watching and emulating the adults in their lives. Consider how you solve problems, discipline, control your own anger and disappointment, and stand up for yourself and others without fighting. If children observe you acting aggressively, they are more likely to show aggression toward others.
- Help children critically evaluate media violence. Children may learn aggressive behaviors by watching television and movies that glorify violence and by playing violent video games that reward violent behavior. Help children understand that media portrayals of violence are unrealistic and inappropriate. Intervene when you see children imitating media violence in their play or in their social interactions.
- Help children learn and practice the qualities and skills that can protect them from bullying. Children who are confident are less likely to tolerate bullying and more likely to have the courage and inner-strength to respond effectively. They are also less likely to be targeted by bullies. Children who know how to make and keep friends can rely on them for protection from bullying. Children, who know how to solve problems constructively, avoid responding aggressively to conflict are also less likely to get bullied.
- Develop strong connections with the children in your care. Children are less likely to bully if they know it will displease an adult whom they respect and trust. Similarly, children are more likely to confide in an adult with whom they have a caring and trusting relationship.
Help children understand what is bullying. If someone is troubling you again and again, forcing or threatening you to do something or feel something you do not like, saying things about you, or causing in you fear, helplessness or shame; then you are being bullied.
If you are being bullied:
- Remain calm and do not try to fight back.
- Tell the bully to STOP very firmly.
- Avoid being in the same area as the bully.
- Report bullying behavior immediately. You can never be punished for reporting.
- You can approach student leaders, counselors, parents or your teacher for help.
- Remember, no one has the right to bully you!
When you see someone being bullied:
- Say a loud “NO” to the bully and stop his/her harmful behavior/action.
- Intervene by saying something to distract the situation, to the victim or offender.
- Try and get the victim away by using some pretext.
- Do not use aggression to deal with the bully.
- If you feel unable to stop it, get support from people around or ask them to call an adult for you.
- Report the incident to a teacher/parent.
- Don’t be a silent spectator or bystander. Act!
- Cyber-bullying: Save a screenshot of the picture/message and show it to a trusted adult.
Handling the bully:
No one is born a bully. While bullying behaviour is a result of faulty learning, the key aim of handling bullies should be to change their ways. Bullies need as much help as the victim.
For this, some things that can be done are:
- Help the bully get involved with activities in school.
- Help the bully learn how to make friends and be helpful.
- Do not be judgmental or superior or harsh with the bully.
- Offer suggestions on how s/he can make up for hurting someone.
- Guide the bully to talk to the school Counselor.
Lasting change requires the creation of an environment where everyone understands that bullying is unacceptable, harmful, and preventable—and where everyone takes responsibility for stopping it. A childhood free from fear can lead to developing individuals who are able to care for the people around them, and focus their energies to build a safer world.