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School Zone: End Bullying

by Helmy Sa'at

As parents and guardians, we are all too familiar with preparing these young minds for academic excellence. From signing them up for additional enrichment classes to perhaps piano or violin lessons and art classes outside their school curriculum. Have we forgotten and, at times, overlooked something else?

There are an array of challenges when it comes to schooling. Generally, besides the pressure of scoring all As (achieving academic excellence for both children and their parents!), schoolkids have the added pressure in socialisation. Simply, it is about making friends and keeping those friends.

Inevitably, in life there are humps and bumps along the way to mature as a well-adjusted young adult. Many would deem the occasional teasing and taunting as a rite of passage. However, as harmless as it looks on the surface, such prolonged negative experiences would result in emotional tension leading to mental distress. And, like a domino effect, it has the power to wreak havoc in other facets of one’s life and progress.

Bullying Is Everywhere!

A young woman covering her face and crying.

What could have started off as harmless teasing could very well escalate into taunting and branch out into other forms of abuse. Bullying is not an issue that should be overlooked, especially, when it is so rampant. For instance, in the United States, nearly 50 per cent of schoolkids between the ages of nine and 12 years old said they have experienced bullying at school, in 2020! In other words, bullying is epidemic.

Bullying could happen anywhere and any time. It could also happen to anyone (at any age!).

It consists of different types. The most common experiences stemming from verbal and physical bullying. And, social bullying, which is more subtle. Verbal bullying includes teasing, taunting, name calling whereas physical bullying is expressed through hitting, taking or breaking others’ belongings and displaying mean and rude gestures. Social bullying encompasses gossiping and spreading rumours, telling others to not befriend a particular individual and/or leaving someone out on purpose during social events.

Bullying has even seeped into the online sphere. Cyberbullying is propelled by the widespread availability and use of social media, which in a way is a form of extension of our selves in the online domain. Bullies in this realm could be done by strangers as most would hide behind the cloak of anonymity. The 2020 Child Online Safety Index (Cosi) report, discovered that 60 per cent of eight to 12-year-olds across 30 countries are exposed to cyber risks, including cyberbullying!

Bullying Is Not OK

The motivations are varied. Typically, it is driven by being uncomfortable of differences through both tangible and intangible manifestations, such as physical looks, learning disabilities – dyslexia – and/or interests. It is then further perpetuated by actions that involve peer pressure/influence.

More importantly, as adults, we need to stop labelling bullies and victims as such. Instead, reframe the approach to tackling bullying by calling out the specific behaviour. It helps in not pigeonholing a young and impressionable mind with such labels that has the tendency to shame the entirety of the individual who is not intrinsically a bully.

Bullying is a choice and teaching and nurturing kindness should be prioritised.

A schoolkid feeling sad and alone in the library.

On the flip side, vigilance and attention to detail are key traits when it comes to identifying those who are being bullied. Such red flags include injuries, dip in academic performance and/or insistence in avoiding attending school altogether.

It is also pertinent to understand and empathise that they would feel isolated, helpless and embarrassment, afraid of repercussions should they confide in a trusted adult and/or believing no one would be able to relate or understand their pain.

End Bullying

This is why it is vital to keep talking about bullying. In order to stop it, being able to identify the red flags contributes to stopping the cycle from continuing.

Besides the need to learn that bullying is never ok, schoolkids need to know that it is never the fault of the person who is bullied. And, there is always a way to stop it. They need to know that there is always space for them to open up and talk to a trusted adult (parents, teachers or counsellors) about it.

A father comforting his young child.

Additionally, when it comes to cyberbullying it is best not to engage or respond and start with reporting the incidence to the social media site and followed by blocking, if necessary.

Help to untangle your child or anyone (at any age!) at risk of bullying to start take charge of their life by confronting the issue at hand. Three key takeaways: They are not alone; things will definitely get better; and bullying could and should be stopped.

It is ok to seek help while striving to be an independent thinker and staying true to themselves. Ultimately, their worth is immeasurable.

Psst! Do not forget to share this article with your family and friends before sharing your thoughts in the Comments section below. At the same time, do check out credible online resources that deal with bullying.