Bullying is an aggressive act repeatedly aimed against others who are not strong enough to defend themselves. It is done consciously with the intention to cause psychological or physical harm. This aggressive behavior is most often seen in schools. Although as adults we tend to treat bullying in schools as a simple rite of passage, it can have a negative impact on a child’s emotional well-being.
Effects of Bullying
Children who are targets of bullies in school are likely to drop out, self-mutilate or turn to substance abuse to cope with it. Bullies in schools are also victims of sorts as several studies show that kids who are bullies by the age of 8 are six times more likely to be convicted of a crime by the time they are 24 years old.
The trouble with bullying in schools is that even though it is widely prevalent, it is the most under-reported problem. Most children won’t tell their parents they are being bullied for fear of retribution or because they feel ashamed. That is why it is important for parents and teachers to watch out for signs of bullying in children.
Types of Bullying
Bullying can manifest itself in several ways. Some of the common types of bullying include:
Verbal bullying: Name calling, hurling insults, teasing, intimidating, and using homophobic or racist remarks is an example of verbal bullying.
Physical bullying: Physical bullying can manifest itself in the form of hitting, kicking, bruising, damaging property, tripping and pinching.
Covert bullying: Lying and spreading false information about a person, playing nasty jokes with the intent to embarrass a person and ganging up to exclude a person from a social perspective are examples of covert bullying behavior.
Cyber bullying: Using digital technologies such as the social media, cellphones, and computers to send abusive texts and videos to humiliate someone constitutes cyber bullying.
Signs That Indicate a Child is Bullied
A child who is bullied may have unexplained cuts and bruises on the body and you may notice that his/her school supplies and books are continuously going missing. Children may suddenly want to take an unusually long route to go to school or may refuse to go to school altogether. Some children may even exhibit disinclination in studies. Others may complain of headaches, cramps and a loss of appetite and may even display low self-esteem, seem depressed, and have trouble sleeping.
How to Prevent Bullying in Schools
Once you have identified the signs of bullying in children, you can take several steps to deal with it.
Talk to Your Child
Talking to a bullied child is the first step to recognizing the problem. Even though you may not be able to solve your child’s problem right away, it is important that you let your child speak to you about the bullies in school and how their behavior is affecting him/her. Pay attention to the child’s emotions and feelings and let them know that you are supportive of them.
Be a Good Role Model
Children often mimic their parents and peers. Most bullying behavior is picked up from the behavior of adults or from the TV. Therefore it is important that you be a good role model and teach your children good social behavior from an early age. When you give respect and love to others in your environment, you exercise a positive influence on those around you. As a result your child will also exhibit loving behavior and will avoid negative associations.
If you are not aware of the nature of bullying and its dangers, educate yourself. Stopbullying.gov is an excellent resource where you can learn about the short term and long term effects of bullying. Schools should set aside class time to educate and discuss bullying in schools and bring the issue out in the open. Teachers and children should avoid labeling kids as bullies. Children should also be taught how to respond to bullying and how to work with others to stop bullying.
Work with the Community
School bullying isn’t just a problem that’s limited to the school. It is a community problem. Therefore, to prevent or stop bullying, everyone needs to be on board and chip in. If your child is bullied, directly confronting the bullies in school won’t help. In fact, it can make it worse. Therefore, it is important to work with the community that includes teachers, parents, counselors, school nurses, cafeteria workers and such to develop a community strategy to stop bullying.
Maintain Clear Rules
Schools must make it clear that bullying will not be tolerated and must thoroughly discourage such behavior. There must be a clear written policy against school bullying and the school must be seen to enforce them when required. Students must be taught to assist and protect anyone who appears to be in trouble with bullies. Wherever possible, parents of the bully and the victim must be involved. Positive, good behavior should be rewarded.
Monitor the Premises
Every school premises has hotspots where bulling behavior is reported such as like hallways, bathrooms, or playgrounds. Make arrangements to always have staff around such hotspots. Bullies often refrain from acting out in the presence of elders.
Work with the Bullies
School bullies may often be victims themselves (due to problems at home) and may play out their anxieties in an aggressive manner in school. It is therefore important for teachers and school counselors to sit with bullies, understand where the behavior is stemming from and show them the consequences of their actions.
Bullying in schools is preventable. Acknowledging the problem, educating the children, parents and the community about the effects of bullying and taking concrete steps to prevent it will help in effectively dealing with the problem.