Bullying is not a new phenomenon. What is new is the increasing awareness of the consequences for students and schools that is brought about by bullying behaviour. The myths that bullying is a ‘right of passage…something that kids have to endure’ unfortunately contributes to the problem. We live in a different world than our parents and grandparents with societal forces and influences that have a significant impact on young people. We should ignore the costs associated with bullying behaviour at our peril. Bullying touches children…it touches us all!
Bullying involves a real or perceived imbalance of power, with the more hurtful child or group attacking those who are less powerful. It includes an assortment of negative acts carried out repeatedly over a period of time generally away from the presence of adults or, in the presence of adults who fail to intercede.
Bullying affects the social environment of the school often creating a climate of fear among students and inhibiting their ability to thrive, socialize and learn. It generally begins in the early grades, peaks at the intermediate levels and persists in different forms into secondary school. The long and short-term psychological effects on both those who bully and those who are targets have been well researched. Victims often experience loneliness, isolation and report having trouble making friends and emotional adjustments in later years. Humiliation, insecurity, loss of confidence, depression and other mental health problems can accompany victims of bullying into adulthood. They are also at greater risk of resorting to suicide (‘bullycide’).
When your child leaves for school
That your child might be hated
Research indicates that bullying behaviour is not always detected by teachers and other professionals working with children. The research also reveals that bullying until recently has not always been taken seriously by educators. This is reflected in studies that show the gap between the perceptions of educators and the actual incidents of bullying in schools. A significant part of the problem is that the incidence of bullying is far more likely to occur where there are no adults or in the rare case where the adult ‘turns a blind eye’.
To take bullying behaviour seriously in the school, community or in the workplace, is clearly the first and most important step. If we want schools to be safe and effective we need to acknowledge, measure and understand the problem, collaborate with the other stakeholders (especially students themselves) and consider carefully designed, measurable programs.
Bullies are both temporarily empowered and injured by our helplessness, apathy and silence. We need to create communities where aggression towards others is totally unacceptable, not because of strict laws and severe punishment but because we care for one another.
It’s a kid thing…
Bullying has been a part of school life for as long as there have been schools!
While not a new phenomenon, it has become a considerable problem for students, parents, caregivers and educators. It happens… and it hurts. It happens in every school and at every grade level and there are few, if any, exceptions.
In recent years researchers, policy makers, educators and the media have shown a growing awareness in the knowledge that school violence often begins with incidents of bullying. There are serious costs and consequences for the victim and the bullying child as well as ramifications for the school administration and the staff. The costs of bullying are far reaching.
It has become an expectation, rightly or wrongly, that schools, teachers and administrators take on the responsibility of fixing the problem. Yet another item to add to an already congested curriculum! This is especially difficult in that the influences and forces that contribute to bullying are not exclusive to the school, indeed they exist in the family home, media and community. It is that same community, unfortunately, that sometimes points a finger in the direction of the school as being the solution to most domestic and societal issues. This is wrong – the children are all our children and as a community we all share in the raising of the next generation. Teachers must not be expected to do it all.
|Schools need our support and that is one of the reasons why this small community organization has compiled an anti-bullying guide. Another reason is the myth that bullying is an essential part of growing up, a rite of passage; something that toughens kids and prepares them for adulthood. Myths and misconceptions are part of the reason why we have perhaps taken so long to acknowledge bullying as the problem it is!
Lastly, we have put together this guide because of the code of silence that prevents so many young people from coming forward to report bullying. This, and the level of pain and hurt that makes so many children not want to go to school became our motivation for writing the book.
Just as no definition can satisfactorily encompass all of the aspects associated with bullying, no one approach can come close to preventing this behaviour from happening in the school and community. Bullying is too big a problem for the ‘quick fix’ remedy and the one time ‘Riot Act’ assembly. It is a problem for us all, however until that time comes when there is greater engagement, we offer this as an interim measure for the support of teachers and the welfare of their students.