Rajath was good at sports and won many trophies. But some of his classmates frequently mocked and mimicked him for consistently failing exams. Then his academic performance began to suffer. He was slowly turning introverted and timid in nature. Unfortunately, his performance in sports was diminishing too. Don’t you think Rajath is a victim of bullying in school?
School bullying has become a menace worldwide including in India. More than 20% of students reported being bullied in 2016, according to the National Centre for Education.
What is school bullying?
The behavior of a student or students of certain groups towards another student or certain groups in school, with an imbalance of power, which is intentional, hurtful – physically or mentally, and repetitive is called School bullying.
Types of school bullying:
- Verbal (teasing, name-calling)
- Physical (hitting, punching)
- Emotional (hurtful gestures, exclusion from group)
- Sexual (vulgar gestures, uninvited touching)
- Cyber (negative messages via mail, SMS)
How does one become a bully?
Children have developing and fragile mindsets. The most common reason someone turns into a bully is that they themselves were bullied at some point in their lives. Other contributing factors include violence at home, media, lack of social values, bad role models, etc. Bullies and bullied children both develop negative behavior patterns.
How does bullying affect children?
Ambrish Saxena, educator, and director, of Vivekananda institute of professional students, Delhi argues, “Bullying is undoubtedly a menace in Indian schools. I have noticed that affected students remain under the pressure of being manhandled. They are scared of making independent decisions. It results in their weak personality and lack of initiative”.
The outcome of bullying is thus not temporary, but its effects can be seen throughout the victims’ life through depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, low academic outcomes, suicidal tendency, loneliness, etc.
Can educators control bullying in schools?
Ignoring this issue should never be an option. Educators and parents should jointly tackle this menace. Educators have a greater role to play here as students spend the majority of their day at school. The need of the hour is thus to provide equal opportunity for all students, extra care to weaker (academic, physical, emotional, social) students, and constant mentoring and vigilance by educators can address the bullying problem.
Ways educators can prevent bullying in schools:
1. Boost social-emotional strength :
Socially and emotionally stronger students are more likely to be outside the bullying zone.
- When students learn kindness and empathy, they understand the negatives of bullying and learn to avoid it
- Educators can have kids get together and talk about their differences. By learning conflict resolution skills, students can work through problems, and build their understanding of those around them
- The arts can be a powerful tool to see situations from different perspectives. Educators can convey the negative impacts of bullying on students by using art forms like drama, literature, etc.
- A student with more confidence and self-esteem is less likely to be influenced by bullying. By getting students involved in their choice of healthy and positive activities and sports, educators can boost students’ confidence
2. Create opportunities for connection:
Keep communication lines open. When students feel connected to peers, educators, school, and community they feel better. Educators should create a safe classroom environment in which students can express their feelings openly and feel heard.
Educators should get involved with students. They should get reassured that someone is there for them. Open-ended questions like what good happened at school or did anyone say anything etc. encourage them to communicate openly and honestly. This helps in understanding what is going on. Accordingly, help can be extended if issues arise.
3. Identify Gateway behaviors:
The signal of beginning patterns of behavior often missed or ignored by educators are Gateway behaviors. If these are recognized early on, bullying behavior can be prevented from growing into something beyond control.
a. Signs Your Child Is a Victim of Bullying:
- Injuries that can’t be explained
- Destroyed or lost personal belongings
- Faking illness or regular stomach aches or headaches
- Eating habits change, maybe meals are skipped, or a child binge eats
- Nightmares or trouble sleeping
- Not wanting to attend school, dropping grades, or reduced enthusiasm for school work
- Avoiding social situations or a sudden lack of friends
- A decrease in self-esteem or feeling helpless
- Behaviors like self-harming, running away from home, or talking about suicide
b. Signs Your Child Might Be Bullying:
- Getting into verbal or physical fights
- Associating with children who are bullies
- Increased aggressive behavior
- Frequent detention or visits to the principal
- Have new belongings or extra money, with no explanation of where they came from
- Blaming other children for their problems
- Worrying about how popular they are or how they appear to other people
- I am not taking responsibility for my actions
4. Educate about bullying:
Learning is something that children do since they are born. They follow their elders around and the environment they live in influences their behavior greatly. So, develop a good, healthy, and positive school culture. Teach children to deal with bullies. This helps them shift the power balance. Some things children need to be informed about to ease bullying are:
- Walking away when a bully approaches or avoiding bullying situations
- Asking a bully to stop and leave you alone
- Responding with phrases or humor that can lighten a situation or disarm a bully
- Staying in groups rather than alone
- Reporting bullying and seeking appropriate help
5. Set technology boundaries:
Gadgets have become a necessity these days. All children use it. Cyberbullying has thus also increased. Educators need to speak to children about cyberbullying. Technology boundaries should be set. They should be told not to forward or respond to any threatening emails or messages. Parents and adults should be asked to apply proper age-appropriate filters in computers and other gadgets children use.
6. Join with others to stop bullying:
Bullying can happen in many other places outside schools too. So educators can join with the community like law enforcement officers, neighborhood associations, mental health specialists, local businesses, and church organizations to identify, educate, prevent and report any instances of bullying. Teenagers and older students are bystanders who can be encouraged to help younger children to employ anti-bullying behaviors. Also, local radio, TV, websites, and newspapers can be used to promote anti-bullying messages across children, youth, and the community.
It is definitely a tough task to get to know that a child is getting bullied or is bullying. Handling this is a challenge. The parent will have mixed emotions and might blame themselves too for their child’s state. Schools need to become more aware and supportive than ever when it comes to dealing with instances of bullying.