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Crisis of Bullying: Everyone Has a Stake

No one is born a bully. 

Family and society give birth to a bully.    At its core, bullying is all about power – the desperate need for it.  As dysfunctional family upbringing and social norms remain unchecked and tolerant of abusive relationships, individuals within these milieus become desensitized. Then it paves the way for the sick power dynamics between the dominant and the weak to be regarded as normal.  Children and teens who impressionably pattern themselves after the dominant may acquire the attributes of a bully.  Initially, such behaviors may be seen naively as normal rite of passage until they become a habitual exercise of aggression over the weak: insulting words, spreading rumors, ridicule, intimidation, coercion, bodily harm, or ostracism.

Bullies use their advantages in physical strength, popularity, wealth, position, and even intelligence for aggression.  Appearance, social connections, race, religion, and sexual orientation can also trigger bullying.

Bullies thrive even more when they have an audience who will witness their display of power over the weak.  It does not help that in this digital age, bullies do not only show off in a neighbourhood or in a school setting (hallway, stairwell, classroom, cafeteria, grounds, school bus, bathroom, locker area).  Bullies can multiply the reach of their public humiliation for the bullied through various digital platforms (social media, video sharing services, chat apps, websites). At least 15% of students at 12-18 years old are reported to have experienced cyber bullying in 2016.[1]

Bullies feel invincible when they are able to command a following that would willingly also carry out the abuse.

If destructive bullying behaviours are left uncorrected, they can be carried into adulthood in a cycle of abusive relationships that are breeding grounds for degenerated criminal behaviors.

Bullies may or may not totally grasp the gravity of their actions; but it weighs heavily on the bullied especially if systematic abuse persists.

 

No one deserves to be bullied.

Yet the reality is that bullying rears its ugly head more often than we can imagine.  1 in 5 students (12-18 years old) reported experiencing bullying in various forms while 33% of the bullied faced it at least twice a month.[2]

Children and teens become vulnerable to bullying when their weaknesses are conspicuous.  Though not always deliberate, bullies find it convenient to target those who lack assertiveness, have fewer friends, look feeble, and appear different in various ways such as in the case of persons with gender identity issues, with disability, or simply with non-conformist or eccentric characteristics and views.

Whichever perceived weakness causes the bullying – the physical, emotional, and psychological abuses take an unimaginable toll on the well-being of the bullied.

The bullied may fall into a state of nagging anxiety and helplessness.  The increased emotional stress may lead to psychosomatic problems.  Worse – depression, self-blame, debilitating insecurity, and maladjustment may set in; and the tendency for substance abuse, violence, self-harm, and suicide may increase.

Everyone has a stake in early enculturation and intervention during childhood and early teen years. 

Enculturation

The topic of bullying should be openly discussed with children and teens.

At home, parents and guardians do not need to wait for evident signs of aggression or victimhood.  Against aggression, parents and guardians could articulate boundaries and underscore that it is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.  In parallel, parents and guardians should also encourage their children to flag abuse at the earliest stage to avoid prolonged victimization and all the negative effects that ensue.

Communities and schools can launch long-term and sustained anti-bullying educational campaigns targeting children and teens.  Dialing up the issue of bullying for a wider audience may not only generate awareness of roles and responsibilities; but may also convince children and teens to actively get involved in promoting a culture that does not condone aggression.  Peer interventions work in parallel with those of the parents and the school.  A research conducted by the National Center for Educational Statistics in 2016 discovered that when a peer had intervened, 57% of bullying incidents stopped.[3]

 

Intervention

Supervision.  Parents should constantly check on their children for signs.  While physical harm could be easier to detect, psychological and emotional stress can be more intentionally and conveniently masked by the bullied.  Signs include but are not limited to frequent psychosomatic problems such as headaches, stomach aches or sleeping problems; lethargy; irritability; and constant excuses for absenteeism or truancy.

School authorities should institutionalize and strengthen systems to monitor student behavior inside and outside the classroom.  A fundamental step is to train teachers on profiling aggressors and victims.  Teachers should not disregard initial signs of aggression and victimhood; should immediately alert guidance counsellors, parents, and guardians; and should address the issue with intervention steps that are progressive depending on the gravity of the aggression.

Behavior Modification.  At home and in school, discipline should be preferred to punishment.  Discipline is constructive as it seeks to modify behavior, develop character, protect mental health, and develop close relationships.  Focusing on future correct actions, discipline allows a parent or a teacher to train children for maturity from an attitude of love and concern, which more likely will result in children feeling a sense of security.  On the other hand, focusing on past misdeeds, punishment aims to inflict penalty born out of the authority figure’s frustration and hostility.  The effect of punishment on children includes fear and guilt; thus, harmful to self-esteem and mental health.

Neither the bully nor the bullied should feel that they can never remove themselves from the power dynamics of the dominant and the weak.  They must never feel isolated.  They must always have constant reminders that their family, peers, school, and community will enable them to transform.

  • The bully can transform into someone respectful of another individual’s dignity.
  • The bullied can transform into someone trustful who able heal, regain composure, and remain dignified in the face of abuse. “Let every bully know that you may crush every single bone in his body, but you can never, no matter how frustratingly you try, take away his dignity.”[4]

TalkShop, as a learning institution, also has a stake in the campaign against bullying.  We believe that a well-developed ability to express oneself plays a role in shaping children and teens into confident individuals who can articulate their boundaries while remaining respectful of their peers.  Communication Skills and Personality Development is a program that allows students to discover, develop, and enhance verbal and non-verbal communication skills to help them navigate the challenges of peer interaction in and beyond the classroom.

 

TalkShop

Call:  8945588 / 09178775588

Visit:  G/F Torre de Salcedo, 184 Salcedo Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City, Philippines

 

[1] Author or sponsor (National Center for Educational Statistics?), Research Title, 2016. p. ?

[2] Author or sponsor (National Center for Educational Statistics?), Research Title, 2016. p. ?

[3] Author or sponsor (National Center for Educational Statistics?), Research Title, 2016. p. ?

[4] Joseph Tristan Roxas, GMA News Online, Victim in Ateneo bullying incident showed strong moral foundation – family statement, 24 Dec 2018.

Posted by TalkShop
Sheila Viesca, TalkShop CEO and Director of Communication finished her bachelor degree in Literature, masters in Entrepreneurship, and doctorate in Applied Cosmic Anthropology. She designed the Philippines' Language Competency Benchmark for the Department of Education and pioneered Integrated Language Teaching (ILT) in workshop designs and corporate communication training. You can follow her on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, LinkedIN, and Google+

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