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Bullying in schools is a global problem that affects both the bullied child and the child doing the bullying. Children need to know that being bullied is not a reflection on them but the perpetrator. Bullying takes various forms, is harmful and is a serious issue in schools. In this article, I will outline some tips on how to help your child deal with bullying in school.
What is Bullying?
Bullying is repeated, unwanted and aggressive behaviour that takes place over a period of time. Typically, with bullying, there is a power imbalance where children and even adults use bullying as a tactic to show their power. There are many types of bullying, including physical, verbal, and social. There is also cyberbullying, which includes the use of electronic media such as the internet and text message (Chambers, 2015).
What is the Prevalence of Bullying in Schools?
According to global data, 30.5% of children aged 12-17 years reported being bullied at school with nearly one-third of males bullied at least once within a 30 period (Biswas, et al., 2020). Data in the United States show a higher percentage of physical bullying among boys (6%) than girls (4%). However, there was a higher percentage of social bullying among girls (25%) than boys (13%). Additionally, children are more likely to be bullied in school because of their physical appearance, race/ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, or sexual orientation.
In Jamaica, a report noted that 64.9% of children reported that they had been bullied, with more girls (66.9%) than boys (62.9%) reporting being bullied. One-fifth of the children who were surveyed reported that they were bullied more than three times per week. Additionally, 93.4% of children reported observing bullying in school. In response to witnessing bullying, 50% of students reported that they had told a teacher about what they observed, 62.3% said they felt sorry for the victim, while 35.5% said they wanted to help. However, 38.2% of children said that they had taken part in the bullying of other children (Chambers, 2015).
What are the Effects of Bullying?
The effects of bullying are serious and impact both the bullied child and the child who does the bullying. The effects of bullying can impact both a child’s physical and psychological health. Meanwhile, there are educational consequences of bullying too.
Bullying affects children’s academic performance. One study showed that the probability of low academic performance increases in an environment where there is bullying. Children who witnessed or who were the victims of bullying scored lower on language and mathematical evaluations when compared to those who did not experience bullying (Rusteholz, Mediavilla, & Luis, 2021).
Research has shown that children who are bullied report more feelings of loneliness, school avoidance, suicidal ideation, lower self-esteem and depression when compared to their peers who are not bullied (Akasyah, Margono, & Efendi, 2018). Meanwhile, the physical impact of bullying includes sleep disorders, headaches, stomach aches, dizziness, and bedwetting.
How to Help Your Child Deal With Bullying at School?
1. Have Open and Honest Conversations
Talk to your child about bullying. Tell them what bullying is and explain to them the various types of bullying that can take place. In doing so, you will help your child to recognise bullying if and when it happens. During these conversations, your child should be assured that they can conformably talk to you about the things that are going on at school, including bullying.
2. Support Your Child and Validate their Feelings
If your child is being bullied, the bullying will likely cause them emotional and psychological distress and some children may want to avoid school just to avoid being bullied. For some children, these feelings may be hard to navigate, this is especially true for younger children. As a parent, talking to your child and validating their feelings is an important step in helping your child deal with bullying at school.
Additionally, even if your child is not the one who is being bullied, they may still have very strong feelings about witnessing the bullying of a friend or classmate. Having honest and thoughtful conversations with your child about these issues can help them sort through their feelings. If you think that your child needs more help than you can offer, do not hesitate to seek professional help either from your child’s school psychologist or a licenced child mental health professional.
3. Document All Instances of Bullying
When your child relays an instance of bullying to you, ensure that you write down all the important details like time, place, what happened and who was present. You should have all this information when you make a report to your child’s teacher or principal.
Keep a record of all instances of bullying. When you make a verbal report of bullying, ensure to do so in writing as well. This way, you have a record of when and to whom the incident was reported. This will be very useful for you to track the timing of the report and when action is taken. Additionally, this will also be very important if the school refuses to address the problem and you need to escalate the issue to the next level.
4. Ask About Your Child’s School Bullying or Behaviour Policy
When you speak to your child’s school about the bullying, ensure to ask about their Bullying/Behaviour Policy. In the United States, there are Anti-bullying Federal and State Laws, Policies and Regulations. In December 2010, the Department of Education developed a framework with the common components Anti-Bullying State Laws, Policies and Regulations. There are 11 key components one of which is a component of school policies which should include the following:
a. A definition of bullying
b. Reporting bullying
c. Investigating and responding to bullying
d. Written records
In Jamaica, to address the recent incidents of violence in schools, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information is looking to fast-track the Positive Behaviour Programme for Schools. While not an anti-bullying policy, it does address the fundamental issue of violence in schools to which the act of bullying belongs. According to the Ministry’s website, the Positive Behaviour Programme for Schools “is tailored to create and sustain safe schools by fostering a disciplined and structured environment to deal with challenges such as student violence.”
Reviewing the school’s policies will give you the information you need on procedures, timelines, reporting framework and roles and responsibilities. Knowing about anti-bullying and school behaviour laws, policies, and regulations will help you to better advocate for your child.
5. Get Involved in Anti-Bullying Interventions
We know that schools are under a lot of pressure these days with many returning to face-to-face teaching during a global pandemic. Teachers are overworked and stressed, and many schools are underfunded and under-resourced.
However, this is not an excuse for them to not take the issue of bullying seriously. One useful tip is for parents to get involved in creating or strengthening anti-bullying interventions at their child’s school. This can be done by working with other concerned parents and the school to find concrete solutions that will benefit all the children and make the school environment safer for everyone.
Akasyah, W., Margono, H. M., & Efendi, F. (2018). Bullying Victimisation Effect at Physical, Phychological, and Social in Adolescence. Proceedings of the 9th International Nursing Conference (INC 2018), 538-546. doi: 10.5220/0008328205380546
Biswas, T., Scott, J. G., Munir, K., Thomas, H. J., Huda, M. M., Hasan, M., . . . Mamun, A. A. (2020). Global variation in the prevalence of bullying victimisation amongst adolescents: Role of peer and parental supports. EClinicalMedicine. Retrieved from https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S2589-5370%2820%2930020-1
Chambers, C. M. (2015). INVESTIGATING THE PREVALENCE AND IMPACT OF PEER ABUSE (BULLYING) ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF JAMAICA’S CHILDREN. Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/jamaica/media/1996/file/Investigating-the-Prevalence-and-Impact-of-Peer-Abuse-Bullying-on-The-Development-of-Jamaicas-Children.pdf
Rusteholz, G., Mediavilla, M., & Luis, P. (2021). Impact of Bullying on Academic Performance: A Case Study for the Community of Madrid.