What comes to mind when you think of bullies? Perhaps a typical high school movie where the shy boy with glasses and books underneath his arm gets picked on by the cool guys? Perhaps your own experience of being bullied or even being the bully? Either way, bullies do indeed exist in South African schools, and they can have serious impacts on their victims.
According to Childline South Africa, bullies are found in most schools, even in the most disciplined and positive schools. Bullying has led to children committing suicide and dropping out of school due to the stress of being bullied.
The question is, what exactly does bullying entail?
Physical bullying includes punching, poking, strangling, hair-pulling, beating, biting, excessive tickling and direct vandalism.
Verbal bullying includes such acts as hurtful name-calling, persistent teasing, gossiping and racist remarks.
Relational bullying occurs when the victim is deliberately excluded from activities.
Emotional bullying includes terrorising, extorting, defaming, humiliating, blackmailing, rating/ranking of personal characteristics such as race, disability or ethnicity, manipulating friendships, ostracising and peer pressure.
Sexual bullying includes many of the above as well as exhibitionism, sexual positioning, sexual harassment and abuse involving actual physical contact and sexual assault.
A study that was conducted in 2002 already showed shocking results. 60,9% of the 207 study participants in Gauteng reported that they were victims of bullies during the school year. A more recent study that was conducted among several countries showed that the greatest intensity, those saying they know children in their community experiencing cyberbullying on a regular basis, is in SA: One in ten people indicated that they know children who are regularly bullied via information technology.
Even though school and big, bad boys come to mind when you hear the word “bully,” it is important to remember that cyberbullying is also becoming a big phenomena. Almost every teenager has a cell phone or access to the internet. Nevertheless, any form of bullying is inacceptable and more attention needs to be given to this form of “crime” that exists in schools.
For thousands of children, the school is a battleground where they are subjected to physical or verbal abuse by fellow students. The issue has received much media attention in the last decade and many anti-bullying campaigns have made their way onto television screens and onto social media sites.
Bullying is an age-old and worldwide problem and only one form of school violence. Because of the misperception that bullying is just a part of the process of growing up, many children keep quiet about abuse and many educators fail to take action. This is in spite of the fact that it can have negative lifelong social, emotional, psychological and educational consequences, both for perpetrators and for their victims.
In a separate study on educators’ experience of bullying, she not only found that educators frequently witnessed bullying, but that they themselves were often abused by learners.
Bullying can have serious consequences for both the victim and the perpetrator. Victims often refuse to go to school or steer clear of certain areas of the school terrain. They struggle with poor self-esteem and can become depressed and withdrawn. In serious cases of bullying, victims have committed suicide or have even murdered their victims.
Some studies have shown that bullying also has harmful long-term effects on the bully. Bullies often become involved in criminal activities later in life and struggle to form positive relationships with others.
Helping the victim
Many victims are hesitant to tell parents or educators that they are being victimised for fear of retaliation by the bully or other classmates who may regard the disclosure as tale-telling. If the abuse is serious or if it has taken place over a long time, many hide it from their parents for fear of upsetting them. She found that most learners prefer to take fellow learners rather than adults into their confidence.
Many witnesses also ignore and keep quiet about abuse for fear that they themselves might become victims. As a result, educators and parents often don’t know that someone is being bullied.
Several other researchers and educators worldwide encourage schools to promote an atmosphere of caring by adopting an anti-bullying programme. Educators, learners and parents should be involved in compiling and implementing the programme. The aims of the programme should be to:
-improve peer relationships
-encourage learners to disclose abuse and to stand up against bullies
-develop rules to prevent bullying
-decide on disciplinary steps
Is your child being bullied?
Look out for these warning signs:
-Coming home with cuts and bruises
-Asking for stolen possessions to be replaced
-“Losing” dinner money
-Falling out with previously good friends
-Being moody and bad tempered
-Being quiet and withdrawn
-Wanting to avoid leaving the house
-Aggression with siblings
-Doing less well at schoolwork
-Anxiety and/or depression
National Counselling Line
In addition to the telephone counselling offered by a number of centres around the country, the national counselling line receives an average of 200 calls a day, allowing callers to discuss a range of challenges from trauma and suicide to relationship issues.
This line operates 24 hours / 7 days per week – feel free to call us for more information and counselling.