Students all around the world suffer violence, bullying, and discrimination. The numbers are even increasing. According to United Nations agencies, one in three students experiences bullying and physical violence. Also, half of the world’s adolescents report violence from peers at school (Hrw.org, 2020). This is clear evidence of us as a society having a problem. Let’s learn about it and figure out how to stop bullying.
But what is bullying exactly? It is “the repetitive, intentional hurting of one person or group by another person or group, where the relationship involves an imbalance of power. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or psychological, and it can happen face-to-face or online” (Anti-bullyingalliance.org, 2023). In this sense, online and mobile phone bullying is on the rise, with evidence showing a strong connection between offline and online bullying. Most students who are victims of cyberbullying have been bullied in school first. Besides, a large percentage of victims have been harassed both online and offline (Unesco, 2022).
This is a world problem of all. Let’s see some of its characteristics and consequences and how teachers could prevent bullying, respond to it, and implement anti-harassment actions.
Digging deeper into bullying behaviors
Not all children experience violence in the same way. Some of them are at particularly higher risk of harassment due to their age, disability status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender. Also, bullying rarely takes place between a victim and a bully alone. It tends to be a group behavior. Others may significantly influence the behavioral outcomes of children and youth intentionally or otherwise. Sometimes bullying isn’t as straightforward as someone openly being horrible to another person. It can be much more complicated than that. False friendships can sometimes be hard for adults to identify (Anti-bullyingalliance.org, 2023). The following lists can be helpful tools to distinguish what is bullying from what is normal peer conflict:
- Imbalance of power
- Repeated negative actions
- Serious with the threat of physical or emotional harm
- Strong emotional reaction from the victim and little or no emotional reaction from the bully
- Seeking power, control, or material things
- Attempt to gain material things or power
- No remorse. Blames the victim
- No effort to solve the problem
Normal Peer Conflict
- Equal power
- Happens occasionally
- Not serious
- Equal emotional reaction
- Not seeking power or attention
- Not trying to get something
- Remorse. Will take responsibility
- An effort to solve the problem
It is not bullying when two students of approximately the same status, size, or age argue, fight, or disagree. Conflict resolution or peer mediation may provide the opportunity for students experiencing normal peer conflict. This can be helpful to build skills in self-reflection and practice peaceful resolution of disagreements. However, even if a conflict does not meet the definition of bullying, it can still hurt or harm the students involved. Therefore, it is crucial to help students address their experiences and to provide the support they need. Our duty is to end bullying, but also other kinds of violence regardless of whether the behaviors are bullying or not (DC.org, 2017).
The consequences of violence, bullying at school, and cyberbullying are far-reaching. This includes children and youth finding it difficult to concentrate, missing classes, avoiding school activities, playing truant, or dropping out of school altogether. Sometimes there are even catastrophic and irreversible outcomes. All this harms academic achievement and future education and employment prospects. Hence, an atmosphere of anxiety, fear, and insecurity is incompatible with learning, and it can undermine the quality of education for all (Unesco, 2022).
How to stop bullying behaviors and implement actions
Bullying has a huge impact on its victims, but also on the bully itself and on the people around the conflict. This is why The Anti-Bullying Alliance has created 10 key principles for preventing and responding to this type of violence. The organization has developed these by working closely with young people and schools. If we want to stop bullying we all should:
- Include all
- Challenge (all forms of discriminatory language –including disablist language– is challenged and taken seriously)
- Celebrate the difference
- Believe when reporting incidents
- Report Bullying
- Take action
- Have clear policies
Governments should also urgently adopt binding national policies that guarantee students’ protection in schools and online spaces. And those that already have strategies in place should ensure that they include protections for children particularly likely to face abuse. Not only that, but schools should have accessible confidential reporting systems and counselors, teachers, or school officials who act as child protection focal points. They should be available to provide immediate support for students who are threatened or have experienced abuse (Hrw.org, 2020). In this sense, teachers and educators should also have some transferable skills such as emotional intelligence and respect for peers, among others.
Overall, there is something clear: authorities have an essential role to help stop bullying.
Stopping bullying is possible
Children have the right to learn in a safe physical or online inclusive environment. They should be able to trust adults who have a legal and moral duty to protect them. Thus, we must ensure all children have access to that.
Remember: this is a world problem of all. But there is a lot we can do. Our duty as a society is to stop bullying. Let’s not turn our back on the children. They are our present and future.