Between Oct 31st and Nov 30th, 2018, schools, parents, and students across the Emirates have joined forces to participate in a month long anti-bullying campaign. According to Malak Sabri, a social worker at the International School of Creative Science Nad Al Sheba (ISCS), “The aim of the campaign is to bring back the innocence and beauty of their childhood and to ensure that our kids are happy and safe from aggressive behaviour.”
The month long bullying prevention campaign aims to spread awareness of the damages associated with the act of bullying. The anti-bullying campaign educates students on the various forms of bullying, such as physical, verbal, social or relational bullying. Additionally, the campaign guides children and teens on how to react and respond to acts of bullying.
What is Bullying?
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Education (CDCE) released the first federal uniform definition of bullying for research and surveillance. According to the CDC, “Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) toward a youth by another youth or group of youths, involving an observed or perceived power imbalance. These behaviors are repeated, or have the potential to be repeated, over time. Bullying can happen in person and electronically (known as cyberbullying) and can occur at school or in other settings.”
A bully is any individual who uses their strength or power to harm or intimidate those who they perceive as weaker. Often times, the person targeting others with aggressive bullying behaviours is often an individual who is replicating behaviours they have witnessed or experienced themselves. They often have poor self esteem and/or lack certain skills they deem admirable in others. As a result, they lash out and subject others to the same treatment to feel empowered.
Bullying Manifests in Many Forms
According to DoSomething.org, a global movement of 6 million young people striving to create positive change, online and off, every year more than 3.2 million students are victims of bullying. Approximately 160,000 students around the world skip school every day to avoid bullying. Bullying can take place in many forms, to include direct bullying, indirect bullying, rational and social bullying, and cyberbullying.
Direct Bullying is among the most commonly recognised forms of bullying and may include the aggressor engaging in verbal attacks, physical aggression or assaults, gestures, and extortion.
Often more difficult to recognise, indirect bullying is more covert and anonymous and may include the spreading of rumors, the passing of offensive notes, defacing and damaging of personal property, etc. This form of bullying makes it harder for the victim to identify the bully.
Relational bullying displays as the manipulation of social connections or relationships by excluding, ignoring, or isolating the intended victim. This form of bullying may also include direct and indirect bullying.
Cyberbullying is any act of aggression that takes place over the internet, to include through emails, social media, text messages, and online chat forums. Cyberbullying, also referred to as electronic bullying primarily involves verbal aggression, such as harassing or threatening via electronic communications and relational aggression, such as spreading rumours or gossip electronically).
How to Respond to Bullying
When parents, educators, and adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behaviour, they send the message this behaviour is not acceptable. Research shows an immediate reaction to aggressive and harmful behaviours can stop bullying over time.
Tips to stop and reduce bullying –
- Teach your children to befriend someone who is being bullied. Encourage your children to be kind if they see someone being bullied. Perhaps they could walk with the target in the hall, sit with a child who is being bullied at lunch, or welcome them into their group of friends.
- If your child knows someone who is being bullied, have them encourage the target to talk with an adult. If your child is the individual being bullied, walk with them to talk with their teacher or school counselor.
- Talk to your children about not participating in bullying behavior. Teach them to avoid spreading rumors, commenting to online bullying posts, laughing at mean remarks, or actively adding to the bullying in any way.
- If you are an adult who witnesses an act of bullying, assertively tell the bully to stop their behavior. Explain that what they are doing is bullying and that it needs to stop. If your child witnesses bullying they should know to always speak to an adult when they witness an act of bullying.
- Tell bystanders to stop. If you see other people, adults or children, participating in an act of bullying or passively participating (i.e., laughing along) tell them to stop. Standing by as a passive observer will not help to change the situation.
- Reach out to newcomers. If your child notices a new person at their school, encourage them to reach out. A friendly face is always a great start to a new school.
- Talk to parents, teachers, principals, and staff about bullying at school. Tell them where it’s happening, and where students may require greater protection.
- Parents, teachers, principals, school staff and other adults throughout the community can help children and teens to prevent bullying by discussing it, cultivating a safe school environment, and creating a community-wide bullying prevention strategy.
- Parents and educators should provide students with the opportunity to discuss bullying. Empower students to stop this behaviour by allowing them to take part in establishing the rules against bullying in their schools and community.
If you or someone you know is suffering due to bullying, speak up. Notify parents of both victims and bullies when a confrontation occurs. Listen receptively to parents who report bullying, and investigate reported circumstances so appropriate school action may be taken.
Together we can make a difference.