More and more tools are available every day to fight school bullying. It is important for parents to play a more active role because the solution starts at home.
Lina María Saldarriaga, Psychologist.
A few years ago the English word, “bullying,” became incorporated into the Spanish language in Colombia, matoneo, as it is known in this country. This word it is used it schools, is in the news and in parent conferences. What up until this moment was considered almost normal, underhanded abuse that has always been a part of schools, exploded with situations that were beyond violent. The issue hit a new low when the University Fundación Universitaria de Ciencias de la Salud released in 2013 that in Colombia, one of every five children were victims of this form of abuse.
But that wasn’t all. In 2014, the Plan Foundation published a study that revealed that 77.5% of students in Colombia had experienced bullying at school at some point between first and eleventh grade; just like in the movies about the school where the strongest and biggest students take advantage of the weaker ones.
Lina María Saldarriaga, Director of the PaPaz Content and Research Network, affirms that what has happened in the last few years is not due to the issue becoming more common; it is because researchers, teachers and principals have more tools to detect the problem and have become more aware of the effects that bullying has at school.
In the sixties there was already evidence of bullying, it is not something new. What we didn’t understand was the damage that this causes and the magnitude of it all. Parents sometimes believe those myths that going through intimidating experiences make children stronger or build their character, but this is not true. Children who are victims of bullying have problems forming relationships and have serious self-esteem issues.”
Putting the Matter on the Table
The problem is that this issue has always been spoken about with regard to the victim, but we understand little about the abuser, the bully. According to Saldarriaga, the first thing that has to be understood is that when a child targets their victim, it can’t be assumed that they have some type of mental issue or that they have a serious anger problem. Often times, these bullies need attention, need to achieve power in their relationships, or they may simply lack social skills, which is why bullying becomes a tool for them.
“Bullies have difficulties putting themselves in the shoes of others, feeling what others feel or understanding the consequences of their actions. It also can’t be assumed that just because they are a child, they are unstable, making them become a bully.” There are warning symptoms for parents to be aware of: if your child constantly makes fun of others, or doesn’t demonstrate regret or guilt when they make a mistake, make sure they are not a bully. “There are children that are demonstrating that they need something or they may even be victims themselves.”
Victims and victimizers
Different theories exist about the victims. Some experts believe that they are children that are not capable of managing their emotions; they react by hiding or crying, showing signs of weakness, or perhaps they don’t have a solid group of friends. There are also those children that stick out for having different physical characteristics, or they are not good at sports or at art.
“Victims need to be taught to speak with conviction because many times they tend to react to these attacks by being compliant. They believe that it is possible to mitigate the bullying if they are kind to their aggressor, but this makes them even more of a victim. They have to be taught to be very firm without retaliating.”
Is there a way to prevent bullying? They key is for parents to be involved in daily lives of their children. The average parent, who only has time for their work, needs to be encouraged to get involved and get to know what their child does, who their friends are, how they interact with them; they need to keep an open dialogue with them, instill them with trust, support them in developing lasting friendships, make plans for them to go out with their friends or to play a game together at home. The important thing is, Saldarriaga explains, “…to teach them to respond assertively in these situations; that if they are being bullied, not to react with violence, but to seek help, especially when they are very young. In the case of adolescents, they need to be taught to respond with conviction.”
Remember, bullying take place from within a school, but the solution starts from within the home.
Bullying on the Internet
Cyberbullying is a type of bullying that uses media such as social networks, messaging programs, e-mail as well as electronic devices such as computers, cell phones, and tablets in order to achieve the same objectives as physical bullying. The purpose of this type of bullying is to hurt someone through repeated attacks where there is an imbalance of power, the difference this time is that this is achieved through electronic media. Be aware of your child’s social networks, remember that every website has regulations and age restrictions, and that parental controls exist as a way to protect and supervise your child •
Bullying is caused by
intolerance. The consequences of it include dropping out of school, poor #academic performance, or in the worst of cases, suicide.
The Root of the Word
The term “bullying” was coined in the United States and is a loan word in Spanish. It represents the charging or attacking of the bull in bullfights. In the United States, this issue has been one of the factors associate with some of the school shootings.
What goes on in the life of a bully?
- They hide from their own fears
- There is abuse at home
- They experience a lack of affection
- They flaunt their power
- They experience a lack of loving attention
- They don’t have the space to be with someone
- They have little to no upbringing on values
- They have witnessed and are victims of domestic violence
- They live in areas with high levels of delinquency
- They are the child of separated parents
- Their needs for comfort cannot be met so they supplement these financial needs through illicit means
- They discover their sexuality earlier than most
- They abandon their college studies earlier than others
- They perpetuate abuse in a relationship and among their family
What is the profile of a victim?
- They cry often
- Are insecure
- Have some type of physical or intellectual weakness
- They don’t participate in games for fear of rejection