Anti-bullying tips

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No one should be bullied, ever.

And yet, unfortunately, this is a growing epidemic in today’s world.

A bully demands power and superiority in different ways. Such an individual may act single-handedly or surround himself with a circle of like-minded friends who are willing to assist in the perpetration of such acts.

The three main kinds of bullying are: physical, verbal and emotional. Bullying can be both direct and indirect. In the first instance, the bully confronts his victim face-to-face and the victimisation includes bodily harm, extortion and intimidation. In the second case, it involves a more systematic undermining of the victim’s reputation through rumours and gossip. The latter kind is covert and therefore trickier. Whereas girls tend to be more apt at this latter form of bullying, research shows that there is a shift from direct to indirect bullying which affects both sexes.

Verbal bullying includes the relentless insults and teasing with the intention to demoralise the victim. Such attacks tend to occur when no adult supervision is present. Although such bullying does not cause any visible physical damage, it has a lasting negative impact on the victim’s self- esteem and overall psychological development, which may also result in physical ailments. This kind of bullying tends to include verbal sexual harassment, racial or religious slurs, as well as intolerant abuse against gay victims.

Emotional bullying is the subtlest of them all. It includes anything that affects the sensitivity of the victim. It usually takes on the form of isolation, humiliation and even threats. The bully who exerts this kind of power often has jealous tendencies.

Another aspect of bullying which certainly can no longer be overlooked is that of cyber bullying. In recent years, the emergence of the Internet has also bred this phenomenon. The cyber bully can exert his or her power from the comfort of his/her own room, at any time and through certain social networking sites while also enjoy total anonymity. This kind of bullying is the worst kind as it haunts the victim wherever s/he goes, and at any time of day. Whereas with other forms of bullying, the victim might have some reprieve and could feel safe when surrounded by his loved ones after school hours, cyber bullying penetrates into the privacy of the victim’s home.

Furthermore, the threats, insults and humiliations can be shared and viewed by a wider audience. This can be mortifying to the victim and has, in certain cases even had fatal consequences.

It is vital for parents to monitor their children for any tell tale signs of both aspects of bullying, i.e. for those that may indicate that their child is developing bullying tendencies, just as much as for evidence that the child may be being harassed. In both circumstances, it is indeed imperative for the parents to seek professional help. Any inappropriate or disrespectful behaviour must be closely monitored. The signs are not always clear, however, when a child exhibits a fixation to become more popular and frequently teases/denigrates other individuals or enjoys aggressive behaviour either on screen or towards animals, these may be indications that he/she has bullying tendencies. It could well be simply the need for more attention, but may also be the seed of something more sinister than that.

On the other hand, kids who are often sad, depressed or unwell; those who come home bruised or hungry; those who experience loss of appetite, sleeplessness, lower grades than usual, destructive behaviour and general low self-esteem, may well be victims of bullying. In such a situation, they need urgent help and should be encouraged to speak about their feelings. They need to understand that there is no shame in seeking help. It is a discomfort which is being imposed upon them and which they need to resolve as quickly as possible in order to move on.

A few words of advice for parents: It is ultimately your responsibility to help your kids to grow into responsible and respectful human beings, so as to avoid any bullying problems of any kind. Ensure your kids feel loved and understood. Instil in them a sense of justice and assertiveness. Help them build a healthy self-esteem and develop confidence in their abilities. Above all, teach your child important social skills.