Bullying is a social phenomenon that’s on the increase in our schools today. Studies reveal that 30% of school children are involved in bullying as victims, bullies or both. The law states that schools must have measure in place to prevent all forms of bullying. But with the increase in violence and the increase in victims, do we have effective systems in place?
Academic research on the effects of bulling on victims, perpetrators, and bystanders indicate significant, devastating, and lasting effects for all parties. Bullying impacts victims' mental health which can lead to a barrier for learning. Guilt and regret related to action, or inaction taken lead to mental health issues, loss of self-confidence and self-worth, and even criminal behaviours in later years for some.
I’ve been a victim of bullying myself. My Father served in the British Army, after 6 years in Germany his regiment along with our family were posted back to the UK. I joined a new school in Hampshire as a year 7 student and became a victim of bullying. Whilst I only had to endure it for a few months, it had a lasting effect on me - right into adulthood.
1 in 3 of our school children will experience bullying during their time in the education system. Please read that once more. Tell me you agree that’s not acceptable.
Those parents whose children have trained at my karate school tell me their own children have experienced bullying. Let’s be clear this isn’t just happening to others or with children who have deprived and underprivileged backgrounds. 1 in 3 tells us it’s non-discriminatory, happening everywhere, including the schools your children attend.
Schools have done much to combat bullying by implementing bullying prevention programs. We dive into this topic more in part 2 of this article. However the point of intervention isn’t when a child becomes a victim.
Despite these intervention programs parents tell me little is done to address the behaviour of known bullies. Children are more likely to share their situation with a friend, closely followed by telling a parent and the research indicates lastly informing the teacher.
Bullying is a broad term but can be expressed typically in 4 related dimensions. (Gladden, Vivolo-Kantor, Hamburger, & Lumpkin, 2014)
1. Physical - hitting or kicking
2. Verbal - use of spoken or written words, teasing or name calling etc.
3. Relational - direct or indirect action to harm the victims reputation and relationships
4. Damage to property - stealing or damaging the victims possessions
Bullying also has three defining features
1. Intent to harm
2. Imbalance of power
So, what are the facts? We know that bullying in our schools, is on the increase. We also know that the impact on victims, bullies and bystanders can be devastating, long lasting and personality altering.
It can also be said that this topic is complex to resolve and requires intervention programs that are well implemented and well communicated along with a significant commitment from the school, parents and community to take ownership.
It is crucial to implement evidence-based strategies that teach empathy, conflict resolution, and positive communication skills to create a safe and inclusive environment for all students.
Those that perpetrate bullying need support too. Underlying issues of violence in the home, lack of purpose, direction and positive outlets, the need for recognition and projection of self fears are all reasons why some children resort to bullying.
Whilst there is much research on the topic of bullying and its impacts, it’s my opinion that we need more investment in Australian research.
We also need to bolder in tackling the issue. Do we have a systemic failure to address the root cause of bullying which as we learn, is often a manifestation of deeper societal issues such as inequality, discrimination, and prejudice.
By not addressing these root causes, we fail to create an environment that promotes respect, acceptance, and inclusivity. All of which as I reflect, are current topics we seek to address in the Enterprise.
In my for follow article I explore an intervention program, and the merits of utilising martial arts to help educate the necessity to respect others, establish empathy, tolerance, along with methodologies for conflict resolution that don’t result in violence.