Letter of the Day| Bullying has long-term effects on our children
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Childhood and adolescence can be some of the toughest years of an individual's life. For some children, countless hours are spent at school under the supervision of administrators entrusted with the task of protecting them. However, there are alarming statistics to show that protected environments such as our schools may prove to be a dangerous and toxic environment for the psychological development of our youth. From playground cruelty to online rumours, we're hearing more about bullying than ever, but are we making an effort to help our children and adolescents cope?
Experts agree that generally, behaviour that is considered to be bullying, involves four key elements. These are: aggression or hostility, repetition of the negative behaviour, intent to harm as well as a power imbalance between the parties. Due to factors such as age, gender or size, a bully may have a perceived authority over another. In the case of your child, this imbalance of power refers to acts of aggression that substantially interfere with his academic performance or ability to participate in school related activities.
THE VICTIMS OF BULLYING
Individuals that choose to bully are not typically born with the characteristic. It is a result from the treatment they received from authority figures such as parents. Bullies are often from families that use physical forms of discipline. This conditions the child into a strategy of "bully or be bullied". The effects of bullying are such that your child having passed through G-SAT as a star may experience a drop in his/her academic performance as well as a shift in behaviour as a result of through truancy and a desire to "fit in" with the bully.
Jamaica has earned itself a long history of struggle with violence which sadly, our children have not been immune to experiencing either as a victim or a perpetrator. The Child Development Agency (CDA) unearthed some worrying information on the status of bullying in Jamaican schools. The study concluded that 70% of the 1,876 students surveyed said they were bullied over the 2013- 2014 school year. Regarding the types of bullying these children were experiencing, 57.6% said they being teased or called names; 31.5% cited being hit, kicked or shoved; 28.6% said they have had lies told on them and 13.7% reported to have been ignored or excluded.
TEACHERS AS BYSTANDERS
It is difficult to effectively combat widespread bullying in our schools as it tends to be a covert activity; both bullies and victims are usually reluctant to disclose to adults that it is taking place. There is no single descriptive profile to help schools to identify those students who are at risk for being targeted by bullies. However, one key indicator is the presence (or absence) of friends in a child's life.
And we haven't even begun to talk about bullying in unstructured settings where there are very few supervising adults in those settings where bullying is more likely to occur, or those supervising adults may simply be unequipped to intervene early and assertively whenever they've witnessed questionable behaviour between children.
Human rights activist