Help for kids in school

For us to help and make a change we first must analyze the problem.  Herewith a guide on explaining bullying, how to identify it and what the consequences are.  Please click on the step by step guide button.  This will take you to a step by step guide that we have put together for you to make the reporting of such an incident much easier. Information guide was written by the team from i-Evolve.  www.i-evolve.co.za

Some SA realities

  • Under Section 384 of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1955 (Act 56 of 1955), “a person who has been a victim of violent conduct by another person, or who has been threatened with injury to himself or herself or to his or her property by another person, or where the other person has used language or behaved in a manner towards the victim that is likely to provoke the breach of peace or assault, that person may approach a magistrate for an order to keep the peace.”
  • Girls fall more victim to cyberbullying than boys
  • Boys tend to bully more directly and girls more indirectly
  • “In 2012, a study conducted by Unisa established that out of a research sample of 3371 learners, 1158 learners (34.4%) had been victims of bullying. Furthermore, emotional bullying is evidently more prevalent, with 55.3% of learners falling victim to emotional bullying, 38.4% being victimized physically, 16.9% being tormented via social media and 2.8% being the victims of verbal bullying. This study also shows that 29.3% of bullying incidents transpire at school after class; and 32.2% of bullying incidents occur during class.” (Laas, A. Combating bullying in schools: A South African legal perspective. Masters thesis, University of Pretoria).

What is bullying?

  • Bullying is a direct or indirect act of one learner against another learner with the intention to harm the other learner.
  • This behaviour is consistent over a period.
  • The bullied learners do not have the power to defend themselves.
  • To determine whether bullying is happening, one must focus on the impact on the bullied learner and not necessarily the behaviour of the bully. This implies that some behaviour may not be deemed “bullying” behaviour, yet it has a bullying effect on the receiver.
  • A parent or caregiver has the best intuition when it comes to knowing whether your child is being bullied.
  • Yet, parents must be very sure that their child is, in fact, being bullied. With the heightened awareness socially, educationally and legally on the high incidents of bullying, parents or schools need to ensure that they know all aspects related to bullying before making accusations.
  • Accusations may cause serious harm to the so-called bully and may, in fact, have a dire long-term impact on their development should the accusations be false.
  • Involved parents know when their child’s behaviour changes. These changes will most probably happen over time and will not be sudden – hence parents need to consciously and actively build a relationship with their child to notice subtle changes.
  • Parents must also know in which developmental stage their child is. Many “normal” behaviour changes happen during the growth from pre-teens to teens, and some of these may replicate bullying symptoms.
  • When a child is being bullied they always feel quite weak. Their internal dialogue may even be such that they think they deserve to be bullied. Here, their personality traits, upbringing, and current home environment will play a big role.
  • Even if they have good parental bonding, being bullied is often seen as a shameful thing and kids don’t immediately share what they are experiencing.
  • They may reason as follows instead of sharing with a parent/ adult/ teacher:
  • Let me see what I can do
  • I will avoid the bully as far as possible and then they will stop
  • At least my friends are supporting me’
  • It’s not so bad…. I can handle it
  • I don’t really know what is happening – maybe it is just the way things should be
  • I am sure others have the same experience
  • My parents won’t understand
  • Teachers don’t do anything – the bully is so popular/clever/beautiful etc
  • As a parent, your role is clear: you need to stay the parent. And stay as focused as possible on the best outcome for your child. Emotional responses are important yet will neither help your child or you very much during the bullying experience.
  • Some symptoms you may see – remember these will happen over time so pay attention: *all these symptoms are relative to your child’s normal behaviour and not compared to other children’s normal behaviour:
  • Change in eating habits
  • Change in sleeping habits
  • Watching different types of shows/movies – aggressive dependent on what they normally like
  • Swearing
  • Moodiness
  • Looking tired and drained
  • Seeming anxious to go to school or stay after school
  • Not wanting to participate in school activities anymore, e.g. sport, culture
  • Harming themselves – cutting or hair-pulling
  • Wanting to stay out late with “new” friends
  • Smelling of smoke or alcohol
  • Crying for no apparent reason
  • Flying off the handle for no apparent reason
  • Deteriorating relationship with either the father or mother
  • There are a variety of types of bullies – and reasons why kids bully.
  • In all types of bullying there is an underlying “power” dynamic, whether social, financial, psychological, physical, gender, sexual orientation, age, race or status
  • The most prevalent reasons for bullying can be grouped into external and internal factors:
  • External motivators:
    • The bully was/ is bullied themselves – either by an adult, teacher or other learner
    • The bully is anxious and deeply uncertain
    • The bully does it for their own amusement
    • The bully is desperate for attention – even negative attention
    • The bully perceives others to have something that they don’t have yet deserve
    • The bully wants to copycat something that was seen on TV or social media
    • The bully is growing up in an abusive environment and regularly witnesses violence
    • The bully is growing up in an environment where they rule their parents and can do whatever they want and be supported
  • Internal factors:
    • Psychological disorders such as: Oppositional Defiant Disorder; Conduct Disorder; Antisocial Personality Disorder; Bipolar tendencies.
  • Anyone can be the victim of bullying – if they fall into the category of “deserving to be bullied” by the bully.
  • Victims often fall within one or all of the following categories:
    • Learners who are seen as weak, talk or walk or look different, seem withdrawn or who are popular with teachers;
    • Learners who seem to not be able to stand up for themselves and who does not seem to belong to a specific group;
    • Most often learners that are physically inferior to the bully bears the brunt of bullying.
  • Bullying occurs across the age groups: from 8-24 years.
  • The TIMMS report of 2015 shows that the peak age of bullying in SA occurs in grade 5 (highest frequency of bullying across 49 countries surveyed) and grade 9 (3rd highest frequency of bullying among 38 countries surveyed).
  • Thereafter it seems to drop and most bullying stops when kids finish high school.
  • Most bullying happens during class and after school.
  • The rise in cyberbullying has however impacted this significantly and bullying can now happen anytime and anywhere.
  • Bullying can be either direct bullying; indirect bullying or cyberbullying – it can also be a combination of all 3 types.
  • Direct bullying is often physical in nature (name-calling, shoving, hitting, spitting on someone, biting, taking another learner’s property, forcing someone to do something demeaning, sexual overtures, rape).
  • Indirect bullying is subtler and is rarely physical in nature (exclusion from certain group activities, spreading rumors, gossiping, sharing embarrassing information, sarcastic comments, mocking, laughing at a learner).
  • Cyberbullying is becoming the most prevalent form of bullying and has a severe impact because the bully can often stay anonymous. It is closely linked to indirect bullying, yet also include actions like posting embarrassing pictures of someone, doctoring pictures, using foul and explicit language, hinting at inappropriate behaviour, promiscuous slants.
  • Direct and indirect bullying almost always includes some form of social visibility, i.e. it happens in the presence of others. These groupings form an integral part of the bullying activity.
  • Others can take on one of 3 roles:
    • bystander – not taking either side yet seeing what happens;
    • reinforcers – taking the side of the bully and encouraging him/her to continue; or
    • defenders – consoling or helping the victim during and/or after the bullying incident.
  • Then there is also the bully/victim combination – a kid who is bullied and who bullies others at the same time.
  • Providing an exhaustive list of the impact of bullying on the victim is very difficult as there is a complexity of interrelated factors that need to be considered.
  • The impact will certainly be negative, yet the ability of the victim to work through the sense-making process and moving forward as an intact person will be influenced by the following aspects:
    • Firstly, the victim’s perception of bullying is crucial. What do they view as bullying and what impact is it having on them on 3 levels: emotionally, cognitively and behaviourally?
    • What support structure does the victim have at home and at school? Do teachers make light of their reports of being bullied? Does the principal talk about a no-bully approach yet does nothing when it happens – even once! Are both parents involved with the child, or only 1? What are the circumstances at home – is there a caregiver or guardian in place of parents, how many children are at home and what are their ages, how does the child talk about their home environment? And what were the home circumstances when the bullying started?
    • What symptoms are presenting to indicate bullying? Are there physical symptoms or signs? Emotional? Social?
    • Is the bullying physical, emotional, social? Direct, indirect or cyberbullying? Is the child talking about the bullying or denying the bullying?
    • What is the friends’ response to the bullying? Do they maybe tell the victim’s parents that the child is being bullied – or in general conversation do they refer to other kids as bullies? Do they seem happy that they are not in “that group” etc.
    • How long is the bullying going on? This may be difficult to find out exactly as many victims deny it for long before they open about bullying.
    • Do you know anything about the personality, age and gender of the bully? Does the child know the bully? Or is it someone outside their group of peers?
  • Victim’s perception of what bullying means
  • Support structure – school and home
  • Presenting symptoms
  • Friends’ response
  • Duration of bullying
  • The home environment at the time the bullying started
  • Type of bullying
  • Personality, gender, and age of bully
  • Inasmuch as the bully is the one inflicting pain on the victim, a 2018 UK study shows that they actually have a higher prevalence of the following impacts than the kid being bullied:
    • Depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, antisocial behaviour, self-harmed, truanted from school, developed and eating disorder, abused drugs or alcohol, ran away from home and engaged in risky sexual behavior
  • This may be attributed to the bully engaging in bullying behavior as a cry for help or a lack of social and parental influence as to acceptable and unacceptable behavior when it comes to engaging with others.
  • Bullies often do not know what they are feeling, and where their frustrations come from. They then act out as a way to manage their internal uncertainty.
  • In cases where the bully has an underlying psychological disorder, the bullying behaviour may actually create a sense of satisfaction and these are the dangerous bullies. The tactics they use to bully will likely escalate over time and may even end in mutilation, rape or murder.
  • Schools cannot take these signs lightly!
  • We want to create a new narrative and empower both victims and bullies
  • This narrative is about acknowledging the plight of both parties. Acknowledging that they experience the same emotional trauma and that they both have underlying reasons why they have taken on either the role of bully or the role of victim
  • We want to help kids of all ages build resilience and agility, build social networking skills and awareness of themselves so that they can notice when their own personal value is being impacted
  • We also offer 1 free counseling session (telephonic) with the parent/s and learner who is being bullied, or with the bully and their parent/s
  • Laas, A. (2012) University of Pretoria. Combating bullying in schools: A South African legal perspective. Masters thesis.
  • Olweus, D. (1999). Sweden. In P.K. Smith, Y. Morita, J. Junger-Tas, D. Olweus, R. Catalano & P. Slee (Eds.), The nature of school bullying: A cross-national perspective (pp. 7-27). London & New York: Routledge.
  • Hlophe, Z.L., Morojele, P.J., Motsa, N.D. (2017). Learners’ constructions of bullying in a South African School context. Journal of Transdisciplinary research in South Africa.
  • Bullying in schools: the state of knowledge and effective interventionsErsilia Menesini&Christina SalmivalliDivision of Psychology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
  • 24 Jan 2017, https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/cphm20/current