- Will the bullying ever stop? Can we bullyproof our children?
Compiled by Annalise Kempen
Social media has made a huge contribution to creating awareness of bullying - not only physical or verbal bullying, but also cyberbullying. The reality is that every single person is a potential victim. It is no longer only the girl with the pimples or the overweight boy who are teased, bullied and left out of activities.
To confirm the point, let's look at what happened at a well-known Johannesburg high school after a video of an assault was posted online in February 2017. In the video, two boys are being shown standing nervously next to each other as two other pupils prepare for the assault. One of the older boys, who is in Gr 11, is shown carefully taking off his blazer and rolling up his shirt sleeves. He then proceeds to slap one of the younger boys hard on the ear. The other bully, also a Gr 11 learner, does the same to the second victim. The two younger boys, who are in Gr 10, stumble backwards but do not fight back.
What is bullying?
What happened at this high school is unfortunately not an isolated incident and can be described as bullying, or what the Department of Basic Education describes as "school bullying". This is the type of bullying that occurs either inside or outside of school. It can be physical, verbal or emotional and is usually repeated over a period of time. The Gauteng Department of Education elaborates by noting that bullying can be defined as a deliberate act of aggression or manipulation which occurs when repeated, systematic and hurtful verbal abuse or behaviour are committed by one person on another. The English Oxford Living Dictionaries defines a bully as "a person who uses strength or influence to harm or intimidate those who are weaker" and when one uses it as a verb, it means "to use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something".
In a school context, bullying occurs in nearly any place in or around the school building. However, it occurs more often during school breaks, in hallways or bathrooms, on school buses and places where children are waiting for buses, in classes that require group work and/or during after school activities. It can happen without the victim doing anything to provoke the behaviour from the bully and takes the form of one learner or a group taking advantage of, or isolating, one other learner or two other learners in particular.
Types of bullying
Bullying is not limited to one type and consists of:
- Physical bullying
This type of bullying includes acts that are physical in nature, such as when the bully forces other children to do things they do not want to do, takes or damages other children's belongings, engages in violent acts such as kicking, hitting or punching, or even sexually harassing another child such as by pulling the victim's pants down.
- Verbal bullying
This type of bullying happens when the bully makes verbal threats to the victim or when the victim is teased, mocked or taunted. Other forms of verbal bullying include making threatening and embarrassing gestures; writing nasty letters about someone; insulting a person's family members; calling people names; and swearing.
- Psychological bullying
This is a type of bullying which is often not recognised or associated with bullying per se and includes the spreading of false and hurtful rumours; excluding someone from activities or groups; telling others to stop liking a specific person; trying to dominate a person; intimidating someone by staring at him/her; humiliating or making a fool out of a person; or scaring or intimidating someone.
In recent years, and especially with the use of social media becoming more general, victims are being tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by other children using interactive and digital technologies such as the Internet or cellphones. This form of bullying is also usually not a one-time occurrence, but extends over a period of time.
Parents and teachers are not always sure about whether what they see happening to children can be defined as bullying. There are, however, various signs which adults can look out for and which may help them understand the problems that children are facing at school.