Prevention of Bullying
Typically, the concept of bullying as a significant concern seems to arise in the context of children and adolescents. However, it is important to note that bullying is not restricted simply to the youth occurring solely in schools and colleges, but it also can be witnessed by almost all of us across our lifespan, including at our workplace, in the community, at a public place, amongst peers, or even within our own family. Furthermore, bullying need not be restricted to physical violence, but can also be in other forms of verbal or social abuse, which also have a significant psychological impact.
Despite an increasing prevalence of bullying and its significant consequences, there is still an under reporting of such incidents today. This is mainly due to a lack of awareness and information regarding the identification an intervention for bullying. As a responsible adult, it is imperative for each one of us to recognize our own role towards the prevention of such incidents. The following are some of the points which could be kept in mind to help towards such an initiative:
1. Ensuring an adequate identification of bullying. The first step to be taken towards preventing bullying would require us all to be educated and equipped with the adequate knowledge to be able to recognize incidents of bullying. Bullying is most commonly thought of in terms of physical aggression, including hitting, kicking or pushing someone. However, bullying could be manifested in a variety of forms, for instance other physical forms of bullying could include making rude gestures, stealing or hiding or destroying others’ belongings, or even making someone do something he or she doesn’t want to do. In addition, bullying could be verbal, including name calling, teasing, insulting or threatening, interpersonal, including avoiding to talk to someone, spreading rumours, isolating or alienating a person, or embarrassing the person.
2. Understanding the significance of a bystander. In addition to the perpetrator and the victim, the bystander or witness also plays a significant role in determining the outcome of the bullying incident. A bystander could play different roles, being a passerby, an observer, a participant, a follower, a defender or an outsider. Such a person may choose to actively intervene to stop the bully, or to encourage the bully to continue, or might even choose to view the bullying passively. The bystanders also need to be strengthened, encouraging a shared concern and sense of shared responsibility.
3. Encouraging help seeking behaviour. It is understandable that a victim of bullying may not always be willing to seek help. This is because of a combination of multiple reasons, including a fear of the consequences from the bully, a feeling of isolation or alienation, a fear of being perceived as weak or a tattletale, etc. Further, some of them might not even know whom to reach out to for help, and may not want others to know for fear of humiliation, fearing being rejected by their peers. And the worst-case scenario could be when the person might consider him or herself to be guilty or responsible in some way for the bulling behavior. Therefore, it is important to create awareness amongst people, especially young children, to know that asking for help is a sign of strength.
4. Promote assertiveness skills training. It is necessary to equip all individuals with the necessary assertiveness skills to be able to know what to do in the moment and to learn how to stand up to the bully. Such a life skill needs to be imparted across settings, be it at home, school or within the community. In fact, it is also important to develop a multicomponent model to prevent such tendencies, especially in schools as it is the young children who are most vulnerable. At a classroom level, social and interpersonal skills training needs to be encourages, building healthy peer support systems, encouraging children to learn to take perspectives of each other, while at the same time focusing on teaching emotional awareness and regulation, and focusing on prosocial behaviours which inculcate the values of empathy, compassion, care and cooperation.
5. Creating awareness programs. The utmost need for awareness programs to be conducted extensively cannot be emphasized enough, as it is not just the children but the teachers, the parents, and the community at large which needs to be aware of the nature, consequences and skills required to deal effectively with bullying.
6. Implementation of school-wide prevention policies. There is also a strong need to create and implement school wide anti-bullying rules and policies, which helps the children know the consequences of such actions. There is a growing requirement of the creation as well the implementation of bullying prevention and intervention policies which are sensitive to the needs of the individuals in order to ensure their healthy psychological well-being.