Understanding Bullying and Way Out
Bullying is psychological, verbal, or physical maltreatment produced among students at the school level, which is usually produced in the classroom as well as through the Internet and social networks (cyberbullying) and is maintained over time. The bully often requires the silence, indifference, or collaboration of other children in the classroom and is considered an extreme type of school violence.
Initially, school bullying was studied by psychologist Dan Olweus in Norway following the suicide of three children in 1982. Since then it has become a topic of interest and is being extensively studied, with several prevention programs being developed. In operation in several European countries.
Emotional or physical abuse is usually directed towards what is perceived as less powerful, either because in fact there is inequality between victim and aggressor or because of the latter acts in a group, which makes him superior psychologically or physically. The desire to inflict harm by the aggressor becomes obsessive and feeds on the pleasure he experiences by hurting someone vulnerable. The stalker, in addition, does not usually experience guilt and behaves aggressively with the victim in a repetitive manner.
Types of bullying
In this section, we will focus on the different types of bullying in order to deepen their understanding. The most common modalities in which bullying is presented, such as any type of abuse, are the following:
Physical: abuse that has physical aggression as the main component (eg kicks, pinching, punching, pushing, tripping …)
Verbal: usually based on insults or nicknames (motes) made generally in public and emphasizing the incapacities, insecurities, or disabilities of the victim.
Psychological: this aspect is part of all forms of abuse, and is aimed at undermining the self-esteem of the victim and make their fears and insecurity grow.
Social: it is oriented to foment the exclusion of the victim with respect to the group, taking part in this action to other individuals to promote the isolation.
Cyberbullying: the use of technologies such as the internet and social networks to annoy, threaten, humiliate, or harass the victim.
In addition to these variations mentioned so far, several classifications of types of bullying have been developed, but in the following lines we will focus on the one presented by teachers Piñuel and Zabala and Oñate:
Social Blockade: actions by the aggressor that seek to socially block the victim producing social isolation and marginalization. This is achieved through the imposition of prohibitions such as talking or communicating with other members of the group, or playing, both directed at the victim and peers (so that they stop relating to the excluded child). The consequence is often a bankruptcy of the child’s social support network. It is very difficult to combat because it leaves no trace and sometimes the victim can not identify it clearly.
Harassment: it has as characteristics a series of manifestations of contempt, mockery, disrespect, cruelty, and disregard for the dignity of the victim.
Social Manipulation: tries to distort the social image of the child so that the rest of the group is against him, using everything he does or says to charge against him and present him very negatively to others. This causes other partners to join the aggression of the victim or create the victim deserving of it.
Coercion: it is about subjecting the child’s will so that they can exercise a mastery that makes the group perceive the aggressor as powerful. Abuse or molestation of a sexual nature silenced for fear of reprisal may be included in this section.
Social Exclusion: the victim is treated as if he did not exist, or is prevented from participating in games or his expression, getting him isolated from the rest of the peer group.
Intimidation: seeks by definition to induce fear in the victim, consuming it emotionally and intimidating it by intimidating action, physical harassment, and even harassment on leaving the school.
Aggressions and threats to integrity: include extortion or threatening the physical or physical integrity of the child or his or her family with the intent to humiliate him.
The main active subjects within a scenario of bullying or bullying are the aggressor, the victim, and the observers (classmates). Below we will briefly describe each one of them:
It is a profile that presents low self-esteem and insecurity and can be recognized as a shy, quiet, cautious, and sensitive child. Sometimes there may be some level of paternal overprotection to these children that can result in dependence and attachment to the home.
Alarm symptoms that may let us know that we are facing a bullying child may be absent from class attendance with a recurrence greater than usual, difficulty in maintaining concentration, isolation from the group, suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts, Fear of being alone, physical symptoms of anxiety (palpitations, dizziness, headaches, for example), psychological and emotional symptoms (nervousness, pessimism, tension, etc.), escape or avoidance behavior, Feelings of guilt and symptoms of depression (e.g, irritability, apathy, or insomnia).
The stalker usually presents some kind of psychopathology, although it is true that this is not a necessary condition. He often lacks empathy and often has some sort of cognitive distortion that could make him interpret his relationship with equals as a conflict or aggression toward himself. He does not usually feel guilty and is under anger control, showing normal self-esteem and a certain level of self-sufficiency.
Sometimes these stalkers are older than their classmates (for example, for having repeated course), and are often not well integrated into the school. They can come from unstructured families with little paternal contact and homes in which a component of domestic violence is present.
They present verbal and physical aggressiveness, impulsivity, and exert an abuse of power and psychological that is reflected in a body language and gesture of rejection. This behavior can sometimes lead them to learn a model of relationship with others that seeks approval and recognition through the exclusion and contempt of others.
School bullying often produces a social contagion that inhibits aid to the victim or even causes certain group members to react by contributing to such harassment. In this sense, we can classify viewers according to their degree of involvement in harassment, as follows:
Accomplices: they are usually friends of the aggressor or followers of the same and provide direct assistance to abuse (such as, for example, blocking the escape of the victim for the aggressor to achieve it)
Reinforcers: through mockery, laughter, or approving comments, encourage and encourage the continued harassment of the victim, even though they do not contribute to it physically.
Observers: the behavior to the situation of abuse to the victim is silence.
Defenders: are those spectators who show their support to the victim either at the time of the aggression or later.
In addition, sometimes what can be known as the mechanism of the scapegoat, which tries to destroy that member of the group that resists the actions of the majority or is different from the rest.
Short-term and long-term consequences of bullying
Bullying, which as we say can be covered within psychological abuse, has serious consequences for those who participate in it and its victims. All the people involved will suffer short- and long-term consequences, from the victim to the aggressor, passing by the spectators.
For the child who suffers from bullying, there is a serious deterioration of self-esteem, development of emotional problems such as depression and anxiety, and passive attitudes in general. One of the clearest consequences in many cases may be the decline in academic performance and sometimes dropping out of school, as a result of a lack of interest in studies as a result of the abuse situation. In extreme cases, the child may develop suicidal thoughts and even suicide attempts.
Victims may be at increased risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder, antisocial personality disorder, depression, and other anxiety disorders in adulthood. These emotional sequels make it one of the problems in childhood that have a more long-term effect, maintaining its negative influence on the life and mental health of the victims beyond a decade after bullying.
Attackers also present sequels due to their violent and intimidating behavior in their social relationships, which can lead to the development of criminal behavior. Their difficulty in tolerating frustration complicates the generation of new, more positive relationships for these subjects. They end up behaving coercively with others, through power, threat, and violence, as it is the only kind of relationship they know.
As for the spectators, the consequences of witnessing the harassment of the victim are the development of a certain level of desensitization towards violence that makes them more tolerant in the future and less able to act in favor of the child Who suffers from bullying, or from other victims with whom he may already be in adulthood.
How to deal with bullying
As we have shown in the previous lines, bullying is an extremely complex issue that requires a simultaneous intervention on various agents for its positive attainment. These agents can be individual, family, and social.
With regard to prevention, it is considered that parental education in democratic (non-authoritarian) values could help to avoid this situation. It also raises the need to make the participants aware that this is a situation that should be denounced not only by the victim.
It is essential that parents of victims of bullying, communicate with their children, and listen to them, keeping calm at all times. This is very common for parents to be the last to learn about the situation their child is living in, so be aware of sudden changes in their behavior, such as irritability, sadness, fear of going to school, nightmares, loss of appetite, headaches or stomachaches, and anything that goes out of the ordinary in each child. In addition, if the child appeared at any time with a wound, a scratch or the deterioration of their school material, we should consider it as a possible alarm.
Within the role of parents in the resolution of bullying, it would be important to reinforce the child’s self-esteem and to point out that he should not feel guilty because he is not at fault for what is happening to him. It would be good to foster the generation of new social relationships in the child’s life, in or out of school. The child should be advised not to respond to the attacks and if he has evidence or messages (in case of cyberbullying), he should keep them as much as possible.
The involvement of the school’s teaching staff is fundamental for solving the school bullying problem. Sometimes it can be difficult to identify the problem, especially because sometimes it does not happen in front of the teachers. That is why it is important, as a preventive measure, to monitor environments where it usually happens, such as patios and restrooms. It is important to open channels of communication with the students, so that through trust they can help the children to open up and tell what is happening. At no time should we minimize the complaints or references to bullying, or point out that they are “children’s things”.
It is necessary to equip students with an education in values and rights, fostering empathy and solidarity, identifying possible stereotypes and making them front, taking into account that the students will see the behavior of the teaching staff as an example to follow. The teacher must be assertive in the face of a bullying situation, informing the situation to the management of the center, and actively monitoring the possible scenarios of harassment, in order to avoid possible reprisals by the aggressor. Teachers should act as quickly as possible, with individual interventions aimed at the agents of the problem but not acting as mediators since mediation is often not effective in situations of power imbalance such as these and may increase intimidation towards victims.
Through group interventions, teachers must work with the whole class so that this situation is rejected by all and empathize with the victim. Also, it is important not to force the child to tell what happened to different people, allowing him to choose who he wants to trust.
Bullying witnesses should be informed that it is normal for them to be afraid of bullying and that if they do not feel able to stop it on their own, it is best to seek the help of an adult by pointing out that this is not Sneak if you do not help a child who needs it and who does not deserve to be treated that way.
With regard to the aggressor, it must be encouraged that this is raised because it needs to disturb or hurt another child to feel good. It is crucial to work on the development of empathy, making him think about how the other child feels when he harasses him. Work on emotions and anger management is important, teaching the child more adaptive alternative responses.
It is crucial to assure the victim that the situation he is living in is inherently unjust. It is normal for you to feel guilty, sad, embarrassed, and have feelings of terror and fear. The child must be assured that he must not keep the aggression in secret and that he must pass it on to an adult who generates confidence and also the teaching staff of the school.
Before and during the resolution of the problem, it is important that the victim is accompanied at all times and avoid going to problematic places where there is more possibility of aggression. In addition, it is essential to support the child in terms of appropriate emotional expression and coping with the situation, preventing it from responding to violence with aggression.