Bullying has become a common topic discussed day in, day out in our society. This practice is very common amongst students at all levels – primary, secondary and tertiary institutions.

What is bullying? Bullying is a recurrent form of aggressive behaviour in which someone intentionally causes another person injury or discomfort physically or emotionally. Bullying features threats, rumours, and attacking someone physically or verbally. Bullying is of three types, namely verbal bullying, social bullying and physical bullying. Verbal bullying concerns saying or writing which includes threatening to cause harm, name-calling, taunting, teasing, gossiping, backbiting and inappropriate sexual comments. Social bullying is a kind of relational bullying that involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes sending rumours about someone, leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, and embarrassing someone in public whereas physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Examples of physical bullying are hitting/punching/kicking, spitting, pushing or tripping among others. Physical bullying is very common amongst school children this day.

Where and when bullying happens? It can occur during or after school hours. It may happen in the school building, that is, in the dormitory, library, hostel, on the playground or in the school garden.

There is no single reason which explains the cause of bullying. A few of the causes of bullying among school children can be an expression of anger or frustration from home or school.

Poor upbringing can cause bullying. This occurs when some people have not been taught to be sensitive to or care about others feelings. 

The violent movies/games children watch may influence their behaviour and make them more likely to be bullies. This behaviour needs attention. For example, if they are not getting enough care and attention at home or in school. 

Another cause of bullying occurs in schools where there is no culture of respect for others. Here, if the school management is lackadaisical about the plight of the students involved, where the victim needs the schools’ support, the bully will be as vulnerable as a person as his/her victim.

Environmental influences and personality  (teachers attitude, behaviour and supervisory routines) cause bullying among school children. The environment children live in contribute to their behaviour. In a situation where children are left to interact with other peers who take drugs is likely to influence their behaviour.

Parents who model aggression as a way of dealing with children or who use harsh methods of discipline are significantly more likely to have children who engage in bullying.

Who are guilty of bullying? Students, teachers/schools and parents are guilty of this practice. Teachers/schools are responsible for school children bullying because they refuse to listen to them whenever they report any case of bullying to them. At times, the schools do allow the senior students to torture the junior ones whenever they offended them. 

Parents are also guilty of school children bullying. Some of these Parents think that parenting can be substituted for money. They abandon their wards in the boarding school thinking that they have paid the school management to take care of their wards. These parents forget that the school will try their level best to take care of their wards when they are still in school but cannot extend such care to their various homes when they are on holiday. Some parents do not listen to their wards whenever they want to express their mind. At times, when school children are fed up of bullying in their school, they may ask their parents to change their school. Instead of parents to investigate what made their children to change school, they would rather chun them.  Parents could later realise their negligence when something bad had happened to their child(ren). This evil practice must be discouraged. 

There are some signs associated with bullying which parents/guardians and schools should observe in their wards. Some of these signs include: change in eating habits (this is evident when a child starts skipping meals), frequent nightmare, unexplainable injuries, feeling sick or faking illness, poor academic performance, lack of self-esteem or feelings of helplessness, self-destructive behaviours such as running away from home, and talking about suicide.

At times, school children refuse to report bullying because they feel helpless, fear backlash from those that bully them. They don’t want adults to know what is being said about them, whether true or false, and fear of being rejected by their peers. These therefore make students refuse to seek help why they are bullied. Research shows that only 20% of school bullying incidents are reported by the school children (Statistics from the 2018 indicators of crime and safety).

What are the effects of bullying? Bullying has effects on both those who are bullied and on those who bully others. The effects on school children who are bullied are likely to experience depression and anxiety, ill complaints, decrease in academic performance which occurs as a result of skipping classes or dropping out of school. 

The effects of bullying on school children who bully others are more likely to have criminal conversations, abuse alcohol and other drugs, be abusive towards their romantic partners, children, or spouses, and engage in early sexual activity.

Having discussed the meaning of bullying, its causes, signs, effects and those responsible for its practice, it is high time we discussed how to prevent it. In order to prevent bullying, parents should:

• educate their children about bullying.

• encourage their children to be a positive role model.

• build their children self-confidence through enrolment in classes or joining activities they love in the community.

• always partake in the online platform their children engage in to warn them about the different risks they will face online. 

• often visit their wards in their various hostels.

• report to school management whenever they find any sign of bullying in their wards.

Moreover, while policymakers and school administrators collaborate to promote anti-social programmes that are capable of discouraging bullying, teachers should be fully armed with information on how to handle bullying children in school. The school children should not face bullying alone. They need to report to the teacher or school management.

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