Mostly everyone has experienced some sort of bullying at school. Bullying can take many forms, verbal, physical, emotional or even sexual. The bully could be a teacher or a fellow student.
As a British student about to enter upper school I remembered my fear when I saw the British school soap opera Grange Hill, the bullying teacher Mr Hicks and the bullying student “Gripper”.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”. So goes an old saying. Not true. Names hurt, as do all forms of bullying. 16 students will die each year in Britain from suicide due to bullying at school. Even more students end up in hospital as a direct result of bullying. Over half of school students in Britain thought bullying was a “big problem” in their school.
In the USA the bullying is a larger problem. An estimated 100, 000 students carry a gun to school. 23% of students reported bullying in a given month. 75% of school-shooting incidents have been linked to harassment and bullying. 282,000 US students report being physically attacked at school each month. Over 30% of US elementary and high school students do not feel safe at school. California, followed by New York is considered the most troubling states for school bullying.
With the advent of new technology the method of bullying has also changed. Students now stalk, harass and bully each other on the social web sites like Facebook, Bebo or Myspace. MSN, AIM or other instant messaging services are a mode of bullying. Bullying occurs by text messaging on mobile phones, and to a less extent by e-mail. YouTube and the blogs are used to humiliate or attack students and teachers. There are even rating web sites where students can potentially make harmful remarks about teachers.
Once a student becomes the target of bullying, a situation can quickly run out of control. Students tend to attract a pack of bullies rather than just one. Many cases of bullying often drive students to self harm, suicide or to a school shooting. At the lower end of the bullying spectrum students academic performance and self esteem is wrecked by bullying.
What can be done? Every school should have a strict bullying policy. Every bullying incident should be dealt with rapidly and efficiently. Both the bully and the bullied should be offered counselling services.
The student should also be encouraged to play their part by stamping out bullying. Peer pressure is more effective than teachers on bullying as longs as the students are a part of the solution. Students should be educated on the effects of bullying and what they can do about it.
Bullying affects all of society. If bullying is not curbed at school the behaviour continues into the work place and beyond.