A few days back, a friend shared a gruesome 42-second clip of three school-going teens in uniform bullying another student. Such incidents are not only frequent but are also turning into tragedies. Bullying should neither be condoned nor brushed off as something that people have to bear with. It does not only affect the victim’s self-worth, but also his future relationships. Bullying may start with name-calling, teasing and sexual comments, before degenerating into physical action, and sometimes ending in fatalities. When does an act turn into bullying? The use of strength or power to harm, intimidate, assault or harass others, verbally or physically, constitutes bullying. It can happen to anyone irrespective of race, sex or position — whether at home, school, workplace, on the street, playground or online. Road bullying is also frequent. I see it almost every time I drive in cities. As for bullying at schools, one estimate says 80 per cent of pupils have been bullied. My son complained about being bullied until I put him in another school. There are many reasons for falling prey to bullies. One of these is being different from what is considered by the bullies as the norm. For example, students who are considered fat are bullied. Sexual orientation and ethnicity are also contributing factors. Research indicates that if bullying persists, the victim will become isolated and depressed, and this may lead to mental disorders and suicidal tendencies. It is not going to be easy to stop bullying.
Nevertheless, we can adopt strategies to prevent bullying:
CREATE a culture of respect;
STOP being a bystander;
KEEP the lines of communication open;
PARENTS must teach their children to respect others;
PARENTS must monitor their children’s activities; and,
PARENTS should teach their children not to be bystanders.
DR IDRIS ADEWALE AHMED
Department of Biotechnology, Faculty of Science, Lincoln University College, Malaysia.