“Are you sure it’s bullying?”
8 out of 10 children in Malaysia experiences bullying in school according to UNICEF’s Children4change report. What more for children on the autism spectrum disorder or any other disabilities. They are especially vulnerable to bullying and peers who are aware of the child’s trigger points may intentionally provoke outbursts from the children. A study by IAN reported that 63% of 1,167 children with ASD aged 6-15 were bullied.
What is bullying?
Bullying is an ongoing, repeated misuse of power in relationships by a group of individuals or a person towards one or more people.
There are 4 types of bullying:
- Physical – hitting, kicking, pushing, punching, etc.
- Verbal – teasing, derogatory remarks
- Social – intentionally leaving the person out, etc.
All of which can be overt/covert and direct/indirect.
Why does it matter?
Bullying has detrimental short-term and long-term effects on those who are bullied, those who bully as well as those who witness bullying.
Individuals who are bullied are more likely to experience a series of negative physical, social, emotional, academic and mental health issues. Some issues are:
- Low self-esteem, depression and anxiety
- Disturbances in sleep
- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
- Increase in health complaints like stomach-aches, palpitations, headaches, chronic pain and dizziness.
- Decreased academic achievement
As for individuals who bully, they are more likely to engage in other risky and even violent behaviours as they grow into adulthood. Some examples are alcohol abuse, drug abuse, vandalization of property, dropping out of school, and abuse.
Bystanders or those who witness bullying are also more likely to have an increased mental health challenges like depression, anxiety and helplessness. They are also more likely to be involved in substance abuse surrounding tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.
What can we do?
The most effective way to address bullying is to prevent bullying from happening in the first place. It is important to change the culture of the environment it occurs in whether in school, home, or community settings. As bullies obtain power and is socially reinforced by peers who accept such behaviour, the culture is perpetuated. By addressing bullying and making it unacceptable in the community, we change the culture of the environment and takes the motivation away from bullying.
As adults, we need to respond consistently and rapidly to bullying reports in order to send a message that it is not acceptable. Parents, school staff members, and any other adults in the community can also help by encouraging children to talk about it and build an awareness with all children. We need to ensure that we build a safe school environment and community to prevent bullying from happening.
Download our “Kindness Starts with Me” activities pack and watch our campaign video to teach kindness and address the topic of bullying with children.
If you are someone who is being bullied or witnessed someone being bullied, get help now and speak to an adult, whether it’s your school teacher, counselor, or your parents.
If you are someone who is bullying others, stop what you are doing and put yourself in that person’s shoes. We believe you can do better than this.
Remember, choose kindness because kindness is cool and it starts with me. Remember to treat others how you want to be treated.