One of the most common problems experienced during the education period is peer bullying. According to studies, one out of four children is peer bullying at a time in their life. Ayşe Şahin, an Expert Clinical Psychologist from Üsküdar University NPİSTANBUL Brain Hospital, answered our questions about peer bullying in all the age groups.
How is peer bullying defined?
Repetitive behaviours involving physical, sexual, verbal or social aggression that children or adolescents are exposed to by their age group are called peer bullying.
Who suffers from peer bullying?
Children who are bullied by peers are the ones who cannot protect themselves from bullying for various reasons. For example, some children may be physically weaker or more psychologically vulnerable to bullying. This increases the risk of these children’s being exposed to aggressive behaviour and bullying. In peer bullying, violence continues so deliberately and systematically that the child may even become unable to protect himself.
What are the types of bullying?
Physically aggressive behaviour:
- Tripping someone up
- Sharp object injuries
- Scaring with firearms
- Socially aggressive behaviour:
- Making negative statements about the person
- Excluding a person from a group
- Making humiliating statements
Verbally offensive behaviour:
- Teasing with bodily features such as height, weight, tooth structure or skin colour
- Teasing with the appearance features like clothes and glasses
- Teasing with the sting, stuttering, accent or accent
- Tagging humiliating nicknames
- Addressing with vulgar words (maniac, retardant, loser, etc.)
Sexually aggressive behaviour:
- Touching for sexual purposes
- Verbal or physical harassment
- Making implications using sexually associative words
- Touching their clothes (skirts, tracksuits) without their consent
- Spreading rumours about sexual content
Violent behaviours toward objects:
- Grabbing the goods or food by force
- Stealing money or items
- Forcing friends to give money
- Scribbling the notebooks or books
- Using objects without permission
What are the negative effects of peer bullying on children?
If peer bullying is not handled, it may lead to psychological damages in the life of the child who is exposed to bullying. Children who are bullied may have low self-perception, lack of self-confidence and suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, academic failure, substance abuse, escape from home or school, and have difficulty in making friends.
Do the reactions of girls and boys who are bullied differ?
A great deal of research examining the relationships between peer bullying and gender indicates that male students are bullying more than female students, and that both bullying and bullied students are mostly boys.
How can you prevent peer bullying? What steps should teachers take?
It should be emphasized that holistic approaches based on the cooperation of students, teachers, school management and families are more effective. It seems that the role of teachers and school counsellors is especially important in that case. Teachers should set clear rules that bullying is unacceptable. Prevention and intervention activities should be carried out to ensure that children who are bullied can get psychological support when necessary.
What steps should families take?
Common beliefs such as “such things happen among children” or “my child is already sensitive” can delay peer bullying being noticed or intervened in this situation.
Parents should not ignore the warning signs of peer bullying in children's statements and manners. When this situation is noticed, communication between the parent and the child should not be judgmental and accusing. It is very important that communication should be about finding out what is going around. The child who is being bullied may have a belief that he or she deserves this situation. For this reason, using sentences such as “What did you do, did not you react?” in the communication may have consequences that will further damage the self-esteem of the child.
So, if we look at the other side of the coin why would a child be bully?
One of the variables that increase the risk of peer bullying is the child's relationship with his parents. According to the research conducted so far, bullying kids perceive their parents as less caring and controlling and think that they are not supportive in expressing their individuality. They also regard their relations with their families in a negative way. Improved relations with their parents seem to reduce the likelihood of adolescents becoming bullies.
How can a child who is subjected to peer bullying be supported? How to communicate with the bullying child?
The bullied child should be motivated to realize that he is not alone. It is important to emphasize that the current situation is temporary. The child should be supported that he can cope with the situation. The methods in handling the issue should be shared as an idea and suggestion. The fact that the parents’ or an authority figure’s effort to solve the problem instead of the child himself can instil the idea of inadequacy in their mind. The important thing is not to interfere with the child; to be his supporter and guide, not his hero. Also, it is very important to make sure that children who have such problems are not being isolated from the social environment.