Bullying, how to detect it and put a stop to it
Bullying is increasingly frequent in schools. It occurs when a child or adolescent is the subject of aggression or insults from their peers.
What is bullying?
The term bullying refers to all aggressive and intimidating behaviour, whose aim is to harm or hurt another, such as the systematic abuse of power. Two criteria apply: repetition - in other words, that it occurs more than once; and imbalance of form - that is to say, it is difficult for the victim to defend him/herself.
These criteria are applicable to other forms of intrusion, interference or intimidation in other contexts, such as cyberbullying. Cyberbullying increasingly affects children and young people, since the harasser's anonymity is guaranteed, meaning they can carry it out indiscriminately. The victim is denied the possibility of defending themselves, since neither are physically present.
Intimidation, as a form of initial bullying, usually occurs around the age of 7, and it bursts into the victim's life as an unwarranted fact, although it is easily redirected at these ages. Later, bullying peaks between ages 11-14 and perhaps a little older, in the case of cyber bullying. Bullying decreases in the last years of school, although there is evidence of bullying in university students and lamentably it is sometimes identified in the workplace.
With regard to differences between the genders, the role of bully tends to be more associated with boys, but the sexes are more equal when it comes to being the victim: girls present themselves more as defenders and boys use more physical harassment and physical force. There is no difference between the sexes regarding verbal bullying.
Bullying peaks between ages 11-14 and perhaps a little older
How can you detect bullying?
Some children bully others owing to a desire to hold a dominant status in the peer group. Bullies can feel rewarded if followers and peers support their bullying actions. In adolescence, there may be more motivation to initiate bullying (to exhibit dominance) and to back or reinforce bullying (to avoid rejection by peers or being bullied oneself). With regard to the victims themselves, they tend to lack social skills and to be less popular or more rejected by their peers, making them easy targets for bullies. A major consequence of being bullied is depression.
Having strong friendships is a protective factor against bullying. A strong peer group may actively defend each other, which makes for the most effective defence.
How to detect if our child is a victim of bullying
- Emotional detachment
- Not wanting to relate things that happen at school: the child is withdrawn.
- Loss of appetite.
- Malaise and somatic complaints making them want to avoid school, and having to face a situation that they do not know how to handle.
- Sudden mood swings.
- Irritability: they are easily irritated by things that did not bother them before.
- Sleeping less and finding it difficult to fall asleep.
- Night terrors and dreams.
Ways to stop bullying
The first thing we need to know is what is happening. It is not a good idea to ask directly however. If we ask about something that is making our child afraid, it is normal for them to withdraw and not want to talk about it. The important thing is to facilitate communication, so they feel able to talk. Our attitude has to be welcoming, with no trace of anger or judgement. Our aim is to validate our child's suffering. Once we know the facts, we can help our child tell the school. Parents should be closely involved with the school, since this can help us detect an initial phase and its resolution. Later, depending on the seriousness of the matter, working hand in hand with the school is essential.