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Treating bullies and victims: our responsibility

Published: 
Friday, January 8, 2016

Bullying is not new to our society; however, there appears to be an increase in incidents recently among secondary school children. It is debatable as to whether it is an increase in prevalence or whether recent use of social media to expose cases has simply shed light on the issue. 

We have a problem plaguing youngsters and must take it upon ourselves to initiate a cultural shift to become intolerant of bullying or victimisation. 

While it is crucial for the Government to take action through policy and programmes, citizens must employ an “it starts in the home” approach in how youths are trained to think and act. 

Importantly, dealing with bullying and victimisation among adolescents requires being able to identify signs or characteristics found to be associated with both bullies and victims. 

Understanding bullies

The typical bully is usually aggressive, egocentric, manipulative, popular, has low empathy and academic success rates and can continue to face poor social adjustment later in life. Additionally, he/she is often the product of poor parenting practices (neglect, abuse, lack of supervision and monitoring) and has other antisocial peers. This is of great concern as a typical school bully has an increased risk of forming a criminal career.

Being tormented daily and being afraid to go to school, with grades falling, are everyday occurrences for some. As such, these cases must be addressed properly, to not only ensure the safety and well-being of the victims, but of the bullies who also need help. 

A vital factor in understanding bullies is domestic violence in the home. As social beings, we learn our behaviour from those who set an example for us, whether it is positive or negative. This is first and foremost the responsibility of parents and guardians in addition to the wider family.

Parent-to-parent violence has been found to affect children who, upon witnessing such acts, may learn to use violence and aggression as acceptable means of conflict resolution. These habits can be taken into social settings, such as at the school, where adolescents spend significant time, and they can use violence and aggression on others. 

Adolescents also require proper parental monitoring as they tend to associate more with peers. Spending a lot of time with antisocial peers can increase one’s risk of behaving similarly and becoming a bully.

Understanding victims

The victim can be seen as almost opposite to the bully, usually timid, having low self-esteem, little to no friends or unpopular and could often be suffering from depression and/or anxiety. Similarly, victims may come from homes where they witness domestic violence and/or are abused and neglected. They also have risk for poor social adjustment (being bullied as adults) and developing criminal tendencies as some may possibly retaliate against their bullies. 

Youths who are abused at home have greater risk of succumbing to abuse and therefore, becoming timid and easily bullied in relationships outside of the family such as in school. Consequently, there is greater risk of depression and anxiety, increasing their vulnerability. As such, they become easy targets.

The solution

Intervention to bullying and victimisation involves proper parenting practices such as monitoring activities of adolescents to ensure that they spend their time with pro-social peers partaking in beneficial activities.

Proper parenting also involves teaching positive conflict resolution and deterring youths from aggression and violence. Monitoring allows parents to identify if children are being victimised by looking for signs of isolation, anxiety and depression. 

Actively participating in adolescents’ lives could possibly prevent or quickly cease victimisation. Teachers also share responsibility as they contribute  to adolescents’ development. 

The use of “Universal Programmes” which incorporates  efforts of experts, students, teachers, parents and other school personnel may serve to encourage a cultural shift away from tolerating bullying, simultaneously refraining from targeting specific bullies or victims in order to discourage stereotyping. This has potential to insulate our youth against risks in a society riddled with violence.

The Miami Dade College School of Justice and the CISPS are hosting an international practical training on “Surveillance and Counter-Surveillance” from January 13-15, 2016. Contact us for further information on this and other courses at 223-6999, 223-6968, mailto:[email protected]

Jinnalee Mahabir is a master’s student in criminology and criminal justice.

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