About 160 000 teens skip school every day because of bullying and 17% of students report being bullied two to three times a month or more within a school term
Kids who are bullied can experience negative physical, school, and mental health issues and are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy.
Experts agree that students that are bullied are more likely to consider suicide. Although exact numbers are not available in South Africa, a study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying with 10- to 14-year-old teen girls most likely to commit suicide.
What is known in South Africa from a recent report is that 47% of boys claim they are bullied on a weekly basis. The report also highlights that pupils in our country’s public schools are bullied more than those in independent schools.
Different forms of bullying
Bullying differs from child to child and can be inflicted in different ways.
Some ways include:
- People calling you names
- Making things up to get you into trouble
- Hitting, pinching, biting, pushing and shoving
- Taking things away from you
- Damaging your belongings
- Stealing your money
- Taking your friends away from you
- Spreading rumours
- Threats and intimidation
Bullying can cost lives
Last year in September the Gauteng Department of Education was called upon to investigate the death of a Grade 7 learner allegedly at the hands of bullies. The 13-year-old died after suffering injuries allegedly related to bullying at Noorderlig Gekombineerde High School.
Overseas, an eight-year-old boy killed himself in his bedroom after he suffered weeks of being bullied at school. The boy, Gabriel Taye, was bullied and knocked unconscious at school two days before he died.
Another child, from Britain, killed himself after he was bullied because he was good-looking and girls were attracted to him. Brandon Rayat, 15, hanged himself in his bedroom after months of being tormented by other teenagers who called him a ‘paedophile’, sent him messages from a social media account in the name of Jimmy Savile and threatened to rape his mother.
In another case, 11-year-old Thomas Thompson took an overdose of painkillers after other pupils picked on him because he was clever and well-spoken. Thomas is believed to be the youngest child to take his own life because of alleged bullying. Two weeks following Thompson’s death another child, Gemma Dimmick, 15, also committed suicide. Relatives claimed she too had been bullied.
Sticks and stones…
Sometimes bullying takes on a verbal form, other times it’s physical.
Physical bullying is a serious problem, affecting not only the bully and the victim, but also the other students who witness the bullying. Parents, teachers, and other concerned adults and young people should be aware of what a physical bully is and some of the ways to handle it. Physical bullying is more likely to occur among boys, although girls may also be the perpetuators or victims of physical bullying.
Bullies may have any number of reasons for bullying others, such as wanting more control over others, and wanting to fit in. Bullies are often physically stronger than their victims and have friends who condone their behaviour. Students who bully others, however, often have trouble with self-control, following rules, and caring for others, and are at higher risk for problems later in life, such as violence, criminal behaviour, or failure in relationships or career.
Signs that your child may be a victim of physical bullying
- Coming home from school with bruises, cuts, or other unexplained injuries
- Having damaged clothing, books, or possessions
- Often losing things that they take to school
- Complaining of frequently not feeling well before school or school activities
- Skipping certain classes
- Wanting to avoid going to school or going to school a certain way, such as taking strange routes home from school or not wanting to ride the bus
- Acting sad or depressed
- Withdrawing from others
- Saying they feel picked on
- Displaying low self esteem
- Mood swings, including anger or sadness
- Wanting to run away
- Trying to take a weapon to school
- Talking about suicide or violence against others