Protecting children from bullying: launch of report entitled ‘ending the torment: tackling bullying from the schoolyard to cyberspace’
Brief summary of presentation of information made
Marta Santos Pais, UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children moderated the discussion. She introduced Juan José Gómez Camacho, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the UN. ‘Bullying is a tough problem… a growing challenge.’ Reports that there was a cold reception when the issue was raised at the UN two years previously, with justification made for bullying including it being a natural part of growing up, a form of social interaction and ultimately that it wasn’t a priority for the UN. Thus a feeling on the part of advocates of challenging bullying that better education was needed, hence the report. Today, there is greater support for the issue. Statistics show that bullying is a big issue for nine out of ten children; that two thirds have experienced it – a quarter for their looks, another quarter for racial reasons. So the speaker feels the report is crucial.
Oh Joon, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the UN: protection from bullying is ‘part of observing human rights’ and has significant physical, mental, social and educational effects. SDG 16 makes reference to bullying in target two: ‘End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children.’ Speaker draws our three main conclusions from report: bullies must be engaged with to identify causes; holistic approach required, across society with an evidence-based approach; refugees, ethnic minorities, those with disabilities more susceptible.
Highlights of report
- Bullying is global – found in all communities and cultures around the world
- Raising awareness of and educating people on the issue is important
- Does not have to be inevitable as it is often perceived to be now
- Efforts should be made the bridge the empathy gap between perceptions and the reality of bullying
- Children should be at the heart of the action
Effects of bullying
Abraham Keita, GIHOC Foundation Africa, Liberia: bullying is a ‘chronic scourge that must be ended now.’ Liberia is fourth poorest state, and speaker did not start school until age nine. As a result, he experienced bullying, and in many forms including cyber. Effects of bullying include isolation, stress, poor health, fear and it can cause depression/anxiety in later life.
Kathleen Saint Amand, All Together in Dignity 4th World USA: bullying one of top preoccupations in children. ‘We all have different perspectives… different words and actions can have different effects.’ Speaker: ‘do not respond [to bullying] with pity’ as it encourages the idea of fault. Cites police shooting of black people as evidence of prejudice that indicates a societal cause for bullying.
Contents and findings of report
Researcher Patrick Burton, Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention, South Africa: problem of ‘lack of data’ – data important in working out how to tackle issues. Estimates of physical bullying vary wildly (example from South Africa provided). Cyber-bullying even less accurate (only in the last two or three years has it taken on significance). Identifies four steps to tackling:
- define clearly what is meant by bullying
- recognize relationship between bullying in various area and other forms of violence: 36% of physically bullied also experienced cyber bullying, strong relationship between physical violence and bullying
- emphasise risk of protection factors (where institution inadvertently or otherwise protects the bully): schools required integrated approach to tackle; e.g. Good Schools Toolkit in Uganda.
- generating data to discover where problems lie: evidence-based approach
Sanna Herkama, KiVa anti-bullying programme, Finland: Spoke of approach of KiVa:
- Collaborative approach important: schools, families, legislators, communities all need to be involved
- Make bullying less appealing: e.g. effect of peers and onlookers who often provide validation for bullies – whole community needs to be against bullying.
- Research-based, evidence-based – importance of actions being based in fact
- Monitoring approach and feeding back regularly.
- Long-term but sustainable approach.
Christophe Cornu, UNESCO: Gender stereotyping found to be a big problem – if children do not fit gender stereotypes they are more likely to be bullied (e.g. masculine females, feminine males). Right to education (SDG 4) blocked by effects of bullying.
Dominic Richardson, UNICEF Office of Research Innocenti: Most countries have data on bullying, but do not all have the same measures and ask the same questions, so data often incomparable. Speaker believes that data current underestimates the extent of problem – in addition, none of the SDGs specifically target the issue of bullying. To measure adequately:
- What is happening
- How often
Closing remarks from Cristian Barros, Permanent Representative of Chile to the UN.
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
* Bullying has long-term effects and should be treated seriously, not dismissed as an inevitability and a normality.
* The Army should recognize the role that is has to play as a church and social service agency in the fight against bullying. Programmes can be developed to halt bullying, work with the bullies and the bullied – of all ages. The aim of every Salvation Army programme should be to foster an environment where bullying – at any stage of life - is understood to be unacceptable.