Crying out for attention

Due to peer influence, other students may just stand around when they see bullying taking place. (Picture posed by models).

BULLYING leaves both physical and psychological scars on their victims.

Jay was only seven when he was bullied at a school in Ipoh.

He would wear a mini turban or patka to school for religious reasons but his peers would make fun of him daily.

One day a pupil held on to Jay’s head and pulled his turban.

Jay’s mother said her son was in tears as he tried desperately to hold on to his turban.

“The school called and asked me to come as no one else knew how to retie his turban.

“The first thing I did was to hug Jay and tell him that everything was okay.

Mangaleswary: Schools must not wait until a victim is injured or traumatised before taking action.Mangaleswary: Schools must not wait until a victim is injured or traumatised before taking action.

“I told the class teacher to explain the importance of the turban in Jay’s religion, which she did.

“I also told Jay to never react even if he was physically bullied, but to report any incident to the teacher,” said Jay’s mother.

Thankfully, Jay’s classmates never harassed him again after that incident.

For 15-year-old Hahish (not his real name), his classmates used to make fun of his name continually.

He tried to explain to them the correct pronunciation but the bullies kept mispronouncing it in a vulgar manner.

“I told my teachers what had been going on. They reprimanded the students, but nothing changed.

“I told my parents too and they wrote to the principal asking the school to take action.

“Unfortunately, my classmates still continued to call me names.

“At times I feel like punching them, but I know that is not the solution,” he said.

Pung: Parents must be involved in their children’s daily school and home activities.Pung: Parents must be involved in their children’s daily school and home activities.

The issue of school bullying came under the spotlight after 10 Form One students were expelled by a boarding school in Kuala Kangsar, Perak, in December for bullying a fellow student.

A Twitter user had uploaded a series of tweets that showed a group of students from Maktab Rendah Sains Mara taking turns to punch a 13-year-old student.

Perak police chief Comm Datuk Mior Faridalathrash Wahid had said the victim was punched after he told them not to watch pornographic videos on his phone and threatened to report them.

Ipoh Family Wellness Club president P. Mangaleswary said there must be concerted effort by parents, teachers and counsellors to tackle bullying in schools.

Parents play a pivotal role in raising their children with good values such as mutual respect and kindness, besides instilling in the latter a sense of caring and sharing, she said.

“Sometimes, children are exposed to violence and abuse at home and this may lead to their aggressive behaviour and bullying others in school.

“It is important to deal decisively with bullies in schools.

“Don’t wait until a victim of bullying is badly injured or traumatised before taking action,” she added.

Mangaleswary said her club used its Facebook page to create awareness of bullying.

“We included hotline numbers and email addresses so that victims will know what to do.

“We use the tagline ‘speak up and say no to bullying’. We will continue spreading awareness,” she added.

Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) psychology and counselling department head in Kampar, Asst Prof Dr Pung Pit Wan said bullying often occurred between the ages of 12 and 18.

She said those in this age group faced many changes, including the learning environment, academic demands and increased stress levels.Parenting has a direct influence on the behaviour of a child, so it is important that parents are involved in their children’s daily school and home activities, she highlighted.

Dr Thiyagar: Schools have a responsibility to create a safe and supportive system.Dr Thiyagar: Schools have a responsibility to create a safe and supportive system.

“Research has shown that low supervision and monitoring of children’s activities could lead to bullying or other negative behaviours.

“Being physically disciplined can also give children a perception that it is okay to use force to get a message across,” she added.

Pung said peer influence could lead to bullying too, when a student wants to be accepted by their schoolmates.

“So we often see a group of students kicking, punching or slapping another student while others cheer or stand around watching the scene.”

She said it was important that school authorities take immediate action when they came across incidents of bullying.

“It is equally important that a qualified counsellor is present to resolve issues.

“In most schools, I am told the discipline teacher acts as the counsellor,” she said.

Pung added that other common characteristics shared by most bullies included impulsiveness, self-centredness, a hot temper and indulging in risk-seeking behaviours.

Malaysian Association of Adolescent Health vice-president Dr N. Thiyagar said bullying was usually defined as a set of aggressive behaviours among peers with three crucial elements — repetition, harm and unequal power.

It is at its peak during the early and mid-teenage years, he noted.

Dr Thiyagar, who is also a consultant paediatrician and adolescent medicine specialist, said bullies had a strong need to dominate others and were often defiant and aggressive towards adults too.

“Parents must be role models on how to treat others with kindness and respect, and they should also watch out for any behavioural changes in their teenagers such as becoming too emotional, experiencing sleeping difficulties or poor appetite.

“Victims must tell the bullies to stop or just walk away and avoid feeling intimidated.

Dr Khoo: Parents and teachers must intervene when they see bullying taking place.Dr Khoo: Parents and teachers must intervene when they see bullying taking place.

“They should stay confident, make new friends and tell someone what is happening,” he said.

Dr Thiyagar said teachers’ behaviour and interaction with students were also crucial.

He said schools had an ethical and legal responsibility to prevent bullying of any kind by creating a safe and supportive system.

“Victims have a higher risk of developing mental illness, including anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, truancy, poor academic performance and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Both victims and bullies require intervention,” he emphasised.

Consultant paediatrician and paediatric neurologist Dr Alex Khoo Peng Chuan said bullying involved culture, community, school, peer groups and families.

“In some schools, physical bullying may be prevalent, whereas in others it may be cyberbullying.”

Dr Khoo said technology had impacted bullying — what used to be a face-to-face encounter that occurred in specific locations could now happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

He said computers, cellphones and social media sites were all conditions that allow bullying to occur.

One way to protect the vulnerable is to limit their use of technology, he pointed out.

“I ask parents, ‘Would you let your 12-year-old daughter walk alone down a dark alley?’

“Obviously, the answer is ‘no’, so the follow-up question is, then why would you let her be on the computer unmonitored?

“Parents and teachers must intervene when they see bullying taking place, and it is critical this is done during school years.

“Bullies are made, not born; it happens at an early age.

“If the normal aggression of a two-year-old is not handled with consistency, children fail to acquire restraints against such behaviour,” said Dr Khoo.

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