Fear of bullying growing among youths, survey discovers

PETALING JAYA: Several parents and educators groups are surprised that many Malaysian children fear being bullied.

Early Childhood Care and Educa-tion Council president Prof Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng said the figures are disturbing.

“When a child is fearful, it will affect academic performance and mental health,” she said.

A recent Unicef survey held in conjunction with World Children’s Day found that bullying is a prominent concern among Malaysian children, with seven out of 10 worried about becoming victims.

Dr Chiam said communication between parents and children plays a vital role in easing this fear, because children need a listening ear about their struggles.

Parents should also teach assertiveness to their children as this can counter fears of being bullied, she said.

“When children are assertive, they will not fear being bullied. They can stand up for their rights,” she said.

Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education chairman Mak Chee Kin thinks that the survey not only mirrors children’s concerns, but their parents’ as well.

“It is shocking that children fear bullying the most.

“I believe it is a reflection of the feelings of their parents or the adults in their lives,” he said, as the fears expressed by these grown-ups may have influenced the children.

“With so many bullying cases reported, parents are naturally concerned. They know how bullying will affect their kids and do not want them to experience it.

“They tell their kids to be alert, without realising they may have imparted their fears to the young ones,” he said.

Mak said this reflects a lack of confidence among parents over their children’s safety and school authorities’ ability to handle bullying.

National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP) secretary-general Harry Tan said the survey indicates a natural concern as children feel their safety is of the utmost importance.

It does not indicate fear, and so there is no need to be alarmed by it, he said.

“When a high level of concern is shown by society towards safety and violence, it is no surprise that it is reflected among our children (in the survey results),” he added.

Tan said figures suggesting 54% of children feel their opinions are not heard could mean they expect more despite the authorities’ efforts.

“As far as safety in schools is concerned, NUTP believes the Education Ministry is doing all it can, and teachers have been alert and cooperative to keep schools violence-free,” he added.

NUTP has collaborated with the ministry to produce four posters on bullying in schools across the country, and also with the police to educate students on the various laws that cover such unlawful acts.

Public concern has risen after a series of recent tragedies including the deaths of alleged bullying victims T. Nhaveen, 18, and Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain, 21.

The Unicef survey results come just a week after Star Media Group and property developer SP Setia launched #StandTogether, a campaign to end bullying by instituting an annual kindness week in schools in the first week of April.

The campaign, spearheaded by The Star’s award-winning R.AGE team, has already received ringing endorsements from Deputy Education Ministers Datuk P. Kamalanathan and Datuk Chong Sin Woon.

“I thought this is fantastic because I’ve always wanted bullying prevention to be a nationwide initiative,” said Kamalanathan, adding that he would look into making the #StandTogether kindness week part of the school calendar.

R.AGE is now consulting various stakeholders to develop an online resource centre so that concerned members of the public may organise their own #StandTogether events in schools come April.

For more information, contact R.AGE via Facebook Messenger (@thestarRAGE) and WhatsApp (017-283 4406) or go to standtogether.my for more information.