Dr. Dan Olweus from University of Bergen in Norway has been involved for many years in research and intervention work in the area of bullying problems among schoolchildren and youth. In his book “Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do” he gave a detailed analyses of bullying phenomenon and how it can affect a person in the future:“A person is being bullied when he/she is exposed, repeatedly over a period of time, to negative actions from one or more people. Negative action is when a person intentionally inflicts injury or discomfort upon another person, through physical contact, verbal abuse or in other ways”.
Bullying can have a lifelong impact. It can lead to feelings of inferiority, loneliness, fear and even depression. Children who are being bullied are more likely to have worse results at school and run the higher risk of pneumatic symptoms. But bullying is not just dangerous for the victims as it also affects the bullies themselves. They often encounter problems during their adolescence. They are more likely to use drugs or alcohol and are more often in contact with judiciary.
While the consequences of bullying are very clear, it is still a controversial question: how to prevent it? Especially with upcoming torments like cyber bullying which is caused by growth of the daily use of social media by teenagers and adults and lack of online “standards of conduct”. Bullying is hard to get rid as it doesn’t just happen on the playground or at school. Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp have all become new platforms for children and teenagers to taunt, torment and bully their peers. One in five teenagers (between the age of 14 and 17-years old) in the EU reported being cyber bullied. Most of the victims are afraid to tell anyone which makes it hard to stop this trend.
In some countries the percentage of bullying is not very high, because something can be still done to preclude it. In the Netherlands for example, a country which is quite low in the list of member states ranked according to percentage of bullying, the government actively tries to decrease the amount of cases involving this blustery phenomenon. If a child is being bullied or knows someone who is, he or she can call or chat for free with the children’s helpline. This organisation will give them tips or bring them into contact with child protection if necessary.
In Norway, the country with the lowest percentages of bullying, classes are ‘profiled’. Twice a year every member of a class fills in an anonymous survey; who are the bullies, who are being bullied etc. Thus teachers know who is misbehaving and they can further discuss this issue with the child and his or her parents. This approach has cut the percentage of bullying almost in half as children, teachers and parents have now the opportunity to communicate and work together very efficiently.
The methods mentioned above are all school wide, but individual training can be also an option for preventing bullying. Children can take assertiveness, social skills training or anger management courses. They learn to react in a non-passive, non-aggressive way. Yet so far no positive effect has been found during studies.
Meanwhile there are European anti-bullying networks. The European Anti-Bullying Network (EAN) for example tries to develop ‘a common European policy framework and transferable interventions and resources’. The EAN, founded by the European Commission, especially tries to raise awareness among EU-citizens by establishing things like a European Anti-bullying day, an app, a documentary or a common strategy for the member states.
As you can see, much can be done against bullying. The fact is, however, complete eradication of bulling is still an unattainable utopia. There are tons of projects, organisations and helpdesks to promote, prevent or exterminate bullying, but most of these programs don’t work. A most effective approach against bulling has not yet been found. Research could help, but according to a study of the Dutch Youth Association the quality of this research is not optimal. According to them there’s a lack of randomization and control groups. Another problem is related to the results these researchers focus on: some studies measure bullying, another focuses on the numbers of children who are being bullied and the third one may research the awareness of bullying.
A lot can be done to improve the Anti-Bullying policies and studies within Europe. An association like EAN is already a big step forward to a strategy on a European scale. Working together and funding studies to find the best way to fight bullying is something which will definitely help. Meanwhile the member states should do their best in order to help the victims of these scare tactics. Let’s give them back their future.