National Child Protection Week: Break the silence and tackle bullying

Henry

By Leandie Bräsler

Each year, National Child Protection Week serves as an important reminder of our collective responsibility to protect the welfare of children. This year, National Child Protection Week takes place between 29 May and 5 June. Among the many issues that threaten their safety and happiness, bullying behavior stands out as something that occurs worldwide and is constantly changing. As we celebrate this important week, it is essential to shed light on bullying behaviour, its impact, as well as the steps that can be taken to prevent it.

What is bullying?

Bullying is not just a phase children move through or a form of behavior. This is a serious issue that can have long-term consequences on a child’s mental, emotional and physical well-being. Bullying behavior can be defined as harmful or aggressive behavior that takes place in a persistent and continuous manner and is specifically directed at a learner with less authority and self-confidence than the attacker. Bullying can take many forms, including:

  • Physical: kicking, punching or any form of physical harm.
  • Verbal: insults, derogatory comments or calling each other names.
  • Social: also known as relationship bullying, which includes spreading gossip or rumours, or social exclusion.
  • Cyberbullying: using digital platforms to humiliate, threaten or harass others.

Every form of bullying can leave scars that significantly affect every child’s academic performance, self-esteem and overall well-being.

The impact of bullying

Children who are victims of bullying experience mental health issues, struggle with academic performance and socializing. Mental health issues include depression, anxiety and, in severe cases, suicidal thoughts. Victims who struggle with academic performance find it difficult to concentrate in class, or their increased absenteeism leads to these struggles. When it comes to social relationships, victims of bullying may find it difficult to cultivate good relationships and form good social interactions.

Steps to combat bullying

afriforum anti-bullying guide

Here are some steps that can be taken to curb bullying:

  • Parent involvement: When it comes to bullying, parents need to be vigilant and proactive. It is important to pay attention to signs of bullying (see AfriForum’s Anti-Bullying Guide for more information). Many parents are not aware that their child may be a victim of bullying in the school environment – until it is too late. Children do not always want to tell their parents that they are being bullied, for fear of what the bully will do to them if they speak out, or because they are ashamed or embarrassed about it. There can be many reasons why your child does not want to tell you that he is being bullied. Therefore, it is your job as a parent to keep an eye (and an ear) on your child. Be aware!
  • Open communication: Create a safe space at home or in school where children feel comfortable to openly share their concerns or experiences with bullying. In some cases, bullying has even led to suicide. AfriForum decided in 2022 to release a film, The Fall, to issue about cyberbullying, bullying in general and suicide. This movie can be streamed for free at afriforumtv.co.za.
  • Awareness raising and the necessary education: Households, schools and communities contribute to the education of children. Children must be made aware of bullying, its consequences, as well as the importance of empathy and kindness. Anti-bullying programs or campaigns can be effective tools to further expand that awareness.
  • Support channels: Ensure that children have access to counselors or youth workers who can provide the necessary guidance and support.
  • Digital Safety and Responsibility: Where once bullying behavior only happened at school or behind the bike shed, society has changed a lot, especially in regards to technology. As the world is constantly changing, bullying behavior has also changed – it even now takes place on digital devices or over the internet. Teaching children about online safety and responsible digital behavior is essential. Feel free to download AfriForum’s Cyberbullying Guide for more information on how you can keep your child safe.
  • Policy Implementation: Schools should have clear procedures and policies in place to deal with bullying. This includes rapid intervention, support for victims and consequences for bullies.

A call to action

National Child Protection Week is a reminder that protecting our children from bullying cannot be seen in isolation, but requires a joint effort where parents, teachers, schools, communities, government and community organizations must step in to make a real difference. to make. We can create an environment where every child is free, safe and prosperous by cultivating empathy, as well as mutual recognition and respect. Let’s use this week to make a difference so we can make sure every child can thrive without fear. Together we can break the silence about bullying and make a meaningful difference in the lives of children.

On Thursday 6 June from 15:00 to 16:30, AfriForum presents a free cyberbullying webinar for teachers and parents in collaboration with the School Support Center (SSC) and Solidarity Helping Hand. Scan the QR code on the e-card below, or follow the link to register.

For more information about AfriForum’s anti-bullying campaign visit www.teenboelie.co.za.