ALTHOUGH many cases are not spoken about in public, bullying in schools is rife as social media has proven in recent months.An influx of videos have made their way onto Facebook, with bullies using bad language and making serious threats against their victims.So because of this Childline KZN is calling for stricter penalties against the perpetrators of bullying.Childline KZN’s operations manager, Adeshini Naicker references a new law implemented in Missouri, U.S, which delivers swift legal punishment for third-degree assault and some forms of harassment that inflict “emotional distress” on the victim.Under the new law, schools are required to report incidents of harassment to the police, which means that children can be charged for fighting and bullying and, if convicted, could face jail time.Naicker describes bullying as any mean or hurtful behaviour that occurs repeatedly, which can range from ongoing name-calling or making disrespectful comments about someone’s attributes to making threats or deliberately excluding a peer from a group or activities.“Although the trend of sharing videos of attacks on social media platforms has cast bullying into the spotlight, and even provides tangible evidence to bring charges against the perpetrators, there are numerous undocumented and unreported incidents,” she said.The findings of a recent global study conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) indicated the extent of bullying, revealing that more than half of the 100 000 respondents had been victims of bullying. The study further indicated that one third of participants believed that bullying was normal and chose not to tell anyone.Naicker said in South Africa the lack of information and misconceptions about bullying, paired with schools’ inability to monitor incidents, contributed to victims’ failure to report bullying.Dr Bernadine James, a counselling psychologist in Margate said children must think hard and not allow the situation to progress.“Don’t allow this to happen. Believe in your own uniqueness and your own abilities. Everyone has the right to respect,” said James.She said it was important for parents to speak to their children and reinforce in their children that nobody has the right to treat them with disrespect.“Children should not confide their dreams or secrets to bullies. They can use this against you.“Sometimes you may have to fight fire with fire. Stand up to them, show them you are not afraid, but don’t resort to violence. Seek support and know your rights,” added James.Often victims are unaware of the platforms available to them to seek help and resort to internalising the problem in the hope that the bullying will stop. Childline KZN offers counselling for victims of bullying and their families as well as therapeutic services to provide victims with the support and guidance to cope with their trauma. For more information, visit www.childlinekzn.org.za or contact Childline KZN’s crisis line on 080 005 5555.