Is your child being bullied?

Dear editor,

It is not something we can be proud of, but we lead the world when it comes to the extent of bullying at schools. In a recently released 2011 survey of 49 countries we came out tops - 55% of South African grade 4s told the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) that they are bullied once a week.

Once a week, and more than half of the pupils! That means that you have to know that there is more than a real chance that your child is being bullied - right now and certainly this week.

It is a long-standing problem and has strongly surfaced as a public issue last year.

Because the consequences of bullying can be devastating for the victim and family, it really is essential that all who know of such events play a role in bringing the unhealthy dynamics underlying this to an end.

Any bullying event needs a bully, a victim and most often bystanders - and the first and last of these role-players contribute to the bullying being destructive or damaging physically, but even more seriously, emotionally.

Educators must be aware of who is bullying whom and often why. They have to be part of the solution. So have parents, who ought to monitor their children closely for any change in behavioural patterns.

The effects of bullying on victims can be severe - lower academic achievement, health and adjustment problems. It is not an exaggeration to say that victims can be scarred for life - and tragically, some loose life.

Yet it is a social blight which can be managed: schools have to have a general policy on the issue, both the bully and the victim need behavioural interventions, the parents must be involved, intervention should come early and there has to be constant watchfulness.

We at Girls and Boys Town have practical and theoretical experience in dealing with this phenomenon and will be happy to share it with schools who actively wish to manage the problem.

Lee Loynes
CEO, Girls and Boys Town

Resources on spotting bullying

Facing the bully
Beware of the bully
Stop the cyber-bully
Confessions of an ex-bully

Do you know what's happening to your child on a day-to-day basis?
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