Lifestyle, Youth

Bullying, hell in the classroom

Figures of abuse in schools soar in countries such as the United Kingdom or Spain, where new technologies favor maltreatment and safeguard the impunity of the aggressor.

Ane Bores

He did not think twice. One year of constant insults, humiliations and beatings by his high school peers were enough for Jokin Ceberio to decide to end his suffering once and for all. It was at dawn the 21st of September 2004, when he picked up his bicycle and headed towards the ancient wall of his native town, Hondarribia. There he jumped and ended his life.

The body of the youth of 14 years was found twelve hours later with clear signs of violence, and it was then when, for the first time, Spanish society and the authorities opened their eyes and sounded the alarm before a phenomenon so dangerous and widespread in all of America and Europe. According to the latest research, in recent years they have unleashed a veritable wave of abuse in the classrooms of the United Kingdom.

The statistics vary from one study to another, however all agree in that they indicate that two thirds of children and adolescents suffer from some type of bullying, the English term for this phenomenon, during their school years.

In agreement with Bullying UK’s 2006 National Bullying Survey, one of the most complete and comprehensive studies to date, 69% of English children have been on some occasion harassed by their peers. For its part, Beatbullying, one of the principle British ONGs that has published recently a report linking harassment with the rates of school absences, estimates that now there are now close to 170,000 children that stay at home for fear of bullying. In addition, the study carried out by “Charity Living Streets”, indicates that it is in London and in Yorkshire where bullying is most widespread. In any case, it remains quite clear that bullying is not an isolated problem, but a dangerous threat that today continues to take dozens of victims worldwide.

Victimization and why

School violence can take many forms, but all of them are involve aggressive conduct that has long existed, based on the imbalance of power between the aggressors and their victims, who seeks to cause pain and discomfort.

It is intentional physical and/or psychological maltreatment, that causes the marginalization of the weak and converts them into the target of insults, ridicule, humiliations, and attacks by the rest of their peers.

In the case of Jokin, his hell began following diarrhoea that he could not control, an event that cost him constant intimidation and beatings, and that a year afterwards his aggressors did not hesitate to commemorate by decorating the classroom with toilet paper. According to the experts, this and many other examples of abuse find their basis in the family environment, school, and in the media.

It is through the family that we acquire the first role models, and they will undoubtedly determine the relationships we build in other aspects of our lives. That is a child that is continuously exposed to familial violence and/or that is not raised in a pleasant atmosphere in which certain values prevail, tends to believe that the world is ruled by force and violence, and that one should convert himself into an aggressor in order to avoid being attacked.

Thus the child reproduces in the school the behavior learned in the home, lacking any empathy for their peers and professors. In many events, their frustrations lead them to choose a scapegoat, a vulnerable person who will pay for their problems and that they will use to make themselves respected. The absence of a good coexistence in the classroom also favors this type of abuse, in which the teachers habitually lack sufficient authority to manage school conflicts.

Also, that teachers often create positive or negative expectations of their students and tend to praise the workt of the most brilliant, which is a source of envy for the others, that cry out for attention.

Therefore, it is not strange that in many cases bullying is aimed at the students most who are far above the average ability. Finally, the media, especially television, is a constant showcase of violence.

Children and young people are accustomed to watching this type of behavior, both in news and fictional productions, so they tend to normalize and integrate them into their daily lives. In addition, many of these programs promote a model of living success is acchieved with minimum effort .

Virtual harassment

Unfortunately, far from being neutralized, bullying has spread like a virus, finding on the Internet or in mobile phones new ways of acting. Referred to as cyberbullying, the online harassment is governed by the same type of intentional and prolonged abuse, but the use of electronic media gives it certain characteristic properties of its own.

The principle is anonymity. Sheltered behind the screen of their computer or their mobile phone, the aggressor tends to make use of pseudonyms or false names to intimidate the victim and thus maintain their identity hidden, and their impunity.

Through the networks the aggressors can spread also to a great number of people in a matter of seconds, with which they achieve to completely damage the reputation of the victim.

It is for this reason that this type of harassment even further increases the vulnerability of the victim, because at any moment they can receive unpleasant messages and calls and/or be attacked in chats, forums, social networks, or programs of instant messaging. Therefore cyberbullying can become as or more traumatic than physical harassment. For this Bullying UK urges parents, students, and teachers of the United Kingdom to join forces to address these types of aggressions. And, according to a survey done by the organization, 43.5% of those interviewed between the ages of 11 and 16 had been intimidated through a social network such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, or Bebo on some occasion.

(Translated by Teri Miller)

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