Bullying is the main coexistence problem faced by schoolchildren. It is not an isolated phenomenon, but rather has a manifest presence in a large number of schools. In this sense, there are many initiatives carried out by schools for its prevention and detection, collected, in the Spanish case, in institutional documents such as the Coexistence and Equality Plan, or in legal documents such as action protocols . in cases of bullying .
However, the prevalence of this phenomenon does not decrease at the desirable rate and thousands of children are involved daily in these painful dynamics, faced with the impotence of society . Therefore, parents and experts in the area continue to ask themselves: what can be improved to combat it?
Prevent from the earliest years
One of the keys to tackling the scourge of bullying lies in prevention. In this sense, it would be convenient to start addressing it from the Early Childhood Education stage.
This can be done through the development of group programs that favor coexistence and the peaceful resolution of conflicts, promoting values such as respect, tolerance, equality and solidarity.
Detect in time
Early detection of bullying is another key aspect, since it can determine both the degree of suffering of the minor, extended more or less over time, and the short, medium and long-term consequences of being a victim of bullying.
This is difficult since violence between peers manifests itself underground and far from the presence of adults. In addition, many of the victims do not report what is happening to them, and may present feelings of guilt and shame, coming to believe that they are deserving of the attacks. Therefore, it would be pertinent to carry out massive and general diagnoses of school bullying at the regional or center level.
In this situation, in accordance with the Action Guide against bullying in Spanish schools , we present a list of indicators that can reveal the presence of a situation of bullying in minors:
- Sudden increase in absences and refusal to attend school.
- Drastic drop in academic performance.
- Absence or loss of friends and isolation.
- Concentration and attention problems.
- Changes in character: anxiety, mutism, sadness, irritability, introversion, aggressiveness and self-injurious behaviors.
- Somatizations: headaches, gastrointestinal discomfort, chest tightness, tachycardia, etc.
- Changes in appetite or sleep.
- Abandonment or loss of hobbies.
- Bruises, clothes tears and disappearance of work or school supplies.
- Priority search for teachers when there is recess or physical education.
A public health problem
Such is the seriousness of this manifestation of intentional and sustained violence over time, that it has ceased to be an exclusively school problem to become a psychosocial and public health problem that can seriously affect the quality of life of minors, with implications at the school, social and psychological levels .
The irruption of new technologies in our society and the free and early access to them by minors has precipitated the spread of bullying beyond the physical and temporary walls of schools, slipping through electronic devices , in the homes.
This prolongation of bullying, called cyberbullying, implies an uninterrupted and constant frequency of attacks, and that, on many occasions, occurs comorbidly with bullying . In addition, it is a form of violence that allows the anonymity of the aggressor and is widely disseminated, since attacks are generally recorded in cyberspace forever.
In this sense, the role of the family is crucial with regard to the prevention and early detection of cyberbullying, since, unlike bullying, cyberbullying situations usually occur while the minor is out of school. Next, a series of measures for families are proposed, which can help prevent and detect cyberbullying in an incipient way:
- Parents are recommended to carry out adequate online parental mediation , with which to address the risks of the Internet with their children, as well as establish limits on its use.
- Generate an environment of trust and security in which children can express doubts or concerns about what happens in cyberspace.
- Encourage the use of electronic devices in common areas of the home (especially when it comes to children of early ages).
- Be especially alert if the minor has suffered or is suffering bullying at the center.
- Analyze changes in the use of the mobile, such as increased or decreased connection time, frequent and compulsive consultations, abandoning it or leaving it turned off or in airplane mode for long periods.
Author Bios: Adoration Diaz Lopez is Professor at the Faculty of Education and Researcher in the Cyberpsychology Group, Joaquin Manuel Gonzalez Cabrera is a Teacher and Researcher. Prof. University (Level 1). Dept. School, Family and Society. Education Faculty. Principal Investigator of the Cyberpsychology Group (UNIR) and Vanessa Caba Machado is aProfessor at the Faculty of Education and Postdoctoral Researcher in the Cyberpsychology group of the International University of La Rioja (UNIR). all at the UNIR – International University of La Rioja