Bullying of children - Protecting children is paramount

A survey of 4,500 Irish 10-year-olds found that 12% were bullied in school on about a weekly basis. What one child may see as a bit of fun may be considered bullying by the child who is the victim of such fun. Thus it is particularly important that people should recognise the different forms that bullying takes.

The survey highlighted six forms of bullying, such as being ridiculed, being excluded from games and activities by other students, having lies spread about them, having something stolen from them, being hurt by other students, or being compelled by other students to do something they did not wish to do. It is important that parents — as well as teachers — recognise that such activities amount to bullying.

About a quarter of the children in an average class experience at least three of those bullying forms on a monthly basis. Any bullying is unacceptable, but as bad as those figures are, they are significantly better than what corresponding studies have found in many other countries.

Almost two-thirds of Irish children say they were almost never bullied. Only in a handful of 50 other countries did children say they were bullied less. But there is no room for complacency as there is growing evidence that bullying is on the rise in the form of cyberbullying, which many parents may not recognise.

Bullying should be categorised as a form of antisocial behaviour, because the bullies of today may become the thugs of tomorrow. Bullying also has serious educational implications, because there is evidence that it has a negative impact on educational achievement. “Most studies have found that children who are bullied perform less well,” according to an authority from the Educational Research Centre at St Patrick’s College, Dublin, which led the Irish survey.

The average reading score for Irish children was 552 points, while the average for those almost never bullied was 563. The average for those bullied monthly was 545, dropping to 510 for those bullied on a weekly basis. Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is due to publish an action plan against bullying early in 2013.

Most people probably consider Christmas a time for children, but it is sad that the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children had 1,212 calls from distressed children on its Childline on Christmas Day.

It can be a difficult time at home for many children, due to stress and trauma. Alcohol abuse can have a terrifying impact on children. Some children feel that they cannot talk to members of their own family, and they turn for help to Childline, which provides an invaluable service.

Of course, it is impossible to resolve all the ills of society, but it is important that we should be particularly mindful of those ills involving children and do as much as possible to resolve them, because their problems now, may well lead to other people’s problems in the future.


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