Bullying in Kashmir – What Should Parents Do to Prevent it?

Illustration Credits: Gilbeaux / for NBC News

Understanding bullying and actions parents can take to prevent it

By Wasim Kakroo

IT’S been a while since Syed Imran has picked up an isolated routine. The smiling preteen remains sulking and hardly feels like interacting with his playmates and family members. The mood shift has lately set his teacher mother thinking. She decided to do a small fact-finding exercise to unearth the factors behind her son’s sudden behaviour change.

As the ‘YouTube baby’ – the one raised with digital lullaby (in the form of toons) during his formative years – Imran like his contemporaries consumes screen at least 10 hours a day. With online classes no longer there, he mostly interacts with his classmates and netizens during his screen time. “But as I came to believe after persistent questioning,” says his mother, “most of his online interactions end up on a sour note. Well, this is to say, that my child is facing cyberbullying.”

Before becoming a victim of cyberbullying, Imran had a hard time on the streets of his hometown. His stout appearance would subject him to frequent fat-shaming. The street bullying, even coming from his close circles, would make him grumpy at the end of the day. “I tried to balance his interactive circle to check bullying,” says his mother, “but then, it’s almost impossible to curb it completely.”

It’s painful to see your child suffer from the physical and emotional pain of bullying or cyberbullying.

Some parents aren’t sure where to start when it comes to helping their children avoid bullying and violence. Others may be unaware of whether or not their children are victims, bystanders, or even perpetrators of such harmful behaviors. Here are a few important things we need to know.

What exactly is bullying?

Bullying is usually identified by the three traits of intent, repetition, and power. A bully repeatedly causes suffering to others, whether via physical harm or cruel words or behaviour. Physical bullying is more common among boys, whilst psychological bullying is more common among girls.

Bullying is more of a pattern of behaviour than a single occurrence. Bullying is more common among children with a perceived higher social standing or position of authority, such as those who are bigger, stronger, or more popular.

Bullying is more likely to affect the most vulnerable children. Children from marginalised communities, poor families, children with alternative gender identities, children with impairments, and migrant and refugee children are frequently among them.

Bullying can take place in person or over the internet. Cyberbullying can take place on social media, via text or instant message, via email, or on any other online platform where children connect. It can be tough to recognise whether and when your child is affected because parents may not always monitor what their children do on these platforms.

What warning signs should I be on the lookout for?

Take a close look. Observe the emotional state of the children, as some children may not be able to communicate their concerns vocally. The following are some warning signs to keep an eye out for:

  1. Unusual bruises, scrapes, shattered bones, and healing wounds are examples of physical marks.

  2. Fear of coming to school or participating in school activities

  3. Anxiety, nervousness, or a high level of vigilance

  4. Having a small circle of friends at school or outside of it

  5. Suddenly losing friends or avoiding social situations

  6. Loss or destruction of clothing, gadgets, or other personal belongings

  7. Frequently requesting financial assistance

  8. Academic performance is poor.

  9. Frequent school absenteeism.

  10. Trying to remain in the company of adults

  11. Not getting enough sleep and perhaps having nightmares

  12. Headaches, stomachaches, or other physical ailments

  13. Distressed after spending time online or on their phone on a regular basis (without a reasonable explanation)

  14. Becomes unusually secretive, especially when it comes to online activities

  15. Aggressive behaviour or angry outbursts

Allow yourself to speak freely. Talk to your kids about what they consider to be acceptable and unacceptable behaviour at school, in the neighbourhood, and online. It’s critical to have open lines of communication so that your children feel comfortable informing you about what is happening in their lives.

Why should I feel concerned and interfere if my child is being bullied?

Bullying can have long-term negative implications for children. Aside from the physical consequences of bullying, children may suffer from emotional and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, which can lead to substance abuse and poor academic performance. Cyberbullying, unlike in-person bullying, can reach a victim at any time and from anywhere. It has the potential to cause significant harm because it can swiftly reach a large audience and leave a permanent internet footprint for all those involved.

Your child has the right to attend school in a safe, caring setting that honors their dignity. Every kid has the right to an education as well as protection from all sorts of physical and mental aggression, harm, and abuse. Bullying is no different.

What can I do to help my child’s school prevent bullying?

Making sure your child is aware of the issue is the first step in keeping them safe, whether in person or online.

  1. Educate your children on the subject of bullying. Your children will be able to recognise bullying more quickly once they understand what it is, whether it is happening to them or to someone else.

  2. Talk to your children frequently and frankly. The more you talk to your kids about bullying, the more likely they are to speak and inform you if they witness or experience it. Check in with your children every day and inquire about their school days and online activities, not only about their lessons and activities but also about their feelings.

  3. Assist your child in being a good role model. Bullying involves three parties: the victim, the perpetrator, and the bystander. Children can prevent bullying by being inclusive, courteous, and kind to their peers, even if they are not bullied themselves. They can defend the victim, offer assistance, and/or question bullying behaviour if they witness it.

  4. Assist your child in developing self-confidence. Encourage your child to participate in community activities that they enjoy. This will also aid in the development of confidence and a network of friends with similar interests.

  5. Be a role model for others. Show your child how to treat other children and adults with love and respect by treating everyone around you with the same respect and kindness, including speaking up when others are mistreated. Children look to their parents for guidance on how to act in various situations, including what to publish online.

  6. Participate in their online activities. Familiarize yourself with the platforms your child uses, explain how the online and offline worlds are linked, and warn them about the various risks they will encounter online.

If my child is being bullied or threatened, what should I do?

If you suspect your child is being bullied, you can take the following steps to assist them:

  1. Openly and gently listen to your child. Instead of attempting to figure out what’s causing the bullying or how to remedy the situation, focus on making them feel listened and supported. Ascertain that they are aware that it is not their fault.

  2. Tell the child that you believe in them, that you’re glad they informed you, that it’s not their fault, and that you’ll do everything you can to assist them.

  3. Speak with teacher or school authorities if you feel it is happening at school of your child.

  4. Be a pillar of support for others. Having a supportive parent is critical for your child in dealing with the repercussions of bullying. Assure them that they can reach out to you at any time and that things will get better.

What can I do if my child bullies other children?

If you suspect or know that your child is bullying other children, keep in mind that they are not necessarily horrible people, but may be acting out for a variety of reasons. Bullying is often motivated by a desire to fit in, a need for attention, or a need to learn how to cope with difficult emotions. Bullies are sometimes victims or observers of violence in their own homes or communities. To assist your child in avoiding bullying, you should take the following steps:

  1. Communicate. You’ll be better able to help your child if you understand why they’re behaving out. Do they have any feelings of insecurity at school? Do they have a quarrel with a sibling or a friend? If they are having problems explaining their actions, you may want to seek the advice of a child-focused counsellor, social worker, or mental health expert.

  2. Work on finding healthy coping mechanisms. Inquire about a situation that has irritated your youngster and provide helpful solutions. Use this exercise to come up with non-harmful reactions to future circumstances. Encourage your youngster to “put themselves in their shoes” by picturing what the person being bullied is going through. Remind your child that remarks expressed online might have real-world consequences.

  3. Take a look at yourself. Bullying children typically imitate what they see at home. Do you or another caregiver engage in physically or emotionally abusive behaviour toward them? Look in the mirror and consider how you show yourself to your child.

Allow for repercussions and opportunities to make amends. It’s critical to provide appropriate, nonviolent repercussions if you discover your child has been bullying. This may limit their activities, particularly those that promote bullying (social gatherings, screen/social media use). Encourage your child to apologise to their classmates and to think about how to be more inclusive in the future.

  • The author is a licensed clinical psychologist (alumni of Govt. Medical College Srinagar) and works as a consultant clinical psychologist at Centre for Mental Health Services at Rambagh Srinagar. He can be reached at 8825067196

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