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Society takes steps to curb campus bullies

By XU LIN | China Daily | Updated: 2021-09-29 08:05
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A police officer discusses methods to prevent bullying with students at the No 4 Primary School in Changxing county, Huzhou, Zhejiang province, in March. [PHOTO BY XU BINHUA/FOR CHINA DAILY]

A recent short video about 10 juveniles physically abusing a 14-year-old girl in a public toilet in Shexian county, Anhui province, has gone viral. The harrowing video shows the ringleader, a girl, slapping the victim at least 20 times in just one round of the attack.

The local public security bureau said in a statement that it imposed 14 days of administrative detention on one of the abusers. Three from the group were given six to nine days, but were exempt because they are of ages 14 to 16. Two of the group who were no more than 14 were to be disciplined by their legal guardians. And the remaining four were not punished due to their insignificant participation.

It's not the first time that such short videos have stirred online discussions about school bullying.

China has taken serious measures in recent years to tackle campus bullying. In May 2016, the State Council launched a campaign to curb bullying in primary and middle schools, targeting physical, verbal and online abuse.

The revised Law on the Protection of Minors, which came into effect on June 1, clarifies that schools should establish preventive mechanisms against campus bullying, inform the offenders' parents or guardians in a timely manner, and report serious bullying cases to police and education authorities.

China's first official regulation on education supervision took effect on Sept 1, regulating that schools and educational institutions should be held accountable if they fail to prevent bullying.

Yu Xukun, deputy director of the Beijing Children's Legal Aid and Research Center, says these laws and regulations help to implement preventive mechanisms to curb campus bullying, while providing a guideline for schools, teachers and parents to tackle the issue at any stage.

"Teachers should pay attention to those who are liable to be bullied. Schools should intervene in a timely manner when bullying occurs, and thoroughly investigate the matter, before disciplining the offenders. They should also ensure that the victims are no longer subject to bullying and offer them psychological counseling," she says.

In 2017, the China Society of Emergency Management released a report about campus bullying in the country, stating that verbal bullying accounted for 23.3 percent, which was more common than social, physical and online bullying.

It's well documented that school bullying has a long-term effect on the victims, especially psychological.

"Children who are often bullied on campus are reluctant to open up and socialize with others. Some even dare not to go to school, which will have an impact on their academic studies and subsequent entry to a school of a higher grade," says Lin Xiuyun, a professor of psychology at Beijing Normal University.

According to her, victims of bullying are prone to internalizing their emotions, making them feel depressed, anxious and isolated, without anyone to relate to. If they have no way to achieve emotional catharsis, they will feel great pain, and in some cases, they might even self-harm.

Moreover, they are likely to be assailed by self-doubt, wondering why it is that they are being targeted, leading to self-loathing and similar problems.

"It's essential to summarize the characteristics of the victims and the bully, so that it's easier to come up with a specific solution to prevent such incidents," Lin says.

Those who easily fall victim to campus bullying are often at a disadvantage, either physically or psychologically. Some are not self-confident and lack interpersonal skills, and barely have any ability to stand up for themselves.

Bullies themselves sometimes endure corporal punishment at home and learn to treat others with violence. Some bully others to conceal their own self-abasing feelings. Some have difficulties with impulse control and emotion regulation, and are quick to anger.

Some even used to be victims of bullying, and they want to give vent to their emotions or seek a sort of revenge by doing the same to others. Some get a thrill from it, just like drinking coffee acts as a stimulant.

"School culture and discipline, and a teacher in charge of a class, are important to curb bullying on campus. Teachers should praise good people and good deeds, and promote positive energy," she says.

"While teachers may think that some kinds of verbal behavior among students are just a trivial matter, for the students who are isolated by classmates, it's a difficult time."

When children are bullied by others, parents should support, comfort and help them unconditionally. Parents should help these children to improve their interpersonal skills and offer some tips about how to tackle with the situation when they're bullied.

Also, parents should foster their self-confidence and evaluate them from various perspectives, not just by focusing only on their academic studies, for example.

"Bystanders play an important role in preventing or stopping a bully. They can confront the bully directly or tell a teacher about the bullying," Lin says.

In 2019, the success of the movie Better Days, starring Zhou Dongyu and Yi Yangqianxi, brought the issue of campus bullying to big screens, which is not a common theme for mainland films. In 2020, it won eight awards out of 12 nominations, including the best film, best director and best actress, at the 39th Hong Kong Film Awards.

It's not uncommon for schools to invite police and legal workers to deliver lectures about campus bullying to students. Lin suggests that public awareness can be more engaging and takes the movie as an example. Additionally, she says she believes that schools should provide students with professional guidebooks about how to respond to campus bullying.

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