When we talk about bullying at school, many people, both teachers, authorities and families, think that these actions are just childish behaviour. But no, this is not true. They are behaviours that can completely destroy the person who suffers it, leaving them totally defenceless, dehumanised, destroyed and completely trampled on in their dignity as a human being.
It is necessary to make it clear that, when we talk about bullying and cyberbullying in the school environment, we are dealing with an action that violates the most absolute right of all, which is the right to be free from torture and humiliation, whether physical or emotional, under any circumstances and, consequently, its eradication is the responsibility of society as a whole.
The consequences of bullying are extremely hard for the victim. Anxiety, depression, continuous sadness, personal dissatisfaction or school failure are frequent, as well as strong emotional damage that can lead to personality disorders and, in the most serious cases, to a serious risk to physical integrity and life itself through self-harm and suicide attempts.
Sometimes, the most visible traits in victims of bullying are difficult to identify, but there are some indicators that allow us to recognise a possible case of bullying. The lack of autonomy to make decisions, low personal self-esteem combined with a strong emotional dependence on the family nucleus, as well as isolation from the rest of the peer group, are usually some of the characteristic features of cases of bullying in the initial phase. To these traits should be added a lack of participation in extracurricular activities, unjustified absences from school or a sudden lack of concentration and academic performance in those cases in which the bullying situations are more intense and last for a longer period of time. Finally, in the most serious cases, clear indicators are changes in attitude and disruptive behaviour such as crying, anger and even euphoria, together with evident signs of bodily injury and also the consumption of alcohol or narcotic substances in an attempt to escape from the reality they are suffering.
And how does bullying manifest itself? There are many ways in which bullying can manifest itself. Some go unnoticed in the early stages and others are extremely serious, especially in cases where the bullying is prolonged over time. Thus, beyond acts of exclusion or marginalisation outside the peer group in the initial stages, there are verbal attacks, acts of humiliation, acts of intimidation and threats, direct (and also indirect) physical attacks, attacks on sexual freedom and orientation, sexual assaults and, finally, in the most serious cases, violent death at the hands of the aggressors or inducing the suicide of the victim.
In recent years, in addition to bullying in schools, there has been an increase in cases of cyberbullying through social networks. Thus, although the data available are limited, a European Commission report published in 2020 showed that 44% of children had been victims of cyberbullying at some point. Humiliation and impersonation on social networks and websites are usually the most frequent behaviours, along with manipulation and hoaxes about the lives of the boys and girls concerned. During the months of confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this phenomenon has increased notably in different regions of the world. Hence, according to UNICEF sources, one third of boys and girls around the world have reportedly been victims of cyberbullying.
However, one of the difficulties in identifying these traits is that they do not necessarily follow an order but may manifest themselves differently in each individual case. For this reason, teacher training is essential in order to detect cases of bullying and cyberbullying. Too often, this lack of training means that particularly dramatic cases go unnoticed and only come to light when it is too late. Hence the importance of all schools regularly carrying out training activities, also aimed at families and teaching staff, to enable them to recognise cases of bullying and cyberbullying and, at the same time, help to work on levels of empathy among pupils. Beyond the task of transmitting knowledge, schools also have the obligation to fight against bullying because, otherwise, they must assume their responsibilities if they fail to fulfil or neglect their role as guarantors of their students’ rights to physical and moral integrity in the face of any form of attack.
Therefore, they are not «kids’ stuff», they are not «just a joke», they are not funny and, of course, they are not right. They are a form of humiliation, they are a form of torture, they are a CRIME. The only difference is that minors are involved, but if the same behaviour is carried out by adults, we would be dealing with crimes against moral integrity or, in the most serious cases, crimes against fundamental rights and freedoms, more commonly known as HATE CRIMES. It is therefore essential to work for their eradication both inside and outside the classroom.
It is necessary to continue working from the entire educational community and, by extension, from society as a whole. The reason is simple: only by educating in respect and coexistence will we be able to achieve classrooms and a society free of bullying and cyberbullying.
Let us not forget that bullying and cyberbullying directly affect the human rights of the boys and girls who suffer it on a daily basis, robbing them of their dignity and causing them serious harm that is difficult to predict and quantify.
Please, let us never remain impassive or look the other way.
Let us always break the chain of silence.
No more pain, no more suffering.
No more bullying.