Nowadays According to Irish Society for the Prevention

Nowadays
bulling is a serious and continuously growing problem. According to Department
of Education and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bullying can be
defined as any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of
youths, who are not siblings or current dating partners, involving an observed
or perceived power imbalance. The victims of these behaviors are getting
through multiple attacks which can lead in the development of physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.

 

There
are different types of bullying such as verbal attacks (e.g. name calling,
threats), physical harming (e.g. hitting, kicking, damaging victim’s property),
and relational/social aggression (e.g. social exclusion, rumor spreading) (Menesini
& Salmivalli, 2017). Olweus (1993) proposed that in order to use the term
bullying, there should be an imbalance in strength, where the student who
receives the negative actions is unable to defend him/herself and is helpless
against the bully.

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The main
causes of school violence and bullying include gender and social differences and
in general contextual and structural factors (United
Nations, 2017). According to Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Children (ISPCC) face-to-face bullying is the more prevalent type of bulling
with a fifty percent of the overall twenty-three of children being bullied in
the age nine to sixteen. The most usual places that bulling can occur is in schools,
inside and outside the classroom, around schools and on the way to and from
school (United Nations, 2017). More specifically, in school, the places that
bullying happens more often are toilets, changing rooms, corridors and
playgrounds where adolescents are less easily being seen or supervised by
teachers and other school staff (United Nations, 2017). That allows
perpetrators to act secretly and avoid the consequences of their behavior.   

 

Bulling
differs from country to country even among the countries that are part of the
same continent such as Europe. This paper will mainly focus in victims and in the
comparison between the Netherlands and Greece.

 

Research findings

Longitudinal
studies have shown that bullying has serious short-term and long-term effects
on those who experience it as victims and can include to a broad range of
behavioral and psychological adjustment problems (McVie, 2014; Ttofi and
Farrington, 2009). More specifically, victims tend to experience internalizing
problems, including anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation and attempts
(Nickerson, 2017). Furthermore, they present poorer academic achievement, lower
perceptions of school safety and connectedness, and less school involvement
(Nickerson, 2017). Taken together, these health problems resemble the
symptomatology which characterizes posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it
has, therefore, been proposed that exposure to bullying may lead to PTSD (Nielsen,
Tangen, Idsoe, Matthiesen & Magerøy, 2015). However, this is not still
scientifically proven.

 

There
are some factors that indicate that some people are more susceptible to being
bulling that others. Hodges, Malone and Perry (1997) suggest that risk factors are:
having a few friends, especially friends who can be trusted or who are themselves
of low status and sociometric rejection which is a measurement that reflects
the degree to which someone is liked or disliked by his peers. Children who are
perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or
underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school tend
to have lower social status (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.).
In addition, another group of risk factors relates to family background. There
is evidence that some victims come from overprotective or enmeshed families and
that can lead to the lack of skills of assertion and independence that would be
useful for them to adapt in the peer group (Smith & Ananiadou, 2003).

 

Application information

Bulling
consists a great concern for many European countries. In the Netherlands,
bullying is a real problem, just like it is everywhere, but Dutch government
and people seem to be taking actions to interfere and prevent the problem. The
study by the National Health Service showed that eleven percent of students are
bullied in schools. Regarding Greece, empirical studies have indicated that
bullying exists although its intensity might not be as serious as in some other
industrialized countries (Andreou, Didaskalou & Vlachou, 2007). However,
the awareness of the problem has been raised the last years and Greek community
seems to try to prevent and cure the problem.

 

In the Netherlands,
at 2015 an anti-bullying law implemented which highlights the involvement of
school leaders and the school community. Under the law, schools are responsible
for creating a safe learning environment, for ensuring enhanced monitoring of
implementation strategies and for placing a coordinator in every school to act
as a contact point for children and parents (United Nations, 2017). In
addition, before the above law, Dutch government tried to implement a Finnish
anti-bullying program, named KiVa, as an experimental trial in sixty-six schools.
According to KiVa’s official page, it is an evidence-based program to prevent
bullying and to tackle the cases of it effectively. It is based on two main
components: universal and indicated actions. Universal actions include student
lessons and online games and are directed at all students with main goal to
prevent bullying. The indicated actions target specifically the children and
adolescents who have been involved in bullying as perpetrators or victims, as
well as to several classmates who are challenged to support the victims and aim
in putting an end to bullying (KiVa International, n.d.). KiVa is constantly
monitoring the situation in schools and the changes taking place over time
through the online tools included in the program. These tools produce annual
feedback for each school about their implementation of the program as well as
the outcomes obtained (KiVa International, n.d.). KiVa
has three units: Unit 1 is designed for children of 6–9 years of age, Unit 2 is
suitable for children of 10–12 years of age, Unit 3 is meant to be used after
the middle school/lower secondary school transition, for students of around
13–16 years old (KiVa International, n.d.). According to Alexandra Gowling (2013)
since the beginning of the implementation program the bulling complaints have
dropped to more than fifty percent in Dutch schools.

 

In
Greece, for the years 2011 – 2013, a program was being implemented in fifty
schools of Central Greece in the three major classes of primary school and coordinated
by the Association for the Psychosocial Health of Children and Adolescents.
Entitled “STOP! School Violence” and based on the effectiveness of
interventions and the approach proposed by Olweus, this program’s goals were to
educate primary school students about bullying and its diverse forms, to provide
them the necessary guidelines to identify bullying behavior and to develop the
necessary mechanisms for reporting it (Stefanakou, Tsiantis
& Tsiantis, 2014; Papacosta, Paradeisioti & Lazarou, 2014). More
particularly, the program attempted to strengthen children’s anti-bullying
behavior and enhance empathy towards victims and prosocial behavior, increase
teachers’ awareness and knowledge about the phenomenon, enhance their
anti-bullying attitudes and empathy towards victims (Stefanakou, Tsiantis &
Tsiantis, 2014). The theoretical background of that program combined concepts
from psychodynamic, group-dynamics and cognitive-behavioral theory, as well as
from psycho-educational principles (Stefanakou, Tsiantis & Tsiantis, 2014).
In the beginning of each school year, teachers from fourth, fifth and sixth
class from each school were trained through theoretical knowledge and
experiential activities. The training covered topics such as the phenomenon of
bullying and its aspects, classroom and difficult cases management, as well as
the implementation of specific activities in classroom consisting the
prevention program. In addition, counselling support was provided to the group
of teachers by mental health specialists in regular meetings at the specific
schools (Stefanakou, Tsiantis & Tsiantis, 2014).

 

Practical experiences

The
interviewees are: one Dutch French teacher in a secondary school at the
Netherlands and one Greek English teacher in a secondary school at Greece. In
the interviews there are many similar points between the experiences of the two
teachers but, as well as there are some differences.

 

First of
all, according to the teachers in both of the countries the most common type of
bullying, in the schools they teach, is verbal bulling. Furthermore, they both
believe that the number of victims and perpetrators is balanced in their
schools. The bulling events that exist in their schools they do not seem to be
very intense and serious. Another common thing is that neither of them have ever
acquired a class or an information session about bullying something that underlines
the lack of scientific based knowledge about this issue. Furthermore, they have
not ever trained to deal with bulling and they handle the bullying events in a
different way according to what they personally believe it is better. The Dutch
teacher handles these issues with a more professional way (“I talk to the main
teacher about these problems and I try to make positive contact with them” and
“When some kids make negative comments I try to say something about it”)
contrary to the Greek teacher which seem to have a more emotional and caring
way (“I always try to approach weak pupils” and “I embrace them, give them love
make whatever I can to make them go further”).

 

Regarding
to the anti-bulling policies, the Dutch teacher identifies that there is a
policy in the school that he works: “There is like a protocol that you have to
sign like a contract, something like that”. In addition, he refers that “There
is one teacher who is the main teacher and who guides them to school” which
concerns the anti-bulling law that is implemented in the Netherland in which a teacher
leader helps other teachers to deal with problems they have in their class and
communicate with parents. On the other hand, in Greek schools there is an
absence of policies and laws. According to the Greek teacher: “Up to this time
we haven’t have any programs about bullying”. The interesting thing here is
that in Greek schools sociology consists a class taught by social scientists
and the Greek teacher mentioned that “The recent years, the sociologist
proposed to be the one who faces these problems and give solutions to the
children involved in these problems”. This informal initiative, taken by the
teacher of this school resembles to the way the Dutch school deal with the
problems in class and points out that teachers try to take measures to tackle
this problem more effectively.

 

Last but
not least both of them identify that the problem is not faced effectively. The
Greek believes that the crisis is not helping: “The economic crisis makes the
problem worse…” “There is no money to implement programs and even the teachers
are not paid well”. The lack of money and the cuts in the public section has
resulted in a poorer educational system in which the problems are not faced
properly. Thus, despite the fact that the Greek community is aware of the
problem and its impacts, the policies are very expensive to implement. On the other
side, the Dutch teacher believes that policies are not that efficient: “I do
not think that policies reach goals that they would like to reach” and “Teachers
are not able to monitor and control these situations, for example they don’t
know what’s happening during the lunch break” and “the bad behavior of bullies
is stronger than these program, they don’t care about this”. The reason behind
this is that bulling consists a difficult and growing problem and there is a
need to raise awareness and implement more programs in order to fight it more effectively.
More specifically, parents should cooperate with teachers for the desired
solution and program should involve more anti-bulling activities.

 

Conclusions and implications

Bullying
is a very complex and modern phenomenon that occurs in many different forms among
different groups of students. The impacts can affect victims in multiple levels
and there is a great need to implement both prevention and intervention
programs to avoid the physical, psychological, social, or educational effects
that can cause to them. Nevertheless, the awareness of the problem seems to be
raised and there are many organized in order to fight it.

 

Both the
Netherlands and Greece have not educated and informed teachers about the
problem and how to deal with it. Such a serious problem as bulling requires
well trained personnel with the appropriate scientific background to
efficiently handle the incidents and the involved actors. Hence, governments
should make classes for teachers in order to give the appropriate insights and
knowledge to deal with these situations.

 

Regarding
Greece, the government has made a few steps to fight this problem by implement
experimental programs. However, due to the crisis the economic resources are
limited and theses programs are expensive to permanently implemented in
schools. Thus, taken together the facts that bulling is not a huge problem and
the difficult situation due to crisis, there is a bigger need to cope with
other problems first that affect education, such as the insufficient personnel
and resources, and then deal with bulling.

 

On the
other hands, in the Netherlands, the problem seems slightly bigger than Greece
but there are policies and professionals in every school to deal with this
problem. Despite this, there is need for better solutions and more anti-bulling
activities since the problem seems to exist in and out of schools. More
specifically, the role of parents and the way they raise their children are of
a great importance to prevent or step in bulling. Hence, policy makers should
take into account the importance of the cooperation between parents and schools,
since they both consist the basic actors in children’s raising and
socialization, and make policies that involve anti-bullying activities at home as
well.  

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