School bullying in Hong Kong hits a record high

Bullying at Hong Kong schools has hit a record high. Research shows that the bullying situation in Hong Kong is the worst in the world.

The number of cyberbullying (網絡霸淩)cases in Hong Kong schools, for example, has doubled in the past four years, according to Education Bureau (EDB) figures revealed in the legislature. Since 2017, EDB has collected information on cyberbullying cases handled or followed up by local schools. There were 54 cases in 2017/2018 and 105 in 2020/2021, which indicates a 95% rise in four years’ time.

Source: istock

What is school bullying?

According to EDB, bullying is a repeated and intended (有企圖的) act of harm or oppression (欺壓)of a less powerful person by a person or a group of persons who is more powerful or in a larger number. Bullying includes three basic components, namely 1) Repeated act, 2)Malicious intent (惡意企圖), and 3) Imbalance of power. And there are four common types of bullying:

1. Physical violence

This includes punching, kicking, slapping, hitting, shoving (推撞), tripping, pulling hair, extorting(敲詐)money or properties, etc.

2. Verbal bullying

This includes intimidating (恐嚇), using abusive languages, cursing, defaming(詆毀), name-calling, mockery(嘲笑)and taunting(譏諷), etc.

3. Indirect bullying

This includes spreading rumours (謠言), being hostile, deliberately (故意地)isolating, boycotting and rejecting someone, etc.

4. Cyberbullying

With the drastic development of information technology, bullying behaviours emerge in the internet world, too. Cyberbullying is the use of electronic communication to harass (騷擾), threaten, or humiliate (羞辱)someone. This can include sending unkind e-mails or texts,posting hurtful messages on social media websites, or spreading rumours online. 

How can bullying affect you? 

Bullying affects everyone in different ways, but there are common feelings that come up when you are being bullied. Children being bullied live in humiliation(羞辱)and rejection. If bullying remains unsolved, they may feel guilty like it is their fault. They may feel hopeless and stuck like they can’t get out of the situation. They may feel alone like there’s no one to help them. They may feel like they don’t fit in with others. They may feel depressed and rejected by friends. They may feel unsafe and afraid. They may feel ashamed that this is happening to them. And they may feel revengeful (想報仇的).

Some studies show that the learning performance of the victims(受害者)will be affected, too. This might result in truancy (逃學), skipping class or dropping out of school. 

Bullying is not just a problem for victims and bullies. It can affect those around them, too. If you see or know of others who have been bullied, you may feel angry, fearful, guilty, and sad, too. You may also feel worried that the bullying could happen to you.

If bullying is ignored or if it isn’t stopped, it can create an environment where bullying is accepted and where everyone feels powerless to stop it.

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What can parents do? 

The problem of bullying should not be ignored as it may lead to other serious and harmful behavior, including suicide and revenge with violence. Parents need to help their children understand that the act of bullying is not for fun or simply like playing games with their friends. They should teach their children about the serious consequences of bullying. In some serious cases, the behaviour of the bullies and the bystanders may be liable to criminal charges.

Regarding the problem of cyberbullying, parents should pay attention to the webpages their children browse. They should teach their kids how to protect their personal information carefullyand avoid talking with strangers. It is always wise to accompany (陪伴)young children when surfing the Net. Besides, parents should teach their children that gossiping online may constitute(被看作是)a slander and the sender may be liable (負上法律責任)to criminal offence. 

As advised by EDB, parents should communicate more with their children in daily life and pay attention to their needs for growth at different stages so as to understand their problem and provide assistance to children involved in bullying as soon as possible. 

Know your rights 

You have a right to feel safe. You have a right to be treated fairly and respectfully. If you are bullied, talk to someone you know well and trust. You should also report the incident to your teacher or social worker to see if they can help. They will give you much needed support and will often have suggestions for helping with the situation. If you feel you might get too nervous to speak, write down what you’d like to say on paper or in an email and send it to your teacher or social worker. If you are a witness of the bullying, report it to your teacher immediately, too. If you are a class monitor or school prefect, watch out for any bullying incidents. If there is any suspected(可疑的)case, you should inform your teacher or social worker immediately.

To stop bullying, you should always reject joining hands with the bullies. Do not watch, mock, cheer for or participate (參與) in bullying. 

Warning signs of being bullied

If your friends (or for parents, your children) are being bullied at school they may:

  • Have unexplained bruises(瘀傷), cuts, scratches
  • Have missing or damaged belongings or clothes
  • Be alone often
  • Appear insecure or frightened
  • Feel frustrated or worried, refusing to talk about what is wrong
  • Become aggressive(好鬥的)and unreasonable
  • Have sudden burst of anger, mood swings(情緒波動)and anxiety
  • Have falling school grades
  • Have fear of leaving home
  • Not want to go to school or become frightened of going to school
  • Have trouble getting out of bed
  • Change their sleeping or eating patterns
  • Ask for extra pocket money or exhibit stealing behavior
  • Request to transfer school

If many of the above signs appear, try to show more care and concern for your friends. Parents should pay more attention to their children and observe the changes of their behaviour and emotions. Contact the teachers to understand what is going wrong.  

Building confidence to deal with bullying

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It can be incredibly hard for some children to talk about what is being wrong or about their humiliation. They probably think that it’s just for fun, such things often happen and it’s nothing serious. They refuse to talk because they think they’ll be threatened and not protected as the bullies may take revenge on them, or it’s their own fault for being bullied. They got beaten up because they look hateful, and they deserve it! 

Very often, children don’t report cyberbullying because they fear their parents will take away their phone or computer. Parents should listen to what their children think, clarify the truth or problems and consider how to help them improve and seek help.  

As a parent, you can help your children feel more confident by being patient and allowing them plenty of time to express themselves. You should be sensitive to the situation your children is struggling with or feels vulnerable(脆弱的)in. Praise them for discussing bullying. Parents should support their children’s report of bullying and not take away their phones or computers as a consequence. It is important for children to remember that bullying is wrong and should be handled by an adult. 

Children who experience bullying may feel overwhelmed(不知所措), depressed, or anxious. If your children are having trouble at school or with friends as a result of bullying, help them become socially involved with other children at their school or community event so they build social skills and learn to be at ease with others. 

It is very important for your child to build up confidence not only on themselves but also on you. If you want your children to be more willing to open up and talk, you will have to make them feel your care and realize that they will be listened to and get help when in need.

Last but not least, it requires schools to have anti-bullying strategies. Every school should be committed to nurturing (培養) a caring culture. Everyone should value mutual respect. Teachers should take immediate action if there is any suspected bullying case inside and outside school. Once a case is reported, they should contact the parents as early as possible in order to let them know the situation of their children in school. A school should be a place where everyone learns happily and grows healthily in a harmonious(和諧的) environment. 

Reference: Education Bureau

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