Bullying is a form of ongoing violence, and if it is to be eradicated effectively, early detection is crucial. To prevent children from feeling alone in their suffering, parents and teachers should be aware of the protocols designed to tackle this important issue
In the 2022-23 school year, there were 353 reports of bullying at school in the Canary Islands, but only 25-30% were confirmed. In Lanzarote, a total of fourteen cases were reported, with an equal number in primary and secondary schools, but none were confirmed. Fourteen incidents were reported during the previous school year, and three were certified.
Bullying is the repeated and persistent abuse of a defenceless person by one or more schoolchildren with the intention of humiliating and intimidating. It commonly manifests as physical and social aggression leading to intimidation and rejection by the peer group. If there is no power imbalance or manifest intention of mistreatment or abuse, or it is a single isolated act, it is not considered bullying.
The School Bullying Prevention Programme was launched by the Canary Islands Government’s Department of Education in October 2006 to combat this painful social reality. The School Coexistence Area implements this initiative through two tools: an action protocol (since 2015) and the SPACAE (Prevention and Assistance Service Against School Bullying), which the victims and/or relatives can also contact through the Education Centre: 800 007 368 / email@example.com.
In the event a report of bullying is received, the protocol is activated straight away. It always acts in complete confidentiality and discretion and talks to the person concerned, the aggressor, and anyone in the same social or school environment who could be a witness.
Bullying causes enormous harm to victims, and nowadays it is a problem that is exacerbated by the increasing use of mobile phones and social media such as WhatsApp. Teachers and psychologists agree that early detection is crucial, and better still if kicked into touch in primary school.
‘Although teachers and professors are given guidelines to detect bullying in the school environment, such as monitoring during breaks, they have an incredibly hard job as they are not only working with large numbers of children but also bullying behaviours tend to be clandestine and do not come to light until a complaint is made, by which time, it’s usually too late.’ Says former primary school teacher Jesús M. de León, who attributes aggressors with ‘an alpha male/female personality profile in many cases, as well as the herd mentality.’
It is agreed that detecting signs of bullying in the home environment is absolutely essential. Furthermore, psychologist Andrés García emphasises the importance of open communication within families to give children the confidence to open up. Parents do not need to be experts, they just need to engage with their children by chatting and getting to know their kids’ circle of friends, listening to their conversations and observing how they interact with each other. This is how parents can recognise symptoms of abuse, such as isolation, silence, poor academic performance, physical discomfort or excuses not to go to school.’
Girls and boys may exhibit similar symptoms when victims of bullying, but different forms of aggression affect girls differently and can manifest in distinct ways. Psychologist Beatriz Salas explains that girls often experience anxiety, tightness in their chest or shortness of breath, decreased social skills, rejection and isolation. Girls are also more susceptible to verbal aggression and cyberbullying and are more likely to suffer from eating disorders. Other common symptoms of school bullying in girls include shutting themselves away at home and an aversion to hugs, cuddles and other gestures of physical and verbal affection.