Singapore is a great place for students – we have a world-class education system and our schools offer a great environment. However, in spite of all of this, there is a serious problem that our students are facing. Did you know that bullying in Singapore is rampant and more dangerous than you think it is?
Bullying in Singapore – Current Situation
Findings from data gathered by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) show Singapore to have the third highest rate of bullying globally.
Latvia and New Zealand are the only two countries where bullying is worse than in Singapore.
Before we go on, it’s important to take note that the findings are based on a study conducted in 2015, and are based on 5825 students, randomly selected from 168 public schools and 290 students from 9 private schools.
These findings might not necessarily be an accurate representation of the student population at large, and the Ministry of Education (MOE) is closely monitoring the situation of bullying in Singapore.
MOE does not tolerate bullying in Singapore and has taken great measures to curb the problem.
In August, MOE revealed that since 2012, there have been only a few of these events reported to schools annually, with two incidents per 1,000 primary school students and five incidents per 1,000 secondary school students.
The MOE official responded that schools educate pupils about bullying and take preventative measures when asked about the procedures that have been put in place to deal with it. Intervention strategies are also in place. According to the spokesman:
“All students are taught the safe channels to report serious incidents, inappropriate practices, or hurtful behaviours. Peer support leaders also help to keep online and offline spaces safe and positive, and alert teachers where needed…
Schools also engage parents and work with them to provide students with the necessary support both in and out of school.”
The statement continued, “Schools select dedicated staff to manage and foster a peer support culture in the learning, social, and cyberspace as part of efforts to establish a compassionate and enabling learning environment.”
Even then, bullying is a huge cause for concern and parents need to be aware of it. In fact, the biggest danger is that in this day and age, bullying takes on many forms, some of which are less known and obvious.
The scary thing is that these less obvious forms of bullying may at times be the most dangerous and have caused students to become depressed and harbour suicidal thoughts.
Image source: iStock
Types of Bullying
The following are some of the various forms of bullying that kids may endure today, according to the Mayo Clinic:
Physical Bullying – this includes striking, kicking, and other violent acts.
Verbal Bullying – racial slurs, persistent name-calling, and other forms of verbal bullying
Cyber Bullying – this involves tormenting another child online or via a cell phone.
Some known acts of cyber-bullying include:
- Creating fake social media profiles on MySpace or Facebook
- Sending unwanted and insulting emails and instant messages
- Hurtful Internet polling (Who’s hot, who’s not?)
- Stealing passwords
- Posting embarrassing or harmful images online
- Posting personal information including real name, address and telephone numbers online, etc.
One of these methods alone, or a combination of them, can be used to bully children. Since this form of bullying can invade the privacy and safety of the family setting, the risks of cyberbullying are particularly severe.
Cyberbullying can stay constant, unlike physical bullying, which can be left behind after school. That, according to psychologists, is one of the factors contributing to the rise in recent years in the number of suicides committed by victims of cyberbullying.
The study asked students to report how frequently they were exposed to these six different types of bullying:
- Being left out
- Made fun of
- Getting threatened
- Property taken by other students
- Being hit or pushed around
- Having nasty rumours spread about them
The most common form of bullying in Singapore is students being made fun of by other students. 18.3% of the survey respondents said that they experienced this at least a few times a month.
Image courtesy: iStock
Signs a Child is Being Bullied
When a child is bullied, he is frequently reluctant to tell his parents or other adults who could support him about the situation. If parents want to spot the warning signals that their child is being bullied, they must be attentive to their children’s conduct. According to Education.com, some of these red flags include:
- A child returns home with damaged or missing personal belongings
- The kid starts using a different route to get home from school.
- The kid doesn’t have many pals outside of school
- The youngster constantly laments having bodily problems
- When a child returns from school, she appears depressed.
- The youngster suddenly has trouble falling asleep
- A student starts to perform poorly in class
Bullying should never be ruled out in the case of behaviour changes and other challenges, even though these symptoms can indicate a wide range of potential disorders.
When a child starts displaying any of these symptoms, parents should make a special effort to establish communication with the child, his teachers, and even his friends in an effort to ascertain the cause of the new behaviours.
Cyber Bullying Cases in Singapore
The study did not explicitly mention anything about cyberbullying but this is the most recent and dangerous form of bullying that students experience. Online bullying in Singapore is more prevalent than in the real world.
A 2012 study by Microsoft showed that Singapore had the second-highest rate of cyberbullying globally.
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology – including devices such as cell phones, computers, tablets as well as social media sites, text messages, chat and websites.
Cyberbullying is scary for it gives students the ability to hide behind the veil of anonymity and do terrible things to their friends.
And the statistics for cyberbullying are rather alarming. In a cyber wellness survey done in 2013, 1 in 3 secondary school students said that they had been bullied online while 1 in 4 admitted to having bullied their peers online.
1 in 5 primary school students have been taunted on social media platforms.
Examples of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying on social media typically occurs when bullies post embarrassing and hurtful pictures or remarks about their victims. They then proceed to circulate it to as many people as possible and torment their victims.
The worst part about cyberbullying is that unlike real-life bullying, the taunting is incessant with the chances of the content resurfacing online time and again.
Cyberbullying is getting more common and it is extremely dangerous.
Effects of Cyberbullying
Many students start to self-mutilate or even consider suicide. Students who are already at-risk, and have negative thoughts about themselves are in the worst situation for the negative remarks about them made online further reinforce these thoughts.
Students isolate themselves from shame and guilt. They withdraw into a world of their own and become reticent about their problems. this eventually leads to depression and depression can lead to suicide.
We have all heard stories of students in the United States (US) committing suicide due to extensive bullying. Just because you don’t hear of it hear, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of students committing suicide. People assume it is due to family problems or too much stress and the pressure to perform.
There have been cases of bullying in Singapore that led to suicide.
Penalty For Bullying In Singapore
Bullying situations that resulted in physical injury will likely be prosecuted under the Penal Code’s injured offences (as mentioned in the table above). On the other hand, the Protection from Harassment Act may apply to bullying incidents that did not cause physical harm (POHA).
This is due to the fact that typical bullying behaviours, such as insults, teasing, or cyberbullying, can be categorised as words or deeds that disturb a victim.
The following considerations may have an impact on the sentence in circumstances where the defendant harassed, alarmed, or distressed the victim:
- The severity and palpable nature of the annoyance, fear, or distress
- The harassment’s recurrent nature
- Whether the bullying was conducted in confidence.
- Whether or not the perpetrator entered a guilty plea
Depression may not be considered a mitigating factor unless it significantly contributed to the offender’s commission of the crimes.
Young offenders may be involved if the ragging or bullying occurs at school or during NS. The age of the offender and the severity of the offence determines the court’s approach to dealing with minor offenders.
A kid who is under the age of 10 or who is between the ages of 10 and 12 but is unable to comprehend his or her conduct and the consequences of those actions cannot be charged with a crime. An older youngster who is under 21 years old, however, might be charged.
If a juvenile criminal is found guilty, the court may mandate community service, probation, or rehabilitation counselling. However, a juvenile offender between the ages of 16 and 21 may receive a jail sentence instead for more serious offences.
How Can I Protect My Child From Bullying and Cyberbullying?
Connect to your child’s friends and teachers
Know their friends, know your child’s relationship with their friends. Also, talk to teachers and take it seriously if the school is trying to warn you about something. Don’t get defensive or dismissive.
Look out for changes in their behaviour
If they look upset, don’t ignore it. Ask them what’s wrong and listen to whatever they tell you. Do also look out for what they do not tell you (nonverbal clues)
If your child starts acting or behaving in a way that’s uncharacteristic of them, start investigating.
The new harassment law passed in Parliament enables victims of cyberbullying to request for malicious content to be removed and can sue for civil damages.
CBS News suggests the following to help stop your child from being a bully victim:
Even when their children don’t want to share their lives with their parents, parents have the challenging chore of maintaining open channels of contact with their children.
The parental radar typically goes off for a reason, CBS tells parents. By widening those channels of communication, parents must pay attention to the warning signs and take appropriate action when necessary.
Beware of some online “neighbourhoods”
Social media sites like Facebook can be used by children to socialise, but they can also be used by bullies to torment their victims. Additionally, there are social media platforms like FormSpring.me and StickyDramas that have little control and turn become breeding grounds for inappropriate online conduct.
Do not allow your children to hang out in these unsafe online “neighbourhoods” any more than you would permit them to do so in risky areas near your town.
Keep an eye on the cellphone
Children who are being bullied via their phones may get texts at any time of day or night. Late-night texting can prevent a child from receiving the necessary sleep in addition to torturing their victims. Lack of sleep might make it even harder for victims to cope with the situation.
We’re not telling you to invade your child’s privacy. But to ensure a restful night’s sleep, establish a cell phone curfew and then place the phone on the kitchen counter.
Some parents hesitate to keep an eye on their kids’ social media or text messages out of concern that it would appear they are being nosy or that it shows they don’t trust their children. However, the internet has increased the need for parents to be aware of who their children are hanging out with and what they are doing on these gadgets. Tell your children that you are keeping an eye on them more for their own safety than as a means of punishment.
Singtel and Touch Cyber Wellness have launched a mobile app notAnoobie as a resource to parents to help parents to protect their children from online threats like bullying.
What To Do When Your Child is Bullied
Image courtesy: iStock
It is important to act to protect your child as soon as you become aware if they are being bullied. Education.com advises taking the next step:
- Let your kids know that if they need help dealing with the bully, they can talk to an adult.
- Discuss the matter as soon as possible with the child’s teacher or the school’s headmaster.
- Encourage your child to discuss the situation with a counsellor.
- To help your child develop self-esteem and confidence, encourage him to spend time with his closest friends outside of school.
- Assist your kid in acquiring skilful abilities in music, athletics, or the arts.
- Encourage your child to remain with friends at school, particularly in environments where bullying is more likely to occur.
- If your child has been victimised by bullying and is depressed, seek professional help. This is extremely important.
Bullying is a painful byproduct of childhood, but it doesn’t have to have a lasting detrimental effect on your child. You can assist your child deal with any behaviour they may experience in the school and outside of it.
There you go, mums and dads. Do remember that bullying is something that we must take seriously. Do not hesitate to take action if your child is a victim of bullying.
Updates from Matt Doctor