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Back to school: 10 tips for identifying bullying and cyberbullying

Social isolation, anxiety around school, depression and anxiety can be signs of bullying

The month of February marks the return to classrooms across the country. For some, the return to school activities is one of the most anticipated moments, but for others it can be a time of great anguish and depression. Both parents and educators need to be aware of signs such as anxiety, panic attacks, social isolation, depression, self-harm and even attempted suicide among children and adolescents, as they are essential in identifying the onset of bullying and cyberbullying.

Schools must promote a safe and inclusive environment, where students can feel free to report any incidents of bullying or cyberbullying, so as to allow the school to take immediate action, always maintaining open communication with parents, which is essential throughout process, and also offering emotional comfort to victims.

Many cases of bullying and cyberbullying happen in jest, but it is important to understand that it is not “just” for fun. If it causes suffering or shame, it is not natural and should be avoided.

“Giving nicknames, making jokes that debase the individual based on their ethnicity, religion, disability and physical appearance, sexual orientation or social class, in a discriminatory way is now a crime, it is not just an involuntary joke”, comments Douglas Gonzalez, coordinator of advocacy and institutional relations of ChildFund Brasil, an organization that has been working to promote and defend the rights of children and adolescents for 57 years.

Law against bullying and cyberbullying crimes

In January, Law 14.811/2024 was approved, which includes the crimes of bullying and cyberbullying in the penal code – and establishes the National Policy for the prevention and fight against sexual abuse and exploitation of children and adolescents, also expanding the punishment of crimes committed against children and young people.

The law also includes in the list of heinous crimes the induction, instigation or assistance to suicide or self-mutilation committed via a computer network, social network or transmitted in real time, kidnapping and false imprisonment committed against minors under the age of 18 and trafficking of children and adolescents.

For these crimes there is no possibility of paying bail, pardon or provisional release. Sentence progression occurs more slowly, bringing even more legal certainty to combat crimes against children and adolescents.

“There has been a big change in legislation and ChildFund is attentive to this scenario, since our main pillars of action are: the protection of children and the prevention of violence against children and adolescents in our country. Most cases of bullying and cyberbullying are generated by prejudice. Many children do not have new personal belongings, such as school supplies, clothes or shoes, and are therefore labeled as “coming from different social classes”, creating more and more derogatory differentiations, oppressive discrimination and ridicule of the victim, who, in turn, this time , reinforces the victim’s feelings of non-belonging and inferiority compared to the group and increases his situation of social vulnerability,” explains Gonzalez.

Results of the IBGE study

According to a study carried out by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), on the results of the four versions of the National School Health Survey (PeNSE), approximately 40% of the students interviewed admitted to having suffered bullying episodes at school.

Also according to the research, 24.1% of students also told researchers that they felt “life is not worth it” after being victims of the act.

“And bullying is an even bigger problem if the family structure is precarious, without emotional support for this child, who could grow up with very serious consequences, which require a long time to be treated and which affect the child’s self-esteem, dragging him into adulthood, especially if it is not addressed during childhood with the help of specialists,” adds Gonzalez.

What is the difference between bullying and cyberbullying?

Intentional and recurring practice of threatening, attacking or intimidating a person, bullying generates repeated violence against the child or adolescent, what differs is only the environment in which the attacks occur.

Bullying generally occurs in the school environment. Cyberbullying occurs via the Internet, involving the use of online games, social networks, WhatsApp, emails or other means that can ridicule, defame, exclude, cancel, harass, persecute and/or intimidate the victim.

How can we act to protect children and adolescents?

The first step is to talk to the child or adolescent, or contact the school to understand a sudden change in behavior. Some of the most common symptoms for those who suffer bullying or cyberbullying are: lack of appetite, sleep changes, mood changes, social isolation, decline in academic performance, lack of desire or panic when going to school and no longer using the cell phone or computer.

“It is necessary for parents and the school body to always be aware of changes in the behavior of those who are victims of bullying, both in the real and virtual world. Dialogue, in a safe space, where victimisation, judgment and belittlement of the victim does not occur, is essential to prevent this child or adolescent from developing psycho-emotional trauma and carrying it with him into adulthood, knowingly or not.” , comments Mauricio. Cunha, national director of ChildFund Brasil.

10 tips to identify the problem

Identifying bullying can be difficult, as it often occurs in subtle ways or in places where supervision is limited. However, there are some common signs that may indicate that a child or teenager is being bullied or cyberbullied. Below are 10 tips to help you identify them:

1) Sudden changes in the person’s behavior, such as isolation, sadness, anxiety or aggression;

2) Decline in academic performance and/or lack of interest in school or extracurricular activities;

3) Frequent complaints of headaches, stomach pains, or other health problems without apparent cause;

4) Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares and changes in eating habits, such as weight loss or gain

5) Damaged, lost or stolen clothing, school supplies or personal effects;

6) Behavior of avoiding places or people, especially classmates;

7) Expressions of fear when talking about school, the school bus or other social contexts;

8) Difficulty making friends or maintaining interpersonal relationships;

9) Digital environment: negative or hostile behavior on social media and/or threatening or abusive messages online;

10) Indirect comments about bullying, such as “no one likes me” or “I can’t take it anymore.” The victim may, in some cases, directly express that they are a victim of bullying or cyberbullying.

If you suspect someone is being bullied or cyberbullied, it is important to approach the situation with empathy and ask for help from teachers, parents or school authorities and psychologists. Open and safe dialogue and support are key to effectively addressing this issue.


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Source: Terra

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