The first half of 2017 was met with the tragic death of two students in separate cases of bullying. In another case, a 15 year old boy in Nilai, Seremban was forced to drink poison. In early 2016, a 9 year old boy was forced to cut his own tongue with scissors.
Data shows that in 2014, the reported cases of bullying at school was a staggering 4,000 while 3,000 cases were reported in 2015.
Bullying statistics in Malaysia
- Approximately 84% of children in Malaysia have suffered from some form of bullying
- 33% of Malaysian children have been bullied online
- 45% of kids in Malaysia say they’ve bullied others offline; 15% have committed cyberbullying acts
- 27% of Malaysian parents warn their kids about the risks of using the Internet, but only a mere 18% educate their children about online etiquette
So why do kids bully? What causes them to act in such an aggressive way?
Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim, Chairperson for Malaysia’s Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) stated that bullies are the product of broken families. “They (bullies) take a hostile approach towards weak or lonely students at school to make up for the lack of control, love or attention at home,” Rahim says.
“Physical aggression between parents and children,” she says, “may act as a modelling behaviour to youngsters, who then carry out such behaviour at school. Name-calling and verbal put-downs between parents and children also serve as a template for children in managing social relationships.”
Usha Ponnudurai, deputy manager at HELP University’s Centre of Psychological & Counseling Services agrees that kids who are neglected at home or lack moral training, parental supervision and guidance are more likely to become bullies at school.
In Malaysia, many children come from poor backgrounds where quarrels, financial difficulties, drug and alcohol abuse and food shortage is the norm. Children who grow up under these conditions often form gangs in school to steal money, food or other ‘necessities’ from students who are better off, which is why primary bullying, middle school bullying and high school bullying are on the rise.
Ponnudurai believes another reason why people bully is to earn the respect of their peers. “Children who lack a sense of right and wrong, and lack awareness of their strengths and weaknesses may choose to bully others to gain ‘popularity’ or validation from their peers, which is harmful,” she says.
What can parents do?
Parents should take greater responsibility for teaching their kids moral values at home as well as set the example for their kids to follow.
Teachers also point out that parental support is sorely lacking when it comes to teachers disciplining children for errant behaviour. Some teachers have even been threatened by parents with police retaliation for taking disciplinary action against their kids.
Ponnudurai also adds that most parents, especially those in the low-income bracket, leave their children’s education to teachers. They feel that teachers know best.
Cyberbullying on the rise
Approximately 26% of Malaysian children have experienced internet bullying, with 13-15 year olds being the most common targets. The level of online harassment rose to 70% with name calling and posting of inappropriate messages or photos on social media being the most common offenses
Preventing bullying may prevent future societal problems
In 2013, Dr. Nadine Connell and Dr. Alex Piquero from the University of Texas at Dallas found that adults who say they bullied others when they were adolescents have a higher likelihood of engaging in criminal behaviour later in life.
Nearly half of the teen bullies grew up to participate in criminal activities including theft, burglary and assault, the study showed. The data also showed the men more likely to be repeat offenders.
Both researchers noted that risk factors for bullying behaviour, including individual and family circumstances, also predicted later criminal activity. Some of these risk factors included poor performance in school, impulsivity, poor parental supervision, family disruption, and dilapidated living conditions.
Although much needed attention has been given to victims of bullying, this research indicates that early intervention on behalf of children who are at risk of exhibiting bullying behaviour may also stop the increase of criminal behaviour years down the road.