Dishita Dharamshi and Dr. Garima Rajan
Department of Psychological Sciences, FLAME University, Pune
Pune, 22nd September 2023: ‘42 percent of kids are bullied at schools, says survey’ (Gyanesh, 2017). The rate of bullying in schools is increasing every year. And these are only the cases that have been reported. There might be hundreds of students facing bullying in schools whose case goes unreported, even unnoticed. In order to maintain a fixed system in school and to practice discipline everything is categorized into binary: right and wrong; black and white. Although this system is helpful in several cases especially to maintain equality; it fails a huge number of the population who might not want to fit into these standards: the norms created by society.
The Ways of Socialization
Since children, right from a very young age, are taught to behave in a certain way; it becomes the unsaid norm of that age group to strictly follow. By doing so, anyone who does not adhere to or fall under that spectrum is looked at differently and often bullied by fellow students. Most kids who do not fit into the standard normal curve face challenges in social situations, especially school. The reasons students reported for being bullied in their schools were ‘physical appearance, race/ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, sexual orientation’ (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019).
The unique classroom diversity
Neurodivergent kids who learn differently or take more time than other students tend to face bullying. In a survey conducted by Canada, 77% of the children who were on the autism spectrum reported being bullied (Lin & Eapen, 2022). In addition, children not displaying characteristics of the assigned gender are also at a huge risk of being bullied. ‘Youths with diverse gender identities are bullied up to three times more often than peers’ (Forrest, 2021). A student with preference towards things that are not followed by the rest of their gender is often the target of bullying. For example, a boy liking the color pink or a girl preferring to have short hair is teased or made fun of.
With the creation of artificial beauty standards by the masses, there is no room for alterations or acceptance for anyone who does not fit those standards. A child with more weight than their peers is made fun of. A dark-skinned student is asked to apply creams to change their color. Name calling, teasing, isolating those students is a direct form of bullying that is prevalent across schools today. With the easy reach of social media to children, propagation of binary forms of teaching, comparisons to beauty standards are some of the key factors widening the gap of inclusivity to be practiced in educational institutions like schools.
Direct Connection with Mental Health
Students who experience bullying are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, lower academic achievement, and dropping out of school (Centers for Disease Control, 2019). There is higher risk of suicidal thoughts in students who have faced bullying. Especially when the teenagers deal with body image issues, being the target of body shaming or comments tends to harm the child’s psychological well being even more. ‘The relationship between bullying and suicidal ideation is complex and often mediated by a build-up of various factors such as depression, abuse, low self-esteem, isolation, poor school performance, and anxiety’ (Elgin, 2014).
What Can We Do?
It is now more important than ever for educational institutes to start being mindful of these issues being faced by children. Schools need to acknowledge and accept students from different psychosocial and cultural backgrounds: neurodivergent kids, varied ethnicity, socio-economic differences as well as gender identity. Every school should have mandatory workshops at the beginning of the academic year to explain and build inclusivity among all students. These workshops can be conducted by trained educators, psychologists or sociologists who will be able to explain the concepts clearly and in a way the students can understand.
These workshops can be held ideally every six months in order to ensure it is well integrated into the minds of children. If not, at least once an academic year preferably right in the beginning before the semester starts. Every class can be a part of these workshops: the concept can be shaped according to the specific age group attending it. Even parents/guardians can be invited to attend these workshops because often the parents have a direct impact on children’s upbringing. More conversations around inclusivity will gradually make it normalized among the students. Being mindful of how others prefer to be called or spoken to will be a huge stepping stone towards acceptance and lessening the bullying culture.
(About the Authors: Ms. Dishita Dharamshi is an Undergraduate Psychology Major Student at FLAME University,Pune, and Dr. Garima Rajan is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at FLAME University, Pune.)
Centers for Disease Control. (2019). Preventing Bullying. Violence Prevention Home Page. (2021, September 28). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/
Elgin, J. E. (2014). Examining the Relationships Between Suicidal Ideation, Substance Use, Depressive Symptoms, and Educational Factors in Emerging Adulthood. Retrieved September 11, 2023, from https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/handle/1773/26285
Forrest, S. (2021, May 12). Youths with diverse gender identities bullied up to three times more often than peers, study finds. Retrieved from https:///view/6367/462003792
Gyanesh. (2017, July 28). 42 per cent of kids bullied at schools, says survey. The Times of India. Retrieved from http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/59801107.cms?utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst
Lin, & Eapen. (2022, June). Kids on the autism spectrum experience more bullying. UNSW Sydney Newsroom. Australia: UNSW. Retrieved from https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/health/kids-autism-spectrum-experience-more-bullying
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Home Page, a part of the U.S. Department of Education. (2001, September 11). Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/