A recent survey revealed a dirty truth about school students that many parents might find difficult to accept.
Every parent wants to believe their child is a warm-natured, pleasant-spirited friend-of-the-schoolyard; alas it turns out a high percentage of these aspiring men and women are in fact anything but friendly.
Statistically speaking, the aforementioned parents’ children are probably bullies.
In an unsanctioned study of 100 Year 11 – 13 students across a variety of Mid Canterbury schools – rural/urban, private/public, Boys’/Girls’ – over 80% claimed they had in the past year engaged in repetitively malicious treatment of their peers.
Alarming as this number was, it is the patterns which can be deduced from the results that are truly remarkable.
Typically it appears that those who consider themselves part of ‘popular’ groups are more likely to dispense bullying, while interestingly, students who reported an intention to leave school within the coming twelve months, perhaps indicating a greater outlook or ambition, less likely. Following that trend, students who report knowing what they want to do with their lives upon leaving school, similarly have less desire to disrupt the lives of others while at school.
The most common forms of bullying reported were, unsurprisingly, computer or phone-related and although in comparison to old-school methods cyber-bullying might appear less harmful, to the kids on the receiving end of such abuse, assuredly, there is no difference.
Results show that while the act of bullying is most prevalent in Girls’ schools where technology is indeed the medium of choice, the problem exists in most every form and in most everywhere: bullying in the sense of physical or direct verbal abuse, while historically more of a male-orientated practise, seems to have become gender-irrelevant.
Not unexpectedly it appears that those who dislike school and attend only out of obligation are more likely to engage in mistreatment of their peers than those who enjoy their time; those with a passion for school and who maintain an above average academic standard are less likely to bully than those who have no passion or desire to contribute, leading to the following hypothesis: wholesome mental stimulation might just be the key to eliminating schoolyard bullying.
Of the 100 surveyed almost every student who had experienced bullying – either distributing or receiving – maintained the primary cause was boredom – “Nothing else to do”, one self-professed bully joked.
Of course there are other reasons that bullies persevere in their hurtful ways; most prominent is upbringing, lifestyle, and the resentment which is sometimes bred through family hardship.
Even taking into account other causes of schoolyard bullying, by keeping a student’s mind occupied and more to the point, focused on worthwhile tasks with the promise of brighter things to come, this child will hopefully have no need, no time and, importantly, no desire to mistreat their peers.
Bullying in schools has become the scourge on what would otherwise be happy and carefree lives for many students. There is no need for it: it is a senseless act that with the correct handling, I believe, can be abolished from New Zealand schools.
Article by Tim Walker
Edited by Belle Luttling Boyce
Photography by Bet Chi Grylls