Bullying can happen almost anywhere – even among adults in workplaces.
But when it comes to children, some of the worst offenses happen in school and online. In a recent study by Cartoon Network Middle East in partnership with YouGov, more than half of parents across the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt said they had seen an increase in “cyberbullying”.
Physical appearance, social skills and nationality were the top reasons cited for bullying. The survey found that children across the region are bullied at school more than anywhere else, leading to a loss of confidence, depression, anxiety, excessive aggression and self-harm.
But it’s not nearly all bad news: the parents reported an overall decrease in the incidences of bullying compared to the previous year. And three out of four parents reported that they felt confident the administrators at the schools their children attend were doing everything they could to address the problem.
The Cartoon Network Middle East’s Buddy Network campaign, now in its third year, has hosted 12,500 workshops for children across the UAE and Saudi. Through a partnership with UNICEF MENA, the Buddy Network aims to protect children from bullying as well as raise awareness about how it can impact them later in life.
“Every child deserves a happy, safe and fulfilling childhood, which is hindered when they are bullied,” said Salim Oweis, acting regional chief of advocacy and communication at UNICEF Middle East and North Africa. “The harmful and long-lasting consequences of bullying on children are well-documented, affecting their emotional and mental wellbeing.”
Most parents – and children – hesitate to report bullying out of fear of shame and retaliation. The first and best approach, according to the experts, is to empower the child with the best information on how to handle bullying before it gets out of control.
Tell a trusted adult
Adults in positions of authority, like parents, teachers, or coaches, can often deal with bullying without the bully ever learning how they found out about it.
Ignore the bully and walk away
Bullies like getting a reaction. If you walk away or ignore them, you’re telling them that you don’t care.
Walk tall and hold your head high
Using this type of body language sends a message that you’re not vulnerable. Bullies prey on the vulnerable.
Don’t get physical
You’re more likely to be hurt and get into trouble if you try to fight a bully. Work out your anger in another way, such as exercising or writing it down (make sure you delete or tear up any emails, posts, letters, or notes you write in anger).
Practice ways to respond to the bully verbally or through your behavior. Practice feeling good about yourself, even if you have to fake it at first.
Talk about it
It may help to talk to a guidance counselor, teacher, or friend — anyone who can give you the support you need. Talking can be a good outlet for the fears and frustrations that can build when you’re being bullied.
Find your (true) friends
If you’ve been bullied with rumors or gossip, tell your friends so that they can help you feel safe and secure. Avoid being alone, especially when the bullying is happening a lot, and spend time with people who genuinely love and like you.