1 in 4 secondary school students bullied
Of the 129 victims, the survey found, 37 were also bullies. Of these, 10 said they became bullies because they were bullied before.
Said Ms Tan Bee Joo, head of the society’s Bukit Merah Centre: “In these cases, the victims don’t know where to vent their frustrations. They feel that they don’t have to be kind to others since other people are being unkind to them. This is worrying because it becomes a vicious circle.”
Penny (not her real name) is one example of victim turned bully. Three years ago, when she was in Secondary 2, she was a victim of school bullying and dealt with her feelings of anger and powerlessness by terrorising others.
In Penny’s case, she wanted others to feel her pain. For a year, the bully in her class threw her books out of the window, hurled vulgarities at her, and once kicked her chair so hard that she fell forward and bruised her chin.
To compensate, she would throw her juniors’ bags into the school pond. It was, she said, her way of ‘feeling in control’.
The survey was conducted in March and the respondents were picked randomly from private and HDB estates islandwide.
During the door-to-door visits, they were asked, among other things, how they were bullied and how they felt about it. The poll defined bullying as a hurtful behaviour repeated at least twice a month.
The two most common forms of bullying were verbal. Half (50.4 per cent) of the victims had vulgar language used on them and slightly more than a third (34.9 per cent) were called names that hurt their feelings. The spreading of negative rumours about the victim was the third most common experience (29.5 per cent).
Said Ms Tan: “Although the impact of physical bullying is greater, we cannot underestimate the effect of verbal abuses. Bullying usually starts small and, if you don’t curb it then, it may become a big problem later.”
Bullied children are usually perceived to be meek and submissive, but interestingly, more than a third of the victims surveyed (37.2 per cent) said they took revenge on the bully.
What the victims should do, said Ms Tan, is to tell their teachers and parents, instead of suffer in silence or seek revenge. She said the bullies themselves also need to get help to stop their behaviour, as past studies have shown that they are more likely to get into trouble when they grow up.
Ms Tan also recommended that schools adopt an anti-bullying policy spelling out the boundaries of unacceptable behaviour and the punishment.
But some educators, such as Kheng Cheng School vice-principal Thia Ang Hua, felt that it is better to impart the right values.
“Rules can always be broken and they only apply to a child’s school life. But values such as respecting and being kind to each other are virtues that they can live by throughout their life,” said Mr Thia.
The survey was carried out with the society’s Bully Free Week campaign to spread the message against bullying through exhibits, videos and games.
“Although the impact of physical bullying is greater, we cannot underestimate the effect of verbal abuses. Bullying usually starts small and, if you don’t curb it then, it may become a big problem later.”
– MS TAN BEE JOO, head of the Singapore Children’s Society’s Bukit Merah Centre
Bullies’ common tactics
- Vulgar language
- Spreading rumours
- Insulting victims in front of others
- Throwing things at victims
- Making things up to get victims into trouble
- Taking revenge on bullies, or becoming bullies themselves
- Loss of appetite or binge eating
- Inability to concentrate on studies
- Anti-social behaviour, such as keeping to oneself and destroying common property
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