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Bullying and Body Shaming at Schools, Its Effects and Prevention

Ms. Sadaf Zaidi

3 min read

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Each schoolyear is an opportunity for kids to make new friends, learn new things – grow, and enjoy along the way. For some, every passing year means adding on to the fantastic memories and experiences of the previous year but for others each day becomes a dreadful nightmare.

Why, you ask? The relentless and unremitting culture of bullying and body shaming makes it hard for them to crawl out of bed and drag themselves to school. Bullying and body shaming can adversely affect the mental health and wellbeing of children and youth. They experience bouts of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem that eventually engulfs their life.

It is neither a unique problem nor is it uncommon. If anything, it has become an epidemic. But the imperative question that we must ask ourselves – Does it have to be that uncommon? I believe, no. Then why is it so?

Table of Contents

Types of Bullying

Before we hop on to the preventive endeavors, let’s first explore the various forms of bullying and body shaming children are subjected to and delve into its consequences.

Physical Bullying

The most common and easily identifiable form of bullying that involves physical action like kicking, hitting, punching, slapping, shoving, etc. in a bid to gain power and claim authority over their victims.

Verbal Bullying

Here, the bully resorts to using derogatory words, mean and belittling statements, and name calling.

Emotional Bullying

Often referred to as social bullying, attempts to damage the social standing of the victim. Spreading rumors, maneuvering situations, making the victim feel lonely.

This tactic is common among the teens and tweens, primarily among girls hence the phrase “mean girls,” to become popular and improve their own social standing by ultimately shattering the victims’ confidence.

Cyber Bullying

When the bully uses some form of technology to harass or target the victim like making online threats, making hurtful images viral or sending hateful messages. The bully also hides behind the guise of anonymity, which poses lesser risk of being caught.

Sexual Bullying

Actions that intend to humiliate and harm a person sexually. For instance, passing obscene comments, vulgar gestures, sharing unsolicited inappropriate jokes, touching inappropriately; and commenting on someone’s physical appearance and shortcomings and making judgments about one’s character i.e., slut-shaming.

Prejudicial Bullying

Done one the basis of one’s race, religion, and sexual orientation, which may encourage hate crime.

Body Shaming

It is defined as making negative and crude comments about someone’s weight or size. Though it is something mostly overweight people are subjected to, but the skinny ones aren’t left in peace either. But nobody deserves to be fat-shamed or skinny-shamed for living the life they want to.

People will always have something to say, no matter how imperfect or perfect you are. So, it’s always better to promote body positivity. Accept yourself the way you are and stop hiding. Treat yourself with kindness and love and be grateful. Most of all, take charge of your socials and unfollow any profile that meddles with your peace and cut all toxic people.

Pro tip: Do not compare yourself with the people in the magazines and covers, that’s all camera trick and photoshop, there!

The physical impacts of bullying include mild to serious wounds, bruises, fractures and sometimes death, which can either be a homicide or suicide. Whereas some effects go beyond the physical turmoil. It subtly strips off a child of their confidence and self-respect.

Bullying does not only affect the victims’ mood or erodes their sense of self, but it makes them self-critical to the point of affecting their identity. It effects a child’s physical and mental health in a such a way that they might end up contemplating ending their life to put a stop to the constant shaming.

The perpetual consequence of it all leads to the feeling of isolation, humiliation and powerlessness coupled with anger that can have adverse effects on your physical and mental health. The worst part of emotional bullying is that the most likely solution people come up with is to “ignore it.”

Its impact is such that the bystanders to bullying also experience mental health issues.

What Can We Do?

As UNICEF terms it as a global challenge that requires global measures. We need to pitch in all, big and small measures at individual and mass level.

Individual Level

  • It is very important to imbibe it in your children that they see people around them as they are and learn to appreciate the reality of them – Seeing people as one. No matter what the race, religion, or sexual orientation.
  • Take the concerns of children seriously and never trivialize their problems with the advice to ignore it. Don’t dismiss your child’s feelings.
  • Encourage your child to build a supportive group of friends.
  • Break the chain – the likelihood of passing the violence on to the next generation is how we breed a whole new cohort of bullies without even realizing.
  • Educate yourself – Familiarize yourself with laws that surround bullying in your country
  • Teach your children that there is absolutely no shame in asking for help and guidance.
  • In case of cyber bullying, can contact the cybercrime unit and they would take care of the rest.
  • Contact the counsellor at your school.
  • Contact the police if nothing else works.

Mass Level

  • Government should come up with substantive and effective laws to protect children and their dignity.
  • Encourage teachers at school to adopt non-violent strategies.
  • Ensure the introduction of positive discipline and methodology in the education system.
  • Devise coping strategies to help a child recover after getting through the torment of bullying.
  • Awareness programs at schools and guiding them where to look for help in case they are being bullied.

Bullying must not be written off as something that every child goes through as a phase. Be involved in your child’s life and stay updated. Build friendship so they feel comfortable communicating. It is imperative to take something as impactful as bullying seriously and building focus strategies to help prevent the nuisance can serve as one of the many steps that can ensure a better, safer environment of our kids.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Ms. Sadaf Zaidi
Ms. Sadaf Zaidi - Author Ms. Sadaf Zaidi is a very well regarded Psychologist and has a number of certifications under her belt, including M.Sc. Clinical Psychology, Diploma in Clinical Psychology and Advance Diploma in Clinical Psychology as well as 11 years of experience in her field.

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