Johannesburg - Unisa’s Youth Research Unit (YRU) has released a study on the bullying of young people between Grades 8 and 12.
The study, through the Schools Community Engagement research project, involved 3 371 pupils at high schools in Gauteng.
Three in every 10 pupils who took part admitted to being victims of bullying.
Technology has fuelled the trend in what is now known as cyberbullying.
“Electronic devices among young people have increased and are used by bullies because it is easier to intentionally hurt someone who cannot protect themselves,” said Professor Deon Tustin, an executive research director at Unisa.
According to him, usually the pupil who is small in build or who does well in school is bullied.
Smarter kids are often victims because bullies are jealous of their academic performances and want them to feel inferior.
In some cases, pupils allow themselves to be bullied because they need to feel part of a group. They are misused in a sense to make their oppressors feel good.
“The bullied learners are disillusioned in that even if they report the bullying, nothing is going to be done about it and they will be bullied again,” Tustin said.
Gauteng Department of Education spokesman Charles Phahlane urged all pupils to report bullying to teachers and parents so that it can be dealt with.
“Learners who engage in bullying may face disciplinary action through their school governing body and if found guilty, they may face a sanction that can include expulsion,” he said.
Tustin added that instances were reported of pupils gathering in school bathrooms to gossip and spread rumours about their peers. Victims were left so embarrassed that they would not tell their friends or parents about it.
In bathrooms pupils sometimes take sexual pictures of themselves and each other, sharing them through “sexting”.
“The parents’ first response is to take away the phone – which we do not support. They should (instead) monitor their children’s phones and continuously talk to them about these things,” Tustin said.
The YRU found that the “cool kids” at schools are often those who have the latest and best cellphones first, mainly because they have access to new networks and information.
As for the pupils who are bullied, a YRU study conducted last year on drug use and alcohol consumption in secondary schools, found they are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs.
They feel depressed, helpless and powerless, which leads to the consumption of alcohol and smoking – mainly cannabis and flavoured tobacco – to deal with the anxiety.
In extreme cases, they will resolve to commit suicide.
“We urge parents to be vigilant and know what their children are doing on social media platforms,” Phahlane said.
The Gauteng Department of Education will hold a colloquium on school bullying on August 21, when experts will share their views on the problem and how they think it can be dealt with. – Cadet News Agency, Pretoria News