This statement is issued by the Psychological Association of the Philippines (PAP) to clarify what bullying is, its causes, and what schools and families can do to prevent it.
WHAT IS BULLYING?
Bullying is any intentional aggressive behavior done by one or more individuals, often repeatedly, to a person who is in a weaker position to defend himself or herself. Experiencing bullying is associated with more absences, lower school satisfaction and achievement, poor self-worth, and greater risk of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Bullying also has long-term harmful effects to the perpetrator, such as persistent antisocial and aggressive behavior. Bystanders who witness bullying can experience fear, anxiety, and helplessness. The entire school environment is disrupted as well, as students may feel unsafe and unsupported. Therefore, all parties involved in bullying need help: the victim, the perpetrator, the bystanders, and the school system.
Bullying can be in the form of physical aggression (e.g., hitting, pushing), verbal (using mean, hurtful or derogatory taunts and insults on others), relational (telling lies, spreading gossip or harmful information to damage reputation), harassment and extortion (damaging belongings; forcing others to give up their allowance; threatening others to do things) and cyberbullying (online insults, slander, and harassment).
HOW OFTEN DOES BULLYING HAPPEN?
The National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children indicates that 3 out of 5 Filipino children have experienced peer violence. A study done in 2011 among 1,278 Filipino high school students in rural and urban schools in the Philippines showed that 51% reported having experienced bullying at least once and only 17% said they never experienced any form of bullying. Bullying happens among students within classes, across different grade levels, within the same and across different genders.2
WHY DOES BULLYING HAPPEN?
Bullying is a systemic problem, which means that there are family, peer group, school, and sociocultural factors that perpetuate bullying. It is not solely rooted in the child, whose brain and character are still developing and who is strongly influenced by his or her relationships and environment.
Perpetrators of bullying may be motivated by the need to be regarded as “cool”, or to have a higher or more popular status. Students may also resort to bullying as a maladaptive way to express anger, resolve conflict, retaliate for others’ wrongdoing, or to deal with their boredom and “have fun”. They may have difficulty empathizing with others and establishing positive peer relationships, and may have a history of troubled family relationships.4
The 2011 study suggests that bullying is a cycle - majority of students who bully others report being victimized. Family environment and peer groups are also factors: children whose parents and friends model, tolerate, or encourage aggressive behaviors are more likely to engage in aggressive acts towards others. Bullying is more likely to occur in schools where students’ and teachers’ aggressive behaviors are tolerated; where anti-bullying policies and interventions are lacking or unclear; and where social skills, empathy, and positive relationships are not actively promoted in the school.3
WHAT CAN SCHOOLS DO TO PREVENT BULLYING?
The implementing rules and regulations of RA 10627 or the Anti-Bullying Act requires that schools formulate, disseminate, and implement a comprehensive anti-bullying policy. The policy should identify all forms of bullying as prohibited behaviors, procedures for secure reporting and fair investigation, interventions to address the harmful effects of bullying on the victim, remedial interventions to promote prosocial behaviors of perpetrators, appropriate consequences or sanctions for the perpetrator, and school-wide prevention programs.
A holistic or whole-school approach to bullying prevention involves the participation of all education stakeholders: from the school administrators who develop and implement policies and protocols; to teachers, who are trained to manage classroom behaviors and integrate social-emotional skills in class curricula; to students, who are educated on bullying and its effects and are coached on how to respond when it happens; and parents, who are involved in school initiatives and can reinforce the skills their children learn in school to prevent bullying. This approach nurtures a positive school climate and is more effective than programs focusing only on the victim and the perpetrator.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
Studies indicate that bullying is associated with experiences of aggression in the family, whether between parents, parents to child, or among siblings. By contrast, positive, non-violent discipline and parenting that is both firm and caring reduces many risky behaviors among children such as substance use and violence. Parents should model and encourage kindness, helpfulness, and empathy in the home.
Parents need to listen to their children and take seriously reports of being bullied in school. Children may not disclose experiences of bullying because they believe such reports may be trivialized, seen to be their fault, or responded to in ways that may worsen rather than solve their problems. There is thus a need for parents to learn how to respond competently to bullying-related issues of their children. This may include engaging in teacher-parent consultations, conflict resolution sessions, or constructive advocacy work.
We encourage the public to be careful about expressing their reactions online about events involving minors, and forwarding information that may be inaccurate or without appropriate context. Sharing of personal information, videos, and pictures of minors especially of a malicious nature inflicts more harm on the victims and the perpetrators because the material remains in the Internet long after the incident. Indeed, these forms of harassment are comparable to bullying, the very behavior we advocate against.
Bullying is a systemic problem – we are all responsible for ensuring that Filipino children are safe and protected wherever they are, including online.
Alampay, L. P., & Macapagal, M. E. (2011). An exploratory study of bullying and school climate in urban and rural high schools. Quezon City: Institute of Philippine Culture/Ateneo de Manila University.
2Bautista , V. (2007). Turning Philippine schools into Peace Zones: A policy paper on bullying. A commissioned study for the Council for the Welfare of Children.
3Banzon-Librojo L. A., Garabiles M. R., Alampay L. P. (2017). Relations between harsh discipline from
teachers, perceived teacher support, and bullying victimization among high school students. Journal of Adolescence. 57:18-22.
4Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. (2014). Building Capacity to Reduce Bullying: Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/18762.