How should we deal with bullies?

BULLYING is like cancer. It spreads without mercy and the end result is never pretty.

Most of us have had our share of dealings with bullies. It has taught me a valuable lesson, that bullying is a cry for help.

It is much more than just having a bad attitude. It ranges from unmet expectations to covering up one’s own shortcomings. Most of the time, bullies lash out to show that they are not weak or to establish a place among their peers.

Each time a video showing bullies beating up their victims goes viral, it provokes public outcry on the Internet, and, as expected, all eyes turn to Putrajaya wanting to know what the government will do about it.

We journalists are instructed by our bosses to get feedback from various quarters, each time this happens. The usual suspects include the Education Ministry, which would be asked how it would be handling the issue at the school level, and mental health experts would be asked to explain what causes bullying.

While waiting for an event to start recently in the administrative capital, I overheard several people exchanging views on the matter and how bullies should be treated. They suggested the application of scare tactics, including exposing bullies to prison life for a few days or sending them to the morgue to view the body of a bully victim.

A few were heard saying the bullies should be shipped to war-torn countries where their aggression could be put to good use to save lives.

Some felt hundreds hours of community service should be considered, including getting them involved in feeding vagrants and taking care of the sick and physically-challenged.

All of them agreed that nagging bullies would be pointless. Action spoke louder than words, they said. Unfortunately, there is no one remedy for bullying.

A global movement for good, dosomething.org, has shared several disturbing facts about bullying, including that more than 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year; 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying and one in 10 students drop out of school because of repeated bullying.

Based on these facts alone, it is understandable why Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had wanted the National Social Council to include bullying on its agenda.

Even participants at a recent Breakfast Talk held in conjunction with the #MerdekaQuranHour and #WorldQuranHour last Monday brought up the issue of bullying. They wanted to know how Islam through the Quran could address the problem.

In our fast-changing world, youngsters also have to deal with another form of bullying in the virtual world. Some children can become suicidal because of cyberbullying. We have all read news reports about children opting to end the pain of being bullied by taking a fatal leap from tall buildings or cutting their wrists or swallowing sleeping pills.

CyberSecurity Malaysia has put together statistics on cyber harassment cases, including cyberbullying. It recorded 300 cyber harassment cases in 2012, 512 in 2013, 550 in 2014, 442 in 2015 and 529 last year. There were 250 reported cases of cyberbullying among students in 2012, 389 in 2013, 291 in 2014, 256 in 2015 and 338 last year.

What causes some students to be picked on by bullies? Studies show that the reasons include looks (more than 50 per cent), body shape (nearly 40 per cent) and race (about 15 per cent).

Parents, especially, have an important role to play in tackling bullying. They have to inculcate good values in their children, including respecting others despite their differences.

Perhaps, we should consider “hiring” the infamous Annabelle doll to scare bullies into behaving properly?