Sun, Sep 16, 2007 - Page 2 News List

FEATURE: Survey reveals disturbing scale of bullying problem

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

For anyone meeting her for the first time, Kelly Kao (高倩雯) appears to be a shy but friendly junior high school student. Seeing how she interacts with other children, one could hardly associate her with any sort of campus violence.

"Boys in my class often make fun of me and have nicknamed me `big buck teeth,'" she told the Taipei Times. "I was told to ignore them, but sometimes they do things that you simply can't ignore."

Kao recalled that she was beaten by one of her classmates for about a month and threatened with further violence if she told anyone about it.

She said the violence would normally take place in the bathroom and was watched by other girls.

She did not tell anybody about her ordeal until she reached sixth grade, when she revealed the traumatic incidents to a counselor at her school.

Kao's experiences are shared by many other primary and middle school students nationwide who are forced to confront physical, verbal and psychological bullying from their peers.

In June, the Child Welfare League Foundation surveyed approximately 2,000 primary and middle school students in Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung and Hualien counties.

Among the study's conclusions, the foundation estimated that the country has at least 20,000 bullies on campus.

It found that on average, each class had two bullies who would ridicule or attack their classmates.

Sixty percent of children reported they had been bullied by other students at school.

The study also found that 35 percent of the school bullies used to be bullied by others.

While analyzing the family background of the bullies, the researchers determined that close to 60 percent were from families that set strict rules for children. Twenty-five percent had parents who would regularly rebuke them harshly.

Another 16 percent reported that their parents would often punished them physically when they misbehaved.

The study also showed that many of the school bullies said the only way to prevent themselves from being bullied was to become a bully.

Meanwhile, the study found that 24 percent engaged in so-called "cyber bullying," including posting photos of other students on the Web without first securing their consent and deliberately sending e-mails with pornographic content or computer viruses to people that they disliked.

About 26 percent of the cyber bullies said they indulged in such behavior because they detested the person they targeted.

Some said that it was fun to inflict misery on somebody else in cyberspace.

Others revealed that the Internet enabled them to torment others without disclosing their identities to them.

Foundation CEO Alicia Wang (王育敏) pointed to the need to understand the reasons behind every bullying case and provide victims with necessary assistance.

She said that research has found that these bullies were not only a problem on campus but were also likely to be a source of social problems once they left school.

"We should not treat these incidents as nothing more than games that children play," she said.

Deborah Nien (粘悅雍), a counselor at Taipei's Dajia Elementary School, said that most cases of bullying occurred among fifth and sixth graders, but scenarios were different among boys and girls.

"Boys with a relatively smaller stature and `girly' demeanor are the most likely targets of bullying," she said, "whereas girls with low academic achievement might be singled out by peers."

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