March 30, 2023
Writers: Christopher Jan R. Dumaguin, Rafael Reyes, Richardson dR Mojica
Researcher: Christopher Jan R. Dumaguin, Rafael Reyes
Editor: K Ballesteros
Graphics: Jacklyn Moral
“Normalized” Culture of Bullying and Violence in the Philippines
While no one can deny the importance of parenting, school, counseling, and other efforts to take action against bullying, sometimes the government must step in. Where power and class struggle become major factors in instances of bullying, the government is charged with the protection of vulnerable individuals and communities .
The Civil Society Network for Education Reforms (E-Net Philippines), in a statement, expressed concern about the alleged culture of bullying, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and violence happening at the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA). E-Net also noted a letter addressed to PHSA administrators signed by 89 current students and 79 alumni in January 2022. The said letter demanded school leadership to investigate the alleged abuses and ensure “safe spaces” at the resumption of physical classes post-lockdown in August .
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that one in three young people in 30 countries said they had been a victim of online bullying, with one in five saying they skipped school due to cyberbullying and violence. Social media is a huge influence on children’s lives and being constantly connected to the Internet also comes with many risks, including online sexual exploitation of children and adolescents .
In the Philippines, recent national data has shown that cyberviolence affects almost half of the children aged 13-17. One-third of cyberviolence experienced by Filipino children is in the form of verbal abuse over the internet or mobile phone, while a fourth is through receiving sexual messages. Young girls receive messages of sexual nature or content more than their male peers. However, twice as many males than females reported having their nude body or sexual activities, whether real or falsified, shown on the internet or mobile phone .
Violence against children, in all forms including online bullying or cyberbullying, has devastating effects on the physical and emotional wellbeing of young people. This can create lasting emotional and psychological scars, even physical harm. It is particularly challenging to address since children are vulnerable and have easy access to the internet, making them easy targets of online violence .
A Sociocultural Perspective of Bullying
When bullying comes to mind, the most-often model imagined is between two people: the bully and the bullied. In reality, factors like other community members and culture also enable bullying. .
To get to the root causes of bullying, it is best to examine what risk factors become causes for concern :
- At the individual level, one’s biological and personal history can increase the likelihood of being bullies or victims of bullying.
- At the interpersonal level, one’s relationship among families, peers, and what are socially accepted behaviors—such as normalized aggression within one’s circles—can predispose one to becoming part of bullying.
- At the community level, the members of the school and neighborhood can influence the likelihood of bullying in the environment. In schools, the organization’s core values, the presence of gangs, and the rate of unemployment are some risk factors to keep in mind.
- At the larger, societal level, social and cultural norms take center stage. For example, when aggression is normalized instead of compassion, bullying becomes more prevalent.
To effectively reduce bullying, the systems in place require change, especially at the larger social and school levels . When the environment we belong in fosters compassion and care, it’s easier and “feels right” to choose peace.
What Works in Anti-Bullying Programs?
If change is necessary at the societal and school levels, then it makes sense to see what have been deemed effective programs and policies for preventing bullying at those levels.
There are two expected outcomes when it comes to anti-bullying programs: reducing perpetration (or becoming bullies) and victimization (or becoming the bullied). A meta-analysis of effective intervention components shows that some components work better in reducing bullies than bullied, and only two components have a significant effect in reducing both instances: Informal peer involvement and information for parents .
Informal peer involvement refers to interventions that involve interactions with peers and discussing bullying experiences and attitudes without calling out the bullies or victims . By not isolating the bullies and victims and allowing them to participate in the group discussions, there can be room for them—and bystanders—to do the right thing and uphold the values which promote harmonious relationships.
Parents and guardians may play a role in preventing bullying in both bullies and victims. They should be involved by the school faculty and administration in collaborative dialogue rather than only information meetings . Communicating key information through letters and leaflets directly provided is one way to allow parents and guardians to be well-informed and involved in anti-bullying programs .
While there are many other components to anti-bullying programs, there is no significant difference between programs varying in the number of involved components . Thus, even a simple anti-bullying program in place has proven to reduce around 19% to 20% of bullying perpetrations . In an ideal world, most institutions would have comprehensive programs laid out to effectively address a wide range of situations. In practice, it is costly to develop and implement such comprehensive programs. It is reassuring resource-strapped schools to know that anti-bullying initiatives can be as simple as educating their communities of the problem and what the right thing to do is.
Precautionary Measures on Bullying and Violence in School: If not now, then when?
Critical to alleviating the immediate consequences of bullying and violence are comprehensive and effective approaches that address its social determinants, such as social change, rapid demographic, and low levels of social protection. Educating students to be empathic paves the way towards accommodating political differences and empowering students, faculty, diverse communities, and the Philippine nation altogether.
To emphasize the urgent need is to make everyone aware of the apt strategies and commitment for supporting and protecting students in rules and practices that can yield a sustainable, safe and positive school climate. Campaigns must communicate that bullying, sexual harassment, and violence should never be tolerated, and any person who engages in these unlawful behaviors will be held accountable. By implementing enabling laws such as R.A. No. 11313, otherwise known as The Safe Spaces Act which covers all forms of gender-based sexual harassment (GBSH) committed in public spaces, educational or training institutions, workplaces, and online spaces, we can live in a judgement-free zone where we can safely let our guard down, just be truly ourselves, and maintain our good mental health.
1. How may we encourage bullied individuals to speak out?
2. What anti-bullying programs do you know? What makes them effective?
3. What is your message to bullies to help them take accountability?
- Haider, A et al. (2023). Violence and Bullying in Educational Institutions. Retrieved at https://academiamag.com/save/2023/01/violence-and-bullying-in-educational-institutions/
- Hernando-Malipot, M. (2022). Normalization of Bullying , Abuse in PHSA condemned; authorities urged to act. Retrieved at https://mb.com.ph/2022/7/8/normalization-of-bullying-abuse-in-phsa-condemned-authorities-urged-to-act
- Gimeno, J. (2019). Online Bullying remains Prevalent in the Philippines. Retrieved at https://www.unicef.org/philippines/press-releases/online-bullying-remains-prevalent-philippines-other-countries
- Maunder, R. E., & Crafter, S. (2018). School bullying from a sociocultural perspective. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 38, 13–20. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2017.10.010
- Gaffney, H., Ttofi, M. M., & Farrington, D. P. (2021). What works in anti-bullying programs? Analysis of effective intervention components. Journal of School Psychology, 85, 37–56. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsp.2020.12.002
- Gaffney, H., Ttofi, M. M., & Farrington, D. P. (2019). Evaluating the effectiveness of school-bullying prevention programs: An updated meta-analytical review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 45, 111–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2018.07.001