Picture used for illustrative purposes alone
Dubai - A study of 1,054 students in the UAE showed that 40 per cent had been victims of bullying.
As a young school boy grappling with a condition that hadn't yet been diagnosed, 23-year-old Shammi Kapoor says his school days were tough.
"I was teased a lot because I did not have the tools to argue back (because of my condition). Kids often picked on me because I was big in size and they could get a reputation out of messing with a 'big guy'," he told Khaleej Times.
But with today being marked as 'International Stand Up to Bullying Day', successful business owner Kapoor has one message for kids today.
"My advice for those being bullied today is to know that the outside world does not affect within. As Mahatma Ghandi once said, 'no one can hurt you without your permission'."
In a survey conducted by the International Journal of Preventive Medicine Research of the American Institute of Science in 2015, a study of 1,054 students in the UAE showed that 40 per cent had been victims of bullying. And of that number, 85 per cent of cases occurred on school campuses. Additionally, the UAE School Safety Survey carried out in 2016 noted that bullying was the top school safety concern for UAE-based parents. The results of the survey, which are held every two years by Axis Communications, showed that 52 per cent of parents cited bullying as their biggest worry concerning their children at school. Of the 950 parents polled, more than 85 per cent of respondents had children aged three to 15-years-old in school.
Schools here are making moved to change this though. In 2016, they adopted a zero-tolerance approach to bullying following the introduction of the Knowledge and Human Development However, according to many school leaders who have worked in schools around the world, the number here is low, which is promising.
For Kapoor, who was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and autism at 19, said his early years in school were tough because people simply didn't get him. "I never used to express pain (because of my condition), therefore kid's used to punch me as hard as they could and think it did not hurt me."
And because his underlying condition held him back from contributing to group discussions, he said his classmates would always get upset and frustrated with him."I was always known as the 'stupid one'," Kapoor - who now runs his own brain training centre in Dubai (www.brainabilitiez.com), said.
Lianne Brown, social studies teacher at Sunmarke School Dubai, said positive education teaching methods teach children to develop "mindfulness and empathy" for others that actively discourages negative behaviour towards others. For International Stand Up to Bullying Day we will be completing student surveys and creating 'student and parent pledges' to achieve a no tolerance stance on bullying. Championing positive relationships ensures that all students have the right to feel happy and included."
When bullying goes beyond classroomsThe onset of the digital media and society's obsession with all things technology now means that bullying doesn't just start and end in the classroom.
Here, Barry Lee Cummings from 'Beat The Cyber Bully', an education, awareness and training platform to promote safe, responsible and inspiring online communications, speaks to Khaleej Times about cyber bullying in the UAE.
How big an issue is cyber bullying among students now?
Cyberbullying, unfortunately, is increasing now. Studies have shown that up to 60 per cent of students in the UAE are aware of someone who has been a victim and 50%of students admitted to being victims themselves.
What are the psychological impacts of cyber bullying?
The effects in some cases can be worse because cyberbullying can be ongoing 24 hours a day due to the accessibility to social platforms and channels that young people now have. With the fact that in many parts of the world children are addicted to their smart devices, the potential for harm increases as young people can't tear themselves away from the very thing that is causing them harm.
What are the typical signs of a cyber bully victim?
The signs of cyberbullying do fall in line with someone that is being 'traditionally' bullied. Changes in behaviour like having not previously been interested in the online and they are now online all the time. Or vice versa. Changes in personality - going from an outgoing outspoken young person to quiet and reserved - is another sign.
How can school leaders better equip their faculty to help in tackling cyber bullying?
The only way to equip them is through training and awareness initiatives. Helping the faculty to understand the 'real world' these youngsters live in is the only way for them to be able to better guide them. This also applies to parents.