School bullying intensifies because of social networks

School bullying can trigger depression, violence or suicide attempts. / rc

The few complaints that reach the courts do not prosper because minors under 14 are not liable

Antonio Paniagua

The playground is a microcosm in which the worst face of childhood is revealed: bullying. A year ago, a 13-year-old girl took 16 diazepam pills after insistent harassment by several classmates from her high school in Colmenarejo, Madrid. She had been enduring for at least four years the harassment of other girls who harassed and assaulted her.

Also called 'bullying' can be the trigger for depression, violence, drug use and even suicide attempts. According to the 2018 PISA report, 17% of students, almost one in five, is a victim of this type of violence on some occasion each month. Today, on the occasion of the International Day Against Bullying, experts and organizations working on prevention warn that new technologies are exacerbating the severity of cases.

Since confinement, students have made intensive use of social networks, a circumstance that has resulted in a lowering of the age at which they begin to suffer bullying. If in May 2019 the average age of cyberbullying was 12 years, ten-year-old children are already beginning to be seen in psychologist's consultations. For Jaime Rodríguez, a child psychologist, the assumptions of harassment remain stable, but the cases are more serious than before due to the digitization of society. "Adults must be attentive to certain signs, such as changes in mood and behavior of children," explains Rodríguez.

Violence against adolescent girls has also intensified. The fact that in Spain there are 900 minors with police protection measures for sexist violence speaks eloquently of this, as recently denounced by the Minister of Education, Pilar Alegría. “If there is a space in which it is socialized, it is the school and, for this reason, we must continue from the first stages, putting in place the mechanisms to eliminate violence in general and eradicate that which is exercised against women in particular,” Alegría argued. .

According to the NACE Association, an acronym for No to School Bullying, insults on the networks, the increase in violence in video games and the impunity of bullies worsens the prognosis of the phenomenon.

hurts studies

One of the effects of 'bullying' is the drop in academic performance. According to a recent report by Fundación Alternativas, carried out by Gisela Rusteholz and Mauro Mediavilla, bullying results in the loss of between three and five months of school activity. If it continues for several years, it is not uncommon for the victim to end up joining the ranks of absenteeism or school failure. To all this is added the deterioration of the mental health of adolescents and young people due to the pandemic, which does not help to pacify the classrooms.

For Carmen Cabestany, secondary school teacher and president of NACE, it is necessary to give visibility to the problem, since only 15% of the victims denounce it. It is a difficult drama to tackle: legal complaints frequently end in boring water because harassers who are under 14 years of age are not liable.

Any excuse is valid to unleash harassment: a peculiar tone of voice, a tendency to introspection, an atypical dress is enough for the siege to be triggered, although suffering from a disability, being overweight, belonging to the LGTBI group or to an ethnic minority are risk factor's. "At least 45% of people with autism spectrum disorders are victims of bullying," says Covadonga Martínez, a psychiatrist at the Gregorio Marañón hospital in Madrid.

awareness campaign

Coinciding with the scheduled events against violence in the classroom, the CEU has launched the #Cibervalientes campaign to raise awareness of the problem. Luis Martínez-Abarca, director of Colegios CEU, is committed to working on a coexistence plan that "makes it easier for students to grow up in a healthy environment in which to develop physically, mentally and socially."

The #Cibervalientes campaign invites young people, teachers and parents from schools and 'influencers' on social networks to participate in the fight against this problem and to publish a photo in which they appear crossing their fingers in front and forming a cross in representation the rejection of harassment and the fight against any type of aggression on the networks.

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