X-ray of school bullying in Spain: one in four students knows victims of ‘cyberbullying’

The violence in the school environment is a growing problem in our society that affects a significant number of children and teenagers. Therefore, the UNESCO decided in 2019 to create the International Day Against Violence and Harassment at School, including Cyberbullying, setting as the date the first Thursday of November of each year for its commemoration.

The day aims to sensitize people worldwide by doing an appeal to students, the parents, the members of the educational community and the different authorities in charge of the education, in order to guarantee the safety and well-being of children and young people around the world.

In this year 2021, the International Day is focused on the fight against cyber bullying and other forms of online violence, since this scourge has increased notably during the pandemic of the Covid-19. Specifically, according to data from III Report ‘The opinion of the students’ made by the ANAR Foundation With the support of Mutua Madrileña, practically one in four students in Spain (24%) claims to know someone in their educational environment who has suffered from the problem.

The different applications and social networks to which minors have access are the main platforms through which cyberbullying occurs. The aforementioned report ensures that more than half of those affected (53.9%) have been harassed through WhatsApp, with Instagram (44.4%), TikTok (38.5%) or video game (37.7%) also in an increasing trend.

According Carlos Lagaron, project manager Harassment Info and designated Cybercooperant of the year 2018 according to the National Institute of Cybersecurity (INCIBE), “The main problem with ‘cyberbullying’ is that you can suffer 24/7“, in addition to” misunderstood as anonymity, which aggravates its effects. ”

Lagarón highlights, in words given to this newspaper, that “Most episodes of ‘cyberbullying’ take place between people who know each other and with whom we share a certain degree of direct coexistence”, being on many occasions “continuation of others that are carried out in the direct coexistence of educational centers and other settings”, although there is also the inverse phenomenon, when “the problem arises online and then infects life offline”.

Causes of cyberbullying

INCIBE, dependent on the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, points out four main factors as frequent motivations that originate cyberbullying:

  • False belief that it is a joke without importance.

  • Desire for revenge before a previous conflict or enmity.

  • Lack of selfesteem of the stalker, who tries to use force to appear superior.
  • Group pressure and interest in improving social status.

Decrease in bullying with the pandemic

The most encouraging part of the ANAR Foundation report is the finding that the cases of bullying decreased notably in 2020. Specifically, 15.2% of those surveyed said they knew a colleague who was a victim of bullying. The figure is especially striking considering that in 2016 the figure reached 50%, although a clear continued downward trend is confirmed, when observing that in recent years a marked decrease has already been perceived.

In statements granted to this newspaper, the director of programs of the ANAR Foundation, Benjamin Ballesteros, described this downward trend as “good news”, noting that “confinement, bubble groups, the decrease in the student / teacher ratio and other restrictions caused by Covid-19” have contributed to it, as well as the “measures awareness “around harassment, which in recent years has been notably increased.

Among the most used forms of harassment, the aforementioned report highlights the use of insults, nicknames and teasing, referred by more than 86% of those surveyed with knowledge of cases of bullying. Then the rumor spreading (46.9%), followed by the use of pushing or shoving (45.3%), the Social isolation (44.9%) and violence in the form of hitting or kicking (29.5%). Likewise, the clear growth in the last two years of the assaults in groups (they go from 43% to 72%), unlike those carried out by a single person (they go down from 48% to 15%).

One of the main consequences of this type of violence is the drop in school performance, doubling the risk of absenteeism and tripling the chances that students feel excluded from the school community, according to UNESCO data.

Act on an International Day Against School Bullying. EFE

How to act on a case

Regarding the solutions to the problem, this body estimates that “education can and must play a key role by providing children and youths the skills and knowledge necessary to identify online violence and protect against the different forms in which it can occur ”.

In addition, Lagarón adds that, when hearing a case of bullying, it is important make victims see “that they are not alone” and make them understand “that they are not guilty” of what happened, in order to “confront their harassers from the assertiveness, never with violence”, as well as contribute “confidence“informing the child of the actions to be taken.

The expert assures that the victims usually report the cases “on average, between 12 and 15 months“after starting to suffer harassment and suggests the following route to report and report the facts: “Tutor – Head of studies – Director – Educational Inspection – Ministry – National Police / Civil Guard – Prosecutor’s Office for minors”.

The ANAR Foundation adds that it is important to make clear to the affected child that “No one has the right to hit, humiliate or insult you” and stress the idea that “violence is never justified”, as well as highlight the need that help is necessary to move towards solving the problem, for which it is important “that you show your feelings to other people, tell what what’s happening to you and don’t suffer in silence. ”

State Plan to Fight Harassment

For its part, last October, the Education and Vocational Training Commission of the Congress of Deputies approved a non-law proposition urging the government to approve a State Plan for Teaching and Learning Coexistence and combat bullying, in collaboration with the autonomous communities.

According to the initiative, this Plan must be agreed with all sectors that make up the educational community and must include prevention and intervention actions on the gender violence on the adolescence, educating students to good use of ICT and actions directed at the media, so that the transmission of news about bullying responds to the reality of the problem without creating alarm.

In this way, political institutions try to respond to a problem as deep-rooted as it is changing, around which there is increasing awareness in order to try to minimize it in all classrooms and shared spaces of Spanish educational centers, as well as in the different digital platforms that bring together schoolchildren.

How to distinguish between bullying and other conflicts

The ANAR Foundation proposes “a series of essential elements“to” be able to speak properly “about the phenomenon of bullying. They are as follows:

  • Intentionality: Refers to the fact that the aggressor intends to do harm, with special incidence in situations in which he is aware of the suffering that his actions cause in the victim.
  • Repetition: When aggressive events occur repeatedly, we can speak of harassment.
  • Imbalance: In these situations there is a hierarchy difference between aggressors and victims. The former will exercise a superior role that generates a feeling of helplessness in the latter, thus seeing them paralyzed by the problem.


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