Bullying in Argentina

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Bullying in Argentina may be on the increase or people may just be becoming more aware of the issue. A 2011 study by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, showed Argentina led that region in reported bullying.

Scope of the issue

According to the study, of statistics on bullying in Argentina, 37 percent of students aged 11-14 said they had been verbally bulled, and 23 percent said they had been physically bullied, and the nation led Latin America in both categories.

There are several theories on the best way to handle bullying, and many experts agree that talking about it more is a good starting place. Silvia Sartori, an assistant at a private school in Buenos Aires said Bullying “is not a new sickness. It happened always. Now, we have a name to call it, and more awareness about it.”

Even so, a three-year study by UNICEF and the Latin America School of Social Studies, showed the problem increasing and said 66 percent of middle school students had experienced some form of bullying.

The UNICEF study found more physical violence in public schools, and more verbal bullying in private schools, but found bullying in Argentina was a problem in both. It criticized the private school practice of expelling bullies. Elena Duro, who coordinated the study in Argentina said “a clear and strong school policy is a start, but it must be more than just words on paper, it has to be a proactive.”

She wants to stop bullying, and has plenty of bullying facts to make the case that there is a serous problem. Bullying cases are on the rise as people learn to see bullying signs.

Many of these studies show that bulling awareness is a good way of how to deal with bullying and how to handle bullying.

According to bullying statistics, middle school bullying is the most common form, followed by high school bullying. Bullying information seems to be growing in Argentina, as many feel this is the best way to deal with the problem.

Definitions

What is it that makes up bullying differs a little between countries, but there are some basic ideas that are universal. Bullying is often done by a person who either is, or is perceived to be, stronger than the person being bullied. This can be done on an individual basis, but often people get caught up in the bullying and a group will gang up on an individual.

Generally people who are bullied are people who are anxious already, and may be different or have trouble fitting in to a group at school or in public.

Ironically enough, the profile of a bully is not that different than a victim. The only real difference is that the bully wants to make him or herself look good in front of their peers and they are willing to harass another person to get that reward. A bully may also have anxiety issues, low self esteem, and have trouble in group settings. They generally have less inhibitions and less self control, and that may be what gives them the feeling they can do the bullying.

Cyberbullying

In recent years a new level of bullying has developed. Cyberbullying is the use of the Internet, whether that be social media like Facebook or Snapchat, or email, or chatrooms. It is utilizing the electronic medium to harass another person in the same way one would in person.

Young people are adept at using technology, and those with a predisposition to bully, tend to take that online just as they would in person. It seems also true that some would be more prone to bully online even if they would not in person. A teen is more likely to be a victim of this. Studies have shown that face to face bullying often involves boys more than girls, and often girls are more likely to be involved in cyberbullying than boys.

A study at the Catholic University of Argentina in Mendoza did a large study in 2011 concerning facts about cyberbullying. There are about 9,000 teens between the ages of 11 and 17 in Mendoza and 1800 of them said they had been bullied online at some point. Further, 1,000 admitted to having bullied someone online.

This study showed the types of bullying in Argentina are trending more to cyberbullying. The study said parents and teachers should be more involved in the lives of their children, and monitor their online use. At the same time, it said parents and teachers should be careful to help the children understand they are trying to care for them and not oppress or spy on them.

Though it is not new, the telephone is also used to bully, and the same study show girls are more likely to do this when under the age of 13.

While cyberbullying seems to be rising, it is also true that cyberbullying is easier to prove. Children should record what happens online. This cannot be done in person, so it is easier to prove than face to face bullying.

Cyberbullying is also perhaps more harmful. There have been cases of children committing suicide after having been cyberbullied.

The issue of cyberbullying was brought to the nation’s attention in 2014 when a teenage girl was attacked and killed by other females, according to news reports. It was at the time believed to have been related to cyberbullying.

Facebook bullying is the most common type of internet bullying. There are not any cyberbullying laws in Argentina.

Against the world

As cyberbullying has grown around the world, Microsoft commissioned a study in 2012 that took a slightly different approach. While the word “cyberbullying” may have different meanings in different cultures, the study asked children about things that had happened to them. It asked if someone had been mean to them, or called them names and did not use the term cyberbullying.

It surveyed thousands of children between the ages of eight and 17 in 25 nations around the world, and found a higher incidence of the problem when asked this way.

In this survey, 52 percent of Argentinian children said they had been bullied online, and the world wide average among the 29 nations was 37 percent. Argentina ranked fourth on the world in incidences of “mean” treatment, when the question was asked that way. According to the study, 89 percent in Argentina said they had been bullied in some way, whether online or offline. Also 51 percent admitted to having bullied others online. Also 68 percent said they had both bullied and been bullied online. It also confirmed the idea that girls are more likely than boys – 59 to 41 percent – to either bully or be bullied online.

The study showed Argentina has the fourth highest rate in the world of bullying among the 25 nations surveyed. Childen’s knowledge about bullying was below the worldwide average, but worrying about being bullied was above the average. The study showed Argentinians ranked above average in nearly every statistic, and it said parents were about average in their level of involvement. The study also noted that Argentina is far below the worldwide average on formal school policies and education provided by the schools about bullying. The study suggested the lack of involvement from the schools could be a major factor in Argentina having more than the average number of bullies in schools.

Fighting Internet Crime

A group of citizens in Argentina has formed a group to fight Internet crime, and the battle against cyberbullying is a big part of that. The Argentinian Association to fight Cybercrime was formed in 2016, and they offer technical and legal advice in battling crime related to the Internet.

The group has noted that there is as of 2016 no official legal definition of cyberbullying, and therefore no law, about this in Argentina.

There is also the crime of men luring young girls to meet them via the internet. There is now a law against this being considered, and it is a form of bullying in a sense.

Early in 2016 this group presented a bill to the legislature that would have made revenge porn cyberbullying a crime. It is not a crime at the present time. This involves putting nude or otherwise embarrassing photos or videos of someone up on the internet without their consent or knowledge. People convicted of this crime could spent six months to five years in jail, depending on the age of the victim. The penalties are higher for those that abuse young victims.

Effects on learning

Several South American organizations are now studying the effects of bullying on children’s education and learning. The United Nations Economics Commission for Latin America (CEPAL in Argentina) did a detailed study of Latin America in 2011 and found that in each of the 16 nations studied, student learning was impaired by bullying. Further, it found that even witnessing bullying had a detrimental effect. Being a bully also tended to hurt student performance as well.,

The study involved 91,000 students from 16 Latin American nations. Other studies have shown that children between the ages of 11-14 are the most likely to bully, or be bullied, and it tends to continue in that person’s life if not stopped. As a result sixth grade students were chosen for the study.

The study focused on reading and math scores, and found there was a direct correlation between bullying and lower scores. However, it was interesting that the scores were dramatically different between various countries. In some nations math scores were lower, but in others reading scores were lower. In some rare cases it did not make a significant difference. Paradoxically, in schools were bullying is seen as normal, scores were not hurt as badly, perhaps because it was not seen as unusual.

The study showed bullying hurt reading scores in Chile and Ecuador, but not math , but Guatemala and Peru showed virtually no difference in scores as a result of bullying.

The study also showed there was virtually no difference on the impact of bullying between private or public schools, or the social or economic status of the parents of the students. Overall students who had been bullied scored nine percent lower than those who had not been bullied, and those that had witnessed bullying had test scores drop five to seven percent.

Argentinian results

For Argentina, 167 schools, including 353 classrooms and 6,696 students in sixth grade were studied. Argentinian students were affected a little more than the Latin American average but in different Argentinians who were bullied scored seven percent lower in math and 13 percent lower in reading. Those who had witnessed bullying scored 11 percent lower in math and six percent lower in reading, than those who had not witnessed bullying. Usually the witnessing it means that it disrupted the classroom, but the study also suggested just seeing it in general has a detrimental effect.

Another Argentinian study noted that it is not only the victims of bullying that suffer. The victim has the risk of physical and mental sicknesses, depression, fear, anxiety and learning disorders to just name a few. But also the bully usually also has anxiety, behavioral disorders and low self esteem. Finally often bullies are also often children who have been bullied in other contexts, and these are the ones that suffer the most.

Recommendations

The UN CEPAL study found several interesting facts about bullying, and came up with some recommendations as a result. First it said the results should show the need to take the issue seriously. It should be taken seriously both at the national and local levels. It said in order for students to do well, they should be able to attend school without fear in a safe environment that promotes learning. It also suggested as performance of students becomes more important, there tends to develop more competition, which could lead to less empathy for each other and set the state for bullying. It said while schools should try to prevent bullying, they should also hold themselves accountable for their own role in setting the state for bullying itself. It also suggested a different approach. Often the approach is to just control the situation, but it said any solution should be student centered and involve everyone from students to teachers to parents. Finally it called on schools to not treat bullying as a normal thing that goes on in schools.

Who are bullies

There has been a lot of studies into the effects of bullying, and about victims. But what is a bully? There was a study done at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, in conjunction with United States researchers into this very issue to find out what causes bullying. Generally traditional wisdom was that bullies lacked self esteem, had other stress issues and lacked social skills. No doubt there is some truth in this, but the Groningen study came up with some new ideas.

The study said the motivation for most bullies is to win approval or praise from others in their peer group. Children see there is an order to groups, some people are more well thought of, or more highly respected than others. Bullying is a way then to increase one’s standing in a group. Boys tend to do it to impress other boys, and girls do it to impress other girls, the study suggests. Usually boys tend to bully boys and girls bully girls, though it does happen where boys harass girls and vice versa.

Kids want to feel accepted or even admired, and if they find bullying makes that happen, they will keep doing it. That is why people bully. It can be out of insecurity in some ways, but often it is popular and well liked kids who are bullies.

“Bullies aren’t looking to be loved, but they are looking to be noticed,” says study researcher Rene Veenstra, PhD, who is a professor of sociology the University of Groningen. “They are often perceived as very popular.”

Bullies may not be the outcasts they were once believed to be. It can just as well be the affluent kid just looking for more approval and social status. Bullies can come from all social and economic backgrounds. It seems to have more to do with the personality than anything else.

Even so bullies and victims share a few characteristics, including low self esteem, anxiety and even over protective parents. Bullies see someone they think is weak, and think they can get away with it. Unfortunately, some people feel weak, and when they are bullied, they feel they either deserve it or there is nothing they can do to stop it. Another factor is that bullying breeds bullying. Most bullies have been bullied at some point in their life.

European influenced

There has been a lot of studying of this issue in Europe, and a program in Finland called “KiVa” is one that is showing promise. The University of Turkru in Finland is developing the program. It was recently released for use in Argentina in English, and they hope to develop a Spanish curriculum soon. A group of high ranking Argentinian education officials visited the university last year to learn about the program and how it might help the South American nation address its bullying issues.

The Kiva program does offer a different approach. It is not aimed at bullying, or controlling bullies so much as it is aimed at changing the culture. It’s motto is “bullying is not tolerated.”

The idea is to change the entire culture, with everyone involved. Teachers, school employees, parents, citizens, as well as students, are all educated about the issue. Parents are taught how to look for signs, and how to help their children develop skills to deal with bullies. Parents are also taught how to spot a bully, to see if their own child is a culprit. “Prevention, intervention and monitoring” are the keywords to the Kiva program. The program has classes and games for children, which is the written part of the curriculum. There are also posters to post around school, brochures and other information on bullying. The program’s theory is to involve everyone and change the culture from where people think it is normal, to where people think preventing bullying is normal.

Kiva’s creators say their program is not meant to be a one-time thing, or a one-year program. The design is for it to be used all the time and to change the entire culture. If a student feels he or she will have protection and support, it is easy to ask for help. If a student realizes bullying will not be tolerated and that it is considered wrong by everyone, they are much less likely to get involved in the behavior..

A Netherlands study showed after one year the incidence of bullying was cut in half

“The effectiveness of the program is based on the fact that everyone is responsible for the well-being of the group. Thereby, there are no bystanders in bullying. Resources are channelled to promoting involvement, and not all energy is used to help victims and to educate bullies,” Groningen researcher Gijs Huitsing, said in quotes.

Looking for signs

While these programs may eventually help in Argentina, it will be some time before they are generally available. In the meantime the best thing parents or teachers can do is watch for signs of bullying. If a parent or teacher sees these signs, they should get involved to help the child. Parents and teachers should also take bullying seriously, and listen to children if they complain of being bullied. Children need to feel they are taken seriously and that they will be supported if they do report bullying.

Silvana Giachero is a psychologist from Uruguay, and who is a leading expert on bullying in Latin America. She has done conferences, and spoke in many cities in Argentina about bullying. She says bullying is a “blow to the soul.” She has said in some ways it is better for a child to be hit physically, because a visible wound can be seen and healed, but an inner wound may never be seen and may never be healed. She has estimated that one in five suicides in South America are related to bullying.

She defines bullying as “systematic and repeated” harassment over a long period of time. If it just happens once, that may not be bullying, though it could lead to bullying. Sibling bullying works the same way, though it can be harder for parents to detect.

Giachero is an advocate of schools taking a more proactive approach to bullying. She said sometimes the environment, and because it is not taken seriously, the student starts to think he or she is being bullied because of something they have done. This makes the child a victim a second time, she said.

“Bullying is a bacterium that grows and pollutes the psyche and the family, and ends in either divorce or suicide.” she said. The victim sees his or herself as the problem, which makes it worse. When there is little support in the culture, students who are already apprehensive or low in self esteem, will only see their situation get worse.

Giachero said parents and teachers should watch for signs that a child is being bullied. Giachero does caution however, that any incident can be an isolated incident. She said it is important to look for changes in behavior. If there is a sudden change, and that change lasts for awhile, a parent should become concerned, she said. If a child is not real social to start with, then them not being social would not be unusual for that child, so its not a warning. But when the things you see are unusual, it is time to take it more seriously. Listen to the stories of children, and investigate. Most experts agree parental involvement in a child’s life greatly lessons the chances of being bullied. Local ) action is key where there is a history of bullying.

Argentinian sociologist Carolina Bascuñán was quoted as saying bullying affects the quality of education of all children, as well as how well children get along with each other. “you not only have to work with the children, but with the entire educational community and the family, because it is the entire system that excuses and encourages the violence, and that must be in charge of preventing and eradicating it,” she said.

A new law

The raising of awareness has apparently done some good, as in late 2013 the Argentinian legislature passed an anti-bullying measure to try to get physical and verbal violence under control. The bill “promotes coexistence to approach social conflicts in educational institutions,” according to published reports.

“It is a law to address violence, it is broader than bullying. In all schools, there has to be a level of participation to discuss issues of coexistence between students, teachers, and parents. There can be no pedagogical silence.” Deputy Mara Brawer, who was the bill’s main sponsor, said.

As a result the ministry of education was to have set guidelines for teachers to use in the classroom to resolve bullying issues. They were also considering developing free phone help lines for victims. It is hoped this is one way of how to stop the problem and create a nobullying culture.

Another angle

One positive story of bullying, when used as motivation, is that of Olympic wrestler Patricia Bermudez of Argentina. She is from the northern Argentina city of Santiago del Estero and now works for the border patrol. She was bullied as a child by a boy, and learned to wrestle and fight to defend herself.

“I went to the local club (in my district) and told the teacher I wanted to learn to fight to be able to hit him,” Bermudez said of the bully. While fighting back physically is not recommended by health or school authorities, it did seem to work for her. She used that motivation, as well as training, to become an Olympic level wrestler and placed fourth in her weight class at the recent Olympic games in Rio.

Transitioning to adulthood

Schools are encouraged to get involved in solving the bullying issue, but often they do not and the behavior continues into adulthood. An interesting book by Helen Cowie “Bullying Among University Students: Cross National Perspectives,” showed how people adjust with bullying into adulthood.

Her book studied students in Argentina, the USA, Estonia and Finland. Her research found that Argentina ranked the highest of the four in the rates victimization and the rate of bullying. She did notice a significant difference between how young men and women handled the transition into adulthood. He research suggested the girls get less sensitive to bullying and developed better defenses against bullying by the time they were in college. Female college students in all four countries, including Argentina, reported being bullied less in college . However among males, the bullying seemed to continue. Those men that were victims in childhood were still in victims in college, while that was not the case for female students in college.

Adult bullying

Often bullying continues well into adult years however. People who were victims as children are likely to be victims in adulthood, and it is the same with bullies. Sometimes victims become bullies later in life as well. While college women may adjust better than men college students, that is no indication that there are no women bullies or victims.

In Latin America, adult bullying is often called “mobbing” and more often with adults it ends up being a group bullying someone in the workplace than necessarily one individual being the culprit. In childhood bullying is done to get approval, but as adults it is often used to control others or to protect one’s position with a company. Someone may be bullied if the bully sees them as a threat to their position, whether that be in a business or an organization. At work the bullying continues as it did in school. Now there is office bullying where primary bullying was in the playground at school.

There are no laws about bullying on the job or in the workplace, though there are laws against stealing or physically attacking someone. Sylvana Giachero, the Uruguayan psychologist who works throughout South America, said there is often a code of silence among adults, so bullying does not get reported. Giachero says companies either ignore bullying, put up with it, or even encourage it at times. Sometimes companies will try to pressure a worker who is close to retirement into quitting so they will not have to pay the pension due the person.

She has called for more discussion about the issue. She would like to see a law against it in place, but the politics of the situation makes it hard to think it will happen. She said a law is not the ultimate answer, but rather open discussion and empowerment of victims. She says the law can regulate bullying, but cant stop it. She does not want a political solution. She said prevention is the ultimate answer to bullying in the workplace.

Another article in Forbes Magazine, says sometimes people actually enable bullies by not acting properly, or by not setting boundaries. An example might be allowing someone to yell at you in a hurtful way without taking action, or allowing someone to disrupt a meeting with no repercussions. The key is to end the enabling by finding a solution. People must instead set up a system that is fair to everyone, and not let a bully have their way.

Adult bullying is where long term effects show up as workplace bullying, as bullied people tend to not do as well in adulthood.

Solutions

Many people have offered solutions to bullying. One major thing is for other people to be involved. Parents, teachers and coaches should be on the lookout for bullying situations and get involved before it escalates to violence. Also parents can encourage children who are victims, to not allow themselves to be taken advantage of, and to help them develop self esteem. Sometimes parents can also help bullies overcome their negative behavior.

Always report bullying. Parents and teachers should always encourage kids to report bullying, and to not ignore it, in which case the situation might just get worse.

Experts also suggest kids speak up when they see someone being bullied, and helping the victim. Avoiding the bully is always a good solution, and if need be, a parent or friend can accompany the victim so the bully wont pick on them. There is strength in numbers. If a child sees another child being bullied, they should befriend them and just be a friend, which will help.

There does seem to be a lot of bullying in Argentina, but there are also people and organizations working on finding solutions.

 

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