Bullying in Asia: A Message across the Ocean

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The concept of bullying is not something you hear of often in most of the Asian countries. The researches that were done on the issue (if any) were not brought to light. Children are suffering from different types of bullying in the schools of Laos, Mongolia, and Myanmar but the world does not know anything about it. Although the percentage of students who witness cases of bullying in Laos schools is as high as 98%, parents are still not paying the issue much attention. In this article, we shed the light on these countries so families and school officials can be informed of the status of bullying in Asia.

|SEE ALSO: Bullying in Public Schools|

Bullying in Laos

Trying to pay more attention to bullying incidents in the schools of Laos and being aware of their increasing existence, a director from Laos filmed a short movie about bullying in schools, showing how it might occur, from physical bullying to verbal one; it shows how being powerless can prevent students from defending themselves and how a victim should gather his power and will and start standing up for himself against the bullies. The short movie was under the name “Stop and Start,” referring to “stop your fear and start your life.” It won an award in Japan from the Asian International Children’s Film and Video Festival in 2013.

According to the “Progress for Children” book, it was mentioned that the cases of bullying and other forms of violence that appeared in the countries around the region were lately being dealt with, although it was also stated in the book that in the Laos People’s Democratic Republic, 98% of the girls and 100% of the boys said that they have witnessed bullying incidents in their schools, and that they usually targeted ethnic minorities.

In Laos, children between the ages of 2 and 14 might face some kind of physical bullying, and the boys are usually more engaged in them than the girls: 48% of the boys are usually involved in physical fights and only 40% of the girls.

A wide range of Laos’s residents immigrated during the war, and most of them headed to America where they were always bullied because of their different looks. As narrated by one of the immigrant students, when he first immigrated to America he used to get bullied, and he eventually learnt that he should stand up for himself and his two younger sisters as well. And despite the fact that bullying against Asian Americans is still not given the attention needed, Laos’ traditional values have always encouraged people to stand against bullying, because they always appreciate diversity, independence, and self-reliance; they value compassion and harmony and reject violence in their society. They are different from America in that they always encourage the difference; they think it’s always OK to be your own unique self.

Bullying in Mongolia

Bullying, acts of violence, and the related issues have been receiving limited understanding and even less research in Mongolia, although the number of these cases is increasing nonstop. A recent program that was instituted by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Mongolia (ADRA) is trying to be part of the solution and is successfully doing so.

Due to the low income levels in some areas of the capital Ulan Bator, the Acting on Gender-Violence Awareness through Peer Education (AGAPE) is helping to reduce bullying and other forms of violence in the primary schools of these areas. This program of ADRA is responsible of teaching the children how to deal with their problems in a conservative way and how to resolve the conflicts with their peers without getting into fights. Students as well as educators were taught and informed of the ways with which they should deal with such incidents happening around their classrooms every day.

One of the students who benefited from this program was a student from a school in Ulan Bator who was always being bullied by some of the older students, and because of this when the boy grew up, he adopted this behavior and started doing the same to younger children; he started bullying others to make them feel the same way he used to in his early days. This incident was one reason for him to join ADRA’s program, to take the chance to learn that this behavior is unacceptable and that he shouldn’t repeat the cycle of abuse.

Bullying is always present in the countries of Asia, and it is there within the schools of Mongolia. With its different types, physical bullying, verbal bullying, and cyber bullying, children are usually forced to live with such acts every day. According to “Progress for Children,” it was stated that the physical punishment is usually directed to boys more than it is to girls, with 42% of the boys being subject to physical punishments and only 34% of the girls suffering through such kinds of punishments.

Looking at the overall picture of the students subjected to bullying in the schools of Mongolia, it was found that their percentage reached 27%.

One project was raised in the schools of the capital Ulan Bator by the City’s Crime Prevention and Regulation Council (UCCPRC), district police departments, and Ulan Bator’s Education. This project was aiming at placing some parents of the General Education school students inside the schools, wearing yellow vests that have tags with “school police” written on them to protect elementary and middle school students from bullying and keep an active eye on any alarming behaviors in violent children.

According to a 2013 Global School based Student Health Survey, it was found that about 26% of the students of Mongolia have been bullied during the last 30 days of the survey alone, and 23% of the students have seriously thought of committing suicide in the last year also before the survey was done.

In Mongolia, adolescence is the time when people usually leave their families behind to travel to other cities to go after their studies or chase career opportunities, and that is also the time when their social life changes and they might start feeling lonely or struggle with their new classmates. The unfamiliarity and loneliness and sometimes the rejection might result in them dropping out of schools, preferring to head back to the warm embrace of their homelands. And that’s why the UNFPA, UN Population Fund, is supporting a youth-to-youth initiative like Y-Peer, assuring that it reaches out to the most vulnerable and marginalized youth, encouraging them in turn to reach out to others. It is meant to help them build lasting relationships and improve their lives within the communities they live in.

The UNFPA also implemented the New Friends Initiative which assists the government of Mongolia to exert more effort in order to strengthen the vulnerable young men and women who occasionally face some economic or social changes.

Bullying in Myanmar

Cyber bullying, one type of bullying that is strongly present all over the world, is taking over in Myanmar, the country in which for many years almost no one had access to the Internet. Only very few of the country’s citizens are using the Internet and relying on it in their daily life, leaving it to play an essential role in their lives.

One of the incidents that took place in Myanmar was one of a girl who left her country to go complete her studies in Singapore. This 16-year-old teenager was in a relationship. And when she moved she managed for a while to stay in contact with her boyfriend. Until one day when she decided to end this relationship, her boyfriend flew over to her to try and figure out the reason behind her decision and perhaps fix things; she refused to meet him and instead asked her aunt who she was staying with to meet him instead. Back in Myanmar, the boy, enraged with her sudden breakup, started posting bad offensive comments on her Facebook page accusing her of being a “loose woman.” The girl reported the accusations to her aunt, but that didn’t stop her from ending her life.

In Myanmar, as the usage of the Internet is becoming widespread day after day and social media websites are taking over our daily activities, cyber bullying has become a major threat to youth’s safety and privacy. Most people who commit online bullying don’t even believe that what they are doing is prohibited or is kind of an unaccepted abusive manner; they think that taking someone’s personal pictures and information and sharing them around count as “free speech,” which definitely is not. Cyber bullying is considered a crime, and in Myanmar there is even an anti-defamation law which actually criminalizes cyber bullies.

Cyber bullying is an abuse of internet usage, because it is a way people use to assault others, attack people and organizations, make threats and accusations of the innocent, and violate others’ privacy. Usually when a person decides to bully another, he starts using personal information without taking permission; it might be just to make this person’s information available for everyone else using the Internet or the channel where the information has been leaked, or it could be to make the victim feel ashamed or suffer from personal loss. And one example of that was the infamous video of the two students who were adopting an inappropriate manner in classroom and they were being videotaped, and later on they felt embarrassed and ashamed when the video went viral on the Internet and social media websites.

How to Prevent Cyber Bullying

Cyber bullying can be eliminated by the effort of both the children and the parents:

  • Parents should be aware of the websites that their kids use; they should know what they are doing online, and even on the other side they should know where they are going and with whom to make sure they are safe and reach them in case of emergency.
  • Parents should inform their children that they would like to take a look at the websites they are using and what they are facing on social media, but they shouldn’t make them feel like they are spying on them, because that might push the kids into not telling their parents about anything that they face in their lives.
  • Parents can use another friendlier approach to know about the activities of theirs kids on the Internet, by asking to “follow” them or asking them for “friend requests” on social media websites, or if they feel like they might be ignored, parents can ask another adult who is close to their kids to do so.
  • Kids should always feel safe and encouraged to report back to their parents any incidents they face or witness of cyber bullying; they should know that it is always better to report these acts, in order to allow serious actions to be taken.
  • With kids’ early usage of the Internet, the parents should set up the websites their kids can use and the ones they should avoid. The kids should be well educated about how to use or share their personal information on such websites.
  • Kids should always differentiate between the information that they might use and share among their circle of friends on social media websites and the information they should keep to themselves. They should also know the difference between having fun with their friends on the Internet and bullying those friends.

The problem of cyber bullying is that it is different from face-to-face encounters. Cyber bullying can take place any time during the day; it can happen 24/7; it can reach a kid when he/she is even alone. They don’t have to be in schools or among other crowds. The thing about cyber bullying is that once information or pictures are posted online, they will be circulated very easily and might be anonymously posted. Besides, the possibility of knowing who was behind the attack is slim, and any attempts that come out from the victim to delete the pictures, posts, videos, or even text messages might fail because the minute they are posted they are seen by a wide range of audience and might even be copied and taken.

The number of cyber bullying incidents is increasing with the changes that take place in the technological world every day, leaving the victims with nothing but fear and insecurity.

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