Some experts on Bullying believe South America is the worst region in the world for the problem, and they believe Colombia is one of the worst in South America.
“The figures we use in Colombia are higher than world averages, are relatively close to the Latin American average, which in turn are the highest compared to other parts of the world,” said Enrique Chaux, a researcher at the University of Andes.
A study by that university that surveyed 55,000 students from 59 cities, found that 30 percent of fifth graders said they had been bullied. Fifteen percent of ninth graders said they had been bullied, but Chaux said this does not mean there is less bullying. He said it may be more focused as kids get older, but it is the same children being victimized by bullying in Colombia.
Mauricio Cabrera, a school official at San Bonifacio in Lanza, Ibague, said there are many cases of cyberbullying. There is facebook bullying where students say another student is gay, and he also pointed to examples of internet bullying where students dared other students to kill themselves.
A case in 2012 caught the nation’s attention, and that has resulted in bulling awareness being brought to a new level. In this case a 13-year-old boy reported that some other boys were bullying a girl in their class in a school in the town of Itagui. Those boys then accosted the youth after school and beat him so severely that he died a few days later from his wounds.
That was in 2012, and later that same year the national congress passed a law to try to decrease incidents of violence such a bullying. Under the law, schools were to investigate claims of bullying, and further, they were to report those to the government and then file follow up reports showing the disposition of the case.
This also contains instructions on giving education about teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Representative Telesforo Pedraza, who wrote the law, said students need to understand the effects of bullying, and he hoped citizens would get involved to help with the problem.
In passing the law, the ministry of education reported that 13 percent of students had quit school because of bullying in 2011.
Since then several organizations have been founded in the country to combat bullying. The Friends United Foundation is one of those, and a study they did as late as early 2016 found that about a third of the students in middle school bullying reported they had been harassed. The signs of bullying show that it usually happens in those middle school years and continues as high school bullying.
This study also broke down reasons for students being bullied. It found that 30 percent were bullied because they were gay or because of their sexual orientation. Race was the reason for 25 percent of the bullying, and 20 percent were because the student was different in some other way.
This report said some internet bullies try to get kids to commit suicide, or try to harass them sexually in some way, or by posting pictures of them. More than 30 percent of bully victims think about suicide and as many as a third make an attempt.
The Friends United Foundation has started a “stop bullying in Columbia” campaign. They advocate prevention measures like having parents, teachers and other officials being made more aware of the issues and raising awareness. They also advocate intervention measures such as helping those who might become a victim be better prepared to handle bullying. They also have activities planned in the schools to help students be more aware of how to confront bullying and provide more bullying information.
One of the solutions being advocated is school cohesion or being more school connected. The idea is that the group can stop bullying by creating an environment of inclusion. This would also include having students feeling empowered to speak up against bullying, and to help those who have been bullied. This is seen as how to handle bullying in Colombia.
Cyberbullying is also a growing concern as more people – especially younger people – are more connected electronically. A study in Cali found 77 percent of children in that area were affected by bullying, which included the bully, the victim and the witnesses of bullying in Colombia according to facts about cyberbullying.
This study showed that 46 percent of children who bully do so to feel strong. In the case of girls, 43 percent said they bullied to gain social recognition among their peers. When children are harassed, 40 percent say they want to get even and become bullies themselves.
In March of 2014 alone, there were 6,898 complaints of cyberbullying in Columbia that had been reported as bullying statistics. Experts say while these are big numbers, more go unreported because there is a lot of emotional damage and kids are afraid to speak out when they have been bullied. Sometimes parents downplay the importance to the child, and tell the child to not allow it and it wont happen. This causes children to fall into depression and causes some to kill themselves.
There was a report of a girl in Bogota in 2014, who killed herself after pictures of her were posted on Facebook, along with nasty hurtful messages.
When parents are not supportive in this situation, the symptoms of sadness, anxiety, depression, and poor performance in school just get worse.
A report out of Bogota said often it is girls that are more involved with cyberbullying. Boys tend to be more aggressive and more likely to bully in the schools in face to face encounters, while girls are more relational and more likely to use verbal bullying than physical.
While there is a law against both bullying and cyberbulling, some are finding Cali schools themselves uncooperative in the battle against this problem. Cali investigators say some schools just try to get students to transfer to another school.
Some say the schools refuse to report the incidents because they feel it harms the school’s reputation. Even though there are penalties schools can suffer for doing this according to cyberbullying laws
There are studies that show bullying has a harmful effect on learning. A CEPAL study by UNESCO showed the relationship in a study of 16 Latin American nations that involved 91,000 sixth grade students.
For this study, 6,035 Colombian sixth graders were surveyed, involving 203 schools in the country in 2013. According to this study, 63 percent of the students reported some form of bullying which was the highest in South America. According to the study, 19 percent said they were physically bullied and 24 percent said they were verbally bullied, both of which were slightly above the regional average.. A total of 54 percent said they had been robbed or had property stolen, which was the highest in South America. The study showed 74 percent had witnessed bullying, which was also highest in the region.
Reading and math scores of victims were also analyzed, and in Colombia math scores fell by six percent and reading scores fell by two percent when people had been victims of bullying in Colombia. That impact was well below the regional average of nine percent. Witnessing bullying caused math scores to fall six percent and reading scores to fall just 1.6 percent, which were also below the regional average.