Dr Iqbal Karbanee, a specialist paediatrician, gives us some insight into the devastating acts of bullying that are destroying our children.
South Africa (01 July 2021) – Bullying is a devastating social ill that is unfortunately extremely rife in South Africa. The age of the internet and the explosion of social media has not made it easy on younger and school-going learners, who often feel isolated and unheard, or victimised online.
In the last month, two school-going pupils in the Western Cape tragically took their own lives, with experts saying that one of the reasons this happens may be due to bullying, which could lead to depression. Furthermore, the death of Limpopo teenager Lufuno Mavhungu has put a spotlight on how rife bullying is online and in South African schools and the long-term effects it can have on students who fall victim to bullying – which include depression and anxiety. It is therefore important for parents to be able to spot all signs that their child might be experiencing be exposed to a form of bullying.
Dr Iqbal Karbanee, specialist paediatrician and CEO of Paed-IQ BabyLine, believes it is important that parents are educated on the importance of protecting children but also to understand the socio-psychological effects bullying has on children.
We asked Dr Iqbal Karbanee how parents can help their children through bullying and overcome it in the end? He gave a breakdown of nine helpful tips and information snippets about bullying.
How does bullying affect children?
The effects of bullying on children include anxiety, depression, changes in behaviour as well physical symptoms. These symptoms range from changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, bedwetting and acting out or aggression at home.
The long-term psychological effects of bullying:
When a child experiences bullying, the long-term effects are those of lowered self-esteem, poor self-image, difficulty with relationships, anxiety, and depression.
Types of bullying.
Bullying can take many forms. These include verbal insults and negative banter, emotional mind games, physical abuse over the full spectrum from injuries to assault, and then the type of bullying that more and more people recognize: cyberbullying. This can occur on all types of electronic communication and social media platforms.
Why is bullying so rife today?
It is not clear if bullying has become rifer or simply now recognized better. Bullying has also evolved to now include social media and cyberbullying. This increase the risk for young people who may not be equipped to recognize bullying or its associated early warning signs.
Signs parents should look out for.
Any change in behaviour from the child’s normal baseline should be recognized by the caregiver and looked at carefully. A child that is acting out may not be just being naughty but may be trying to communicate that something is wrong if a child starts eating differently, either eating more than usual or less than usual. Sleeping patterns that change, bedwetting, reluctance to go to school, abnormal social interactions are all signs that there may be something amiss.
The importance of keeping an open line of communication with your children.
The importance of good open communication cannot be overemphasized. This is not a short-term goal but should be age-appropriate and set in place from as early on in the child’s life as possible. Spending quality time with your child and making sure the caregiver is always available is very important.
Steps parents can take to support their children.
Setting up good rituals and habits at home is a key aspect of the foundation of good communication. Parents must lead by example as children will learn what they see and not necessarily what they are told. A parent should limit their own time on social media in front of the children and focus on the healthy conversation instead. Eating together is another great way of establishing good family bonds.
What should parents do if they find out their child has been a victim of bullying?
If parents suspect that their child is being bullied, they should approach the school to bring it to their attention. Often the bully requires help, and the aim should be to stop the cycle and ensure all children are in a healthy, safe environment when at school.
What experience have you seen in your years of paediatric care? Any real-life cases that parents can learn from?
Most of the cases of bullying I have seen have been related to anxiety, depression, and bedwetting in children who have previously shown no signs of any of these problems. Eating disorders are also common if the bullying has been going on for some time. The children who do very well overcoming bullying come from homes in which the caregiver has good communication with the child, and the child feels safe to discuss anything with their parent.