Creating Lasting Change

Deep and lasting bullying prevention requires the promotion of equity and social inclusion.

Bullying is a form of violence, linked on a continuum to a range of other forms of abuse and assault against children, such as: physical, sexual, verbal and emotional, inflicted by peers or by known or unknown adults. All forms of aggression constitute an abuse of power, a way of dominating, subjugating, controlling and humiliating another human being.

Essentially, bullying is a societal problem. It is not limited to schools and social relationships among children; bullying in many forms can be found in a variety of relationships among adults as well. Furthermore, we see bullying at all levels and in all spheres - both private and public - of our society. Bullying can occur in families and in intimate relationships, often through violence against women and children. We see bullying in workplaces and in institutions, in politics and in the media, though it may bear a different name when adults are involved.

When someone is bullied, assaulted or discriminated against in any way, in any context – their family, school, workplace, community or society - they’ve lost a basic right. COPA understands and communicates this to children as the right to be "safe, strong and free".

Discrimination and other forms of aggression that target certain social groups are connected to attitudes, ideas and practices that denigrate, undervalue or overlook those groups and the needs and experiences of their members. These attitudes, ideas and practices filter down to our children.

At the same time, bullying is essentially about cruelty, deriving pleasure from intentionally hurting others. When hatred of others based on their difference takes root, a person who intends to bully can and will use any perceived difference in order to hurt the person they are targeting. This may, but does not always, include differences based on social inequality.

It is imperative to pay special attention to forms of aggression and bullying arising from wider social inequalities (sexism, racism, homophobia, social discrimination, discrimination against persons with disabilities or persons who are part of a minority religious group or other social groups). It is also important to name and challenge all these forms of abuse in order to validate and explain the particular vulnerability and life experiences of young people affected by these actions.

We all know there is no simple formula for getting rid of bullying. Bullying prevention is as complicated as our lives, our culture and our society, and there is no limit to the range of creative strategies and measures that can contribute to addressing it. We all have a role and responsibility to help develop and maintain a positive climate that supports our children’s achievements and well-being.

The key to effective bullying prevention is to work towards restoring the balance of power, with a focus on learning, and not on shame and blame. We need to foster values and attitudes that encourage kindness and compassion and courage, and sustain respect for all differences. Fortunately, there is increasing recognition of the harmful impact of discrimination and aggression that plays out in everyday life.

Preventing bullying requires a change of heart. The active and respectful involvement of caring adults at home and school, and in the community is one of the best deterrents to bullying.

The potential for real change is compelling; parents can be positive role models and teach their children skills and attitudes they need to participate in building healthy relationships in a diverse society founded on mutual respect, within which all of our human rights are fully respected. This will bring us closer to fostering safe, inclusive and accepting schools.