School Violence: Where Does Bullying Begin?

Pushes, insults, deterioration of equipment, spitting on the plate in the canteen, publication of intimate photos on social networks, such are the bullying that 700 children and adolescents repeatedly endure.

Tor affecting around 10% of students in France, bullying can have significant consequences for its victims, from sleep disorders to social phobia, including anxiety and depression, and even, among the most vulnerable, behavior suicidal.

While most European countries have implemented preventive actions for several decades, our National Education has only really looked into this the early 2010s. Following the fourth day of national mobilization at the beginning of November, return to the awareness of this problem.

A process of repetition

The first definitions of school bullying were proposed in the 1970s by two Scandinavian psychologists: Anatol Pikas and Dan Olweus. The first describes this form of peer violence as mobbing, an English term formed from the verb to mob (attacking, assaulting) and referring back to the mob (the crowd), while the second chooses the term bullying, formed from the verb bully (mistreat, tyrannize) and referring to the figure of bully (the bully, the tyrant).

Behind this simple terminological difference lie two approaches to the same phenomenon:

  • a contextual and group approach for Pikas who considers that it is the pressure that the peer group exerts on its different members that pushes them to violently attack a comrade;
  • an individualizing and psychologizing approach for Olweus who considers that it is the impulsiveness, aggressiveness, even perversity, of an individual that leads him, alone or in a group, to violence.

This is the term bullying - and more particularly school bullying - which has prevailed in most Anglo-Saxon countries and which has been translated in France as “school harassment”. In Quebec, we speak more of “intimidation”, reserving the term “harassment” for violence between adults (Bellon, Gardette, 2018).

La Olweusian definition today there is consensus:

“A student is the victim of harassment when he is repeatedly and over the long term subjected to aggressive behavior aimed at prejudicing, hurting or putting him in difficulty on the part of one or more students. This is an intentionally aggressive situation, inducing a relationship of psychological enslavement, which is repeated regularly. "

In order to be able to speak of harassment, violence must therefore stem from an intention to harm, be part of a process of repetition (an isolated and one-off act cannot be considered as harassment) and in an asymmetrical relationship ( the aggressor exercises physical or psychological domination). It must also provoke in the victim a feeling of insecurity and a psychological injury.

The weight of the group

Repetition is a tricky question, however, because it all depends on the “tolerance threshold” which varies from person to person. The results may be more important in a student bullied in a single term than in a student who has been bullied throughout a year or even throughout their schooling.

Regarding the "asymmetric relationship", if it can be made possible by the bully-bully tandem, it still most often results from a group phenomenon: a student is targeted by a group made up of a leader and followers. . He may sometimes receive help or support from an advocate, but under pressure from the group, the latter may disassociate itself.

Likewise, there are a number of outside observers who “see but say nothing”, usually out of fear of reprisal. The target pupil therefore finds himself alone against all and becomes a real scapegoat on which the others let off steam.

If a few years ago, victims found a little respite once they left school, it is not uncommon today for their attackers to pursue them outside of school times and places, through smartphones and social networks.

From harassment to cyberstalking

Just like “offline” violence, “online” violence takes different forms: identity theft, verbal violence (insults, mockery), sexual violence (sending shocking photos or unauthorized dissemination of intimate photos), physical assaults filmed and shared on social networks.

Although the continuity between school bullying and cyberstalking is not always systematic, attackers and victims are still often involved “offline” and “online” (in 30 to 70% of cases, according to studies).

In a digital context, we find the “followers” ​​who participate in the misdeeds by liking, sharing or commenting on the content, as well as the “passive witnesses”, who take note of it, but remain silent. Other stakeholders are also emerging, making the analysis of the phenomenon more complex (Bellon, Gardette, 2017):

  • bullied students who use their computer skills to get revenge on their bullies when they would never fight back “offline”;
  • students who are not harassed but who use their computer skills to avenge victims and punish harassers;
  • students who disinhibit and transform themselves behind their screens and engage in actions that they would otherwise completely forbid;
  • all those who publish or relay content inadvertently, inadvertently, or in the heat of the moment, without taking the time to think about the consequences of their “click” (“liking is already harassing”, as pointed out the slogan of the second day of national mobilization against school bullying).

In addition to these four “profiles” there are also people who take part in the attacks - by relaying or commenting on the content - but who are nevertheless totally outside the school of the victim and his attackers, or even who do not even know them. . However, generally speaking, cyberviolence is first and foremost proximity violence, carried out by classmates, by friends or by ex-boyfriends of the victim.

A recent awareness

School bullying has long been included in debates on school violence in general. It was not until the beginning of the 2010s, following victimization surveys carried out by Eric Debarbieux and revealing that 10% of students are victims of repeated violence from their peers, that the public authorities are aware of the need to act.

Various actions are therefore put in place: organization of first sessions on the prevention of harassment in May 2011; launch of the first information campaign and establishment of a free national crisis line (3020) in 2012; creation of a ministerial website providing resources for teachers and parents; launch of the academic competition "No to harassment" in 2013.

The fight against school bullying is enshrined in Law No. 2013-595 of July 8, 2013 on orientation and programming for the overhaul of the School of the Republic:

“The fight against all forms of bullying will be a priority for each school. It will be the subject of an action program drawn up with the entire educational community, adopted by the school council for the first degree and by the board of directors in local public educational establishments (EPLE ). This action program will be regularly evaluated, to be amended if necessary ”.

Prevention campaigns

In 2015, the system "High School Ambassadors", placing students at the heart of prevention, is created and a national mobilization day is established. Its fourth edition was therefore held on Thursday, November 8, 2018 and had the slogan "A photo is personal, sharing it is harassing". This year she raised awareness of revenge porn and the unauthorized dissemination of intimate photos.

Various preventive actions can of course be carried out by schools and more particularly by the Health and Citizenship Education Committee. The latter can rely on various external partners, such as associations, the police and the gendarmerie, social workers, parents of students.

However, prevention alone cannot stem the phenomenon, because it is not enough to be informed of a risk to avoid it or to denounce a behavior for it to be subscribed. Critical thinking education,social media education,empathy education, the development of students' emotional and psychosocial skills, the strengthening of self-esteem or evenself-defense are also effective weapons to fight against bullying and its digital extension.

Finally, studies have shown that the school climate and the general atmosphere that reign in a class or establishment influence the quality of relations between pupils. A class that is characterized by a bad climate is more likely to see situations of harassment and cyberstalking emerge. Improving the school climate is therefore also a lever for action to reduce these forms of violence.The Conversation

Berengere Stassin, lecturer in information and communication sciences, member of CREM, University of Lorraine

This article is republished from The Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

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