Identify the signs of bullying

Psychologist Dr. Samineh I. Shaheem on spotting the signs of bullying


Bullying can happen in various forms when a child is growing up. So we spoke to Dr. Samineh I. Shaheem, assistant Professor of Psychology and founder of Bolt Down on Bullying, for some signs parents can look out for.

‘When I started the Bolt Down on Bullying campaign in 2010, there was little awareness in schools and throughout the UAE community about this type of psychological violence,’ said Dr. Shaheem.

‘A question teachers and people in the media commonly asked was, “what are the percentages of children bullied here?”

Even though most children don’t speak up and incident numbers are inaccurately low because bullying is seriously under reported, in my opinion even one child bullied is one child too many.

‘Bullying behavior is not always easy for adults or children to recognise or define,’ says Dr. Shaheem.

‘A fight between friends, siblings or rough play among children with equal power could be called conflict, not bullying. It is bullying when a person or group of people intentionally use their power to hurt, frighten, threaten or exclude another person. Bullying does not only happen on the playground or in cyberspace; it happens everywhere and with all age groups.’

Dr. Shaheem says more should be done to raise the awareness of bullying. ‘Another issue to consider is that the UAE is a transient society for many and as guests arrive to this host country, during the first stage of their migration, they may be dealing with their own adjustment issues such as culture shock, homesickness, language barriers and an overall sense of alienation’ says Dr. Shaheem. ‘These new kids on the block can be less emotionally resilient, therefore becoming easy targets to the bully who preys on the weaker kids.

‘We need to begin addressing this issue early on so that we prepare our children rather than trying to heal past wounds later on life, which may have already had long lasting physical and psychological effects on someone, bullied in childhood. Let’s get rid of the misconception that bullying is just a right of passage – it is not.
‘One of the most beautiful moments I had the honor of experiencing during a recent school assembly was when a nine year young lady stood up in front of 400 students and said, “From today, I promise never to be mean to anyone and never let anyone be mean to me or my friends again!” Needless to say she was bombarded with warm embraces from all directions. At that moment, she made a choice that may forever transform her future and positively impact the lives of others. A moment like this is why I have devoted myself to this cause.’

Types of Bullying
Bullying can take five broad forms:
• Physical (hitting, kicking, spitting, pushing, taking personal belongings)

• Verbal (taunting, malicious teasing, name calling, making threats)

• Social (spreading rumours, manipulating social relationships, or engaging in social exclusion, extortion, or intimidation)

• Sexual (not really addressed or spoken about by us publicly but refereed to qualified clinical psychologists)

• Cyber (is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones bullying).
Warning signs
• Child not wanting to go to school

• Decline in academic performance

• Feeling down and disheartened

• Change in behaviour or complaining of stomach aches or other physical symptoms

• Lost items or clothing

• Child seems unenthusiastic and disinterested in activities previously enjoyed

• Bruises, scratches or other physical marks

• Child feels hyper vigilant, anxious and has sudden unexplainable emotional outbursts

Background of Bolt Down on Bullying
Dr. Shaheem says, ‘The Bolt Down on Bullying campaign was built on the vision to make our schools safer, healthier and more emotionally balanced. We imagine places where children are excited to spend their days without being afraid of bullying or psychological violence.

‘As a cross cultural psychologist, my main aim was to understand bullying in the UAE from a culture specific perspective, rather than ascribe or import central findings from the US or the UK to the UAE. ‘In other words, the exploration process involved an attempt to uncover the cultural and social factors present in the UAE that contribute to incidents of bullying and may pose as challenges when considering solutions and strategies to confront and prevent it”.
Bolt Down On Bullying, email for more information.

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