With over 130 nationalities residing in the Cayman Islands, respect for a wide variety of traditions and values has long been engrained in Cayman’s cosmopolitan culture. So much so that the term ‘Caymankind’ has been adopted to describe our welcoming spirit and the importance of extending courtesy, compassion, and kindness to others. However, bullying in schools threatens to derail these noble values. In the most recent Cayman Islands Student Drug Use Survey, the National Drug Council reported that 55% of children had been bullied. Distressingly, those children who reported being the victims of bullying were over four times more likely to attempt suicide. Cayman Parent offers further insight into Cayman's bullying issue and what steps can be taken to protect your children.
How To Seek Help
If you are concerned for your mental welfare or that of your child, please tell a trusted friend or adult. In an emergency, contact 911. There are also numerous support groups operating within the Cayman Islands that residents can seek help from in troubling times.
What is Bullying?
Bullying can take on several forms, including physical, verbal, emotional, psychological and cyberbullying. Bullying happens when someone deliberately and repeatedly does or says something to another person which they find upsetting, embarrassing, hurtful, worrying, frustrating, humiliating or even frightening. People can be affected by bullying in three ways – as the one being bullied, as an observer who sees it take place or as the person behaving in an intimidating way. Obvious examples of bullying include loud and threatening behaviour, yelling in someone’s face, and pushing and kicking. However, more insidious examples include telling secrets, spreading rumours, excluding others and whispering behind someone’s back. These more subtle forms of bullying can often continue for longer and be more difficult to address.
Today's children can be subjected to bullying through a variety of digital platforms. Since hiding behind a screen allows bullies to remain anonymous or even impersonate others online, cyberbullying can take on extreme forms. Negative comments and pictures circulated online through instant messages, social media and websites can spread very quickly and have destructive and long-lasting consequences for the victim. He or she who experiences this barrage of ‘hate’ daily can very quickly succumb to feelings of depression and/or anxiety as a result.
In response to the growing issue, Logic launched an ongoing initiative and in-depth documentary in 2019, titled The Change Project, that aims to shine a light on cyberbullying in the Cayman Islands and its impact on the mental health of those affected. The Change Project strives to make a difference in the community, by encouraging people to take an online pledge to be mindful, kind and considerate when it comes to engaging online.
Visit The Change Project for more information on their mission, to watch the international award-winning documentary filmed in the Cayman Islands and to take the pledge.
The Family Resource Centre’s Anti-Bullying Programmes
Charmaine Miller from the Family Resource Centre (FRC) has spear-headed three initiatives to stamp out bullying in Cayman: ‘Owning Up & Connecting’, Stop Now and Plan (SNAP)® and ‘Take a Stand Against Bullying’. These programmes seek to spread awareness of the harmful effects of bullying and teach children how to stop bullying in its tracks; but most importantly, encourages a culture of upstanders and social responsibility.
Owning Up & Connecting
This early intervention initiative is based on developing a culture of personal dignity amongst students and it operates throughout public and private schools across the Islands. Ms. Miller explains that “the course is centred on empathy and raising kids’ self-awareness and responsibility to stand up when you see bullying behaviour. We focus on an ‘I’ message rather than placing blame”.
The Family Resource Centre responds to requests from schools and provides workshops which address that school’s particular concerns. These are an hour per week and are run for eight weeks on the school's grounds. Children are addressed as a year group so that no individual feels singled out or that they are attracting unwanted attention. “Schools reach out to FRC depending on their need. The Owning Up programme is a great opportunity to ensure a continuous and effective dialogue with the children and teachers”, says Ms. Miller.
Bullying can manifest differently among schools. An important element of the programme is its flexibility and the way it can be moulded to 'fit' the school environment and focus on different issues as they arise. “Typically, the school is very strategic about what assistance they are looking for – it depends on a particular class or scenario such as the exclusion of a child by peers and their social group because the child has a disability”.
The programme aims to implement child-friendly anti-bullying strategies in schools so that children will feel confident to put them into practise in everyday situations. It is also hoped that an increase in awareness amongst schools will lead to more reporting of incidents and less tolerance of bullying behaviour. Students are encouraged to think about the ‘SEAL’ acronym (see box below) when dealing with bullying.
Teacher participation is encouraged throughout the duration of the course so that they can use the tools to reinforce what the children have learned once the workshops are complete. Although there is no direct parent involvement in the programme, home exercises are set which cover topics such as friendship, how to apologise and how to deal with teasing, which parents can discuss in more detail with their children.
S – Stop. Think rather than react.
E – Explain. Identify the bullying behaviour.
A – Affirm & Acknowledge. Identify your rights and how you deserve to be treated.
L – Lock in or Lock Out. The friendship
Taking a Stand Against Bullying
Taking a Stand Against Bullying is a campaign promoting awareness of bullying which has been running since 2013 and is growing in support every year. Ms. Miller says: “We thought that, in addition to the schools programme, why not include a community initiative which builds awareness of bullying?”. The campaign was inspired by a pink t-shirt campaign in Canada that started when two senior boys in Nova Scotia saw a ninth grader being bullied for wearing a pink t-shirt to school. That same day they went to the dollar store and bought 20 pink shirts to wear to school in solidarity with the boy. The Family Resource Centre re-tells this story to connect with children and demonstrate the world-wide support that anti-bullying messages have across student populations.
October is anti-bullying month in Cayman, which ties in with the Family Resource Centre’s 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. On the last Friday in October, people can dress down or wear pink shirts to support the anti-bullying message and help to raise funds for the initiative. Sales of t-shirts in support of the campaign have sky-rocketed in recent years. “It’s just taken off here in Cayman. We are extremely pleased with the community’s engagement, which is reflected in the hundreds of shirts sold yearly,” says Ms. Miller. In 2018, the first Stood Up Fair was held at the Arts and Recreation Center (ARC) in Camana Bay where competitions were held for children to submit songs, posters and projects as part of a ‘science fair concept’ to promote the anti-bullying theme.
Stop Now and Plan (SNAP)®
SNAP is an evidence-based, cognitive-behavioural model powered by the minds at Child Development Institute (CDI). SNAP helps children and their parents learn how to effectively manage their emotions and “keep problems small”.
The gender-sensitive SNAP® Boys and SNAP® Girls programmes are designed for children ages 6-11 who are engaging in aggressive, anti-social behaviour and/or have come into contact with authority figures at school or in the community. Experienced and highly trained staff work with each family to assess the problems and develop an action plan. Children and families may participate in the following components, with the goal of preventing future anti-social behaviour and reducing the chances of conflict with family, peers and authority figures.
Boys and girls attend gender-specific weekly group sessions for 13 weeks. A variety of topics, including dealing with angry thoughts and feelings, self-control, problem solving and bullying are addressed. The parent group meets concurrently with the SNAP® Boys/SNAP® Girls groups. Parents learn effective child management and SNAP® strategies. The group also provides parents with an opportunity to make connections with other parents facing similar challenges.
What You Can Do
Advice for Parents
The FRC reminds parents that they have the greatest margin of influence in their child's life. Therefore, what is role-modelled and topics that are discussed openly around children will shape the way they see the world.
Parents must be mindful of the impact they are having and ensure their children are receiving messages of kindness, positivity and safety. Avoid harmful messaging that might encourage bullying, aggression or violence in any way. Children can also project feelings of hurt onto their peers when experiencing certain hardships, so open communication built on empathy and trust is very important for parent-child relationships.
If your child is being bullied and you want to get involved, it's important to include them in the process. It will help empower them to navigate a world that is not always sugar-coated or fair.
The Family Resource Centre encourages parents to teach children to stand up safely and confidently to bullying rather than retaliating. However, if there is a persistent or immediate danger to the child, the best thing to do is to contact the school and make your concerns known to a teacher who can bring the bullying to an end.
The Family Resource Centre operates within the Department of Counselling Services so referrals to other health professionals such as therapists can be made swiftly to address issues on a case by case basis.
In extreme cases, it may be appropriate to consider contacting the authorities to move forward. In its 2016 paper, ‘Bullying: Legislation, Policy or Both?’, the Law Reform Commission acknowledges that there are a number of offences which might be potentially relevant to the Cayman Islands Penal Code (2013 Revision), Information Communications Technology Authority Law (2011 Revision) and the Computer Misuse Law (2015 Revision).
Advice for Kids
Go through the following points with your child to help them better understand their options if they, or someone they know is being bullied.
If you are too scared to tell someone to stop bullying, find an adult you trust who can make it stop. The best thing you can do is tell someone or write a letter explaining how you feel and give it to an adult or a friend.
Telling an adult is NOT tattling. Tattling is what you do to get someone IN trouble. Telling an adult is what you do to get someone OUT of trouble. If you see someone being bullied, you need to get them out of trouble and you need to go to an adult for help.
Walk away from bullying or fight back with words, not fists. Practise looking brave, even if you don’t feel brave.
Don’t blame yourself – everyone deserves to be shown respect and it is not your fault you have been bullied.
Advice for Friends
Children who are being bullied often find it difficult to stand up for themselves and need you to stand up for them. By standing up to bullying, you can be part of the solution, not the problem!
If a kid is being bullied, invite them to play with you somewhere else – be their friend and let them know that no one deserves to be treated that way.
Tell the bully or bullies that what they are doing is not okay. If you feel frightened, tell an adult.
Don’t forward text messages, photographs, videos or emails to others if they could hurt someone else.
Don’t repeat rumours that could hurt your friend’s reputation.
Advice for Kids who Bully
It may feel powerful to bully someone else but consider how that person feels – scared, hurt, embarrassed, sad, perhaps angry? Ask yourself if you have ever felt that way? Would you like to feel that way every day?
If you have been hurt by someone else, bullying won’t make you feel better. Speak to an adult that you trust and learn how you should treat others, and be treated, with respect.
Be powerful in other ways – be brave and apologise to the person you have hurt.
Play sports or take part in activities that make you feel good.
Just because other kids might laugh or watch when you bully doesn’t mean they like it. They are probably scared too.
Hang out with friends who are respectful to you and don’t encourage you to hurt others.
Think about your future – bullying behaviour can lead to losing privileges, being kicked off sports teams, suspension or expulsion from school. It can also lead to criminal charges.