Over 135 nationalities live together in the Cayman Islands and we all strive to respect each other’s traditions and values – so much so that we’ve coined the term ‘Caymankind’ to encompass 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 its 2018 Cayman Islands Student Drug Use Survey, the National Drug Council reported that 54% of children had been bullied. Distressingly, those children who reported being the victims of bullying were almost six times more likely to attempt suicide. The following article, written by Jennifer Marshall, shines a light on the problem of bullying and gives you the information you need to protect your children.
There are various types of bullying, which include physical, verbal, emotional and psychological, and cyberbullying, which is on the rise amongst our tech-savvy children. 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 individual 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.
Also known as ‘online bullying’. Technological advancements mean that children can now be subjected to bullying conducted through a variety of digital platforms. Negative comments and pictures circulated online through instant messages, social media, email and websites have the potential to spread very quickly with destructive consequences. Cyberbullying can take extreme forms as bullies are often able to remain anonymous or impersonate others online. Harmful comments and pictures can also have long-lasting and damaging effects, as they can remain online and can be viewed and copied for an indefinite amount of time. Victims exposed to harmful material on a daily basis may experience depression and anxiety, and this may in turn have a negative effect on their relationships and support networks.
If you are worried about cyberbullying, there is a new initiative in Cayman that can help. The Change Project, commissioned by Logic, is an important campaign on-Island that launched in 2019. It is a research project that aims to promote responsible internet and social media use and shine a light on the mental health impact of cyberbullying on children, parents, teachers and families. It encourages people to take an online pledge to be mindful, kind and considerate when engaging online. As part of the campaign, The Change Project will broadcast a 15-minute documentary, set to be released in October 2019, at the Camana Bay Cinema and online. There will also be a printed guide for schools and parents, plus a wealth of online resources. Visit www.thechangeprojectcayman.com for more information.
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.
Charmaine Miller from the Family Resource Centre (FRC) has spear-headed two initiatives to stamp out bullying in Cayman: ‘Owning Up & Connecting’ 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.
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 a week and are run for eight weeks in 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) 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 that cover topics such as friendship, how to apologise and how to deal with teasing, which parents can discuss in more detail with their children.
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 first or 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 rocketed from 750 in 2016 to 900 in 2017. “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. Last year (in 2018), the Stood Up Fair was held for the first time 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. “Typically we are the ones teaching, but we had kids from ages 10 to 16 who had their own projects with an anti-bullying theme. We were blown away by their creativity and passion. With younger generations spreading awareness of the anti-bullying message, it seems that our children are more conscious than ever of what it means to be ‘Caymankind’”.
Click here for Part II.
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