Updated 25 February 2014

Is your child bullied on the playground?

Bullying is new and terrifying to every child who is affected. What is bullying and what can we do about it?

Bullying is in the news after an eight-year-old Gauteng girl has died after being beaten and kicked by three school bullies.

For thousands of children, the school is a battleground where they are subjected to physical or verbal abuse by fellow students.  The issue has received much media attention in the last decade and many anti-bullying campaigns have made their way onto television screens and onto social media sites. 

Bullying is an age-old and worldwide problem and only one form of school violence. Because of the misperception that bullying is just a part of the process of growing up, many children keep quiet about abuse and many educators fail to take action. This is in spite of the fact that it can have negative lifelong social, emotional, psychological and educational consequences, both for perpetrators and for their victims.

In another study, Corene de Wet of the University of the Free State surveyed 339 learners in Free State secondary schools. She found that only 29,2% and 32,15% of the school children surveyed, had never been exposed to direct or indirect verbal abuse respectively. As many as 32,45% had been physically abused by fellow learners.

  • Physical bullying includes punching, poking, strangling, hair-pulling, beating, biting, excessive tickling and direct vandalism.
  • Verbal bullying includes such acts as hurtful name-calling, persistent teasing, gossiping and racist remarks.
  • Relational bullying occurs when the victim is deliberately excluded from activities.
  • Emotional bullying includes terrorising, extorting, defaming, humiliating, blackmailing, rating/ranking of personal characteristics such as race, disability or ethnicity, manipulating friendships, ostracising and peer pressure.
  • Sexual bullying includes many of the above as well as exhibitionism, sexual positioning, sexual harassment and abuse involving actual physical contact and sexual assault.

  • raise awareness
  • improve peer relationships
  • encourage learners to disclose abuse and to stand up against bullies
  • develop rules to prevent bullying
  • decide on disciplinary steps

  • Coming home with cuts and bruises
  • Torn clothes
  • Asking for stolen possessions to be replaced
  • "Losing" dinner money
  • Falling out with previously good friends
  • Being moody and bad tempered
  • Being quiet and withdrawn
  • Wanting to avoid leaving the house
  • Aggression with siblings
  • Doing less well at schoolwork
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety and/or depression

De Wet NC 2006. Free State educators' experiences and recognition of bullying at schools. South African Journal of Education, 26(1):61-73.
De Wet NC 2006. Bullebakkery - almal se probleem. Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe, 64(1):87-100.
Neser J, Ovens M, Van der Merwe E, Morodi R & Ladikos A 2003. Peer victimization in schools: the victims. Crime Research in South Africa, 5(1). Available url.:
Neser J, Ovens M, Van der Merwe M, Morodi R, Ladikos A & Prinsloo J 2004. The victims of bullying in schools. Acta Criminologica, 17(3):28-47.




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