Journey from school to college is one worth looking forward to. At the end of school, one thing which excites a youngster most is the beginning of college. Many of us look forward to college with great aspirations and high optimism. But for some, the journey becomes scary and undeserved. There is a misapprehension that bullying is a phenomenon of middle school, where children are young and passing through their adolescence. Though bullying in colleges has been noticeable, however, in recent years, with advent of technology and social tools, the level of bullying has suddenly multiplied. Easy and unimpeded access to online resources, new attained freedom of living away from home, and less direct authority are some of the many reasons which have led to a sudden surge in the number of bullying cases in colleges. A recent study provides more detailed report – 15% of college students are bullied every year and of those 22% reported cyberbullying through social networks and other forms of online communication[i]. Moreover, psychiatrists have attributed “the urge to bully” to a mental condition, where some people, highly obsessed to prove their superiority over others often end up choosing this path. Till a few years back, bullying was limited to mostly ragging in hostels or colleges. However, with more stringent anti-ragging laws and policies, students have moved to a more convenient and perhaps the easiest tool of bullying – cyberbullying.
Many studies have validated the fact that cyberbullying is on the rise. With more attention given to curb the menace of physical bullying, many have moved towards cyberbullying, which provides easier access to internet – a medium widely used all over the world and where audience available is wider than any physical medium. Cyberbullying can be anything from a gossip or rumor about someone to slut shaming, sexual comments, or graphic abuse. In many cases cyberbullying spreads like a fire and eventually it becomes almost impossible to find the actual source of such rumors. Though many factors contribute to such a misuse of internet, however, amongst them the prominent reason for this is the freedom given to an adult as soon as they enter college. This sudden freedom encourages and permits many to indulge in such mischievous activities. Cyberbullying prevention has become equally more important with rise in number of cases.
If looked deeper, the case of bullying has many causes from bad parenting to desire of becoming the center of attraction. Let us look at some of these in more detail:
Lack of bullying policy in schools
Though many colleges have strict anti-bullying policies, however, schools are still lagging behind in implementing such laws. Especially in India, where children are often told to deal with bullying on their own, and complaining about such conditions is considered a sign of their weakness. A misconception amongst many that bullying is just a childhood ‘fun-activity’ and not a serious mental condition is the root cause of this.
Pressure to become classroom heroes also pushes many to choose bullying tactics. Many believe that bullying weaker students will make them look cool and improve their reputation in college. Sudden unchecked behaviors may also result in urge to undertake these activities. Such students look for easy targets who can be attacked easily, therefore leading to increase in cases of bullying. Another major reason for sudden outpour of cases is the fact that students in college are under tremendous pressure to perform and many are not able to deal with this sudden spotlight.
During middle-school or high school years, many of us live under the guidance of our parents. However, moving to a college is often a period where many move away from home, and hence find new freedom. Suddenly students feel liberated and their activities are mostly unchecked. This sudden change, for many, is hard to deal with and often leads students towards bullying. Though teachers do check discipline in their classes, however, in colleges many do not interfere in activities outside classrooms hence such activities go unchecked.
Contacting a counselor or a student is a good start. Many choose not to report such cases out of fear of embarrassment or pressure from other students. Always remember, reporting such cases at the initial stages can go a long way in curbing the menace. College leaders can also play an important role in curbing the menace by organizing events, for instance, “Freshman Orientation” where new students can interact with their seniors and make the atmosphere friendlier.
Moreover, college students may feel more pressure than school students to respond to bullying on their own. The mind-set is “You are adults, therefore you need to learn to handle issues on your own”. Although, it is true to a point, however, bullying is a complex issue that often requires a support system. Teachers and parents can provide assistance and insight especially if the bullying they are suffering involves activities that are against the law.
[i] Report of Health Day News Study (2012)