Peer pressure plays a very noteworthy part in the shaping of students nowadays. A lot of young people are easily influenced by their peers, or friends and classmates.
Since their age is relatively low, they often miss the point where a line is to be drawn between positive and negative influence.
Peer pressure can also be positive in many ways, for example, in group projects, etc. where peers can act to motivate one.
However, the negative side of peer pressure is sad and alarming. Many students succumb to dangerous habits such as smoking and drinking due to peer pressure.
Bullying is also a result of peer pressure. While bullying does not necessarily have a set definition, it can be loosely defined as a process where one person is intentionally made the target of repeated harassment, abuse, or assault- physical, mental, emotional, sexual, etc.- by another person or a group.
Bullying has really serious consequences, and it can harm the victim to a considerable extent.
Also, both the perpetrators and the victims of bullying are believed to have certain deep rooted psychological issues, which might have somehow necessitated the act in the first place.
However, these are merely assumptions, and there is presently an ongoing debate going on about the exact reasons of bullying and whether they are entirely social or psychological, or a mixture of various social, cultural, psychological, and many other elements.
Nevertheless, in this essay, we will try to analyse the potential causes and effects of bullying, and understand how to minimize the same.
Causes of bullying
The major cause of bullying is the need to acquire power by certain individuals. Now, while discussing this, we need to distinguish between two terms- ‘power over’ and ‘power to’.
If we have to put it in simple words, it is to be said that power to the victims is required to break the restrictions which were initiated by the power over the victim owned by the offender.
Power over someone is necessarily coercive and aims to exploit the victim, and if the victim has enough power to shatter the control the offender has over him or her, then the problem can be completely cured.
These two terms were put forwards by feminist psychologists who had studied violence against women extensively, but these concepts are applicable to other power relations as well.
The causes for bullying can be probably social, for example, when a sole student is present in a group which is unfamiliar to their own, and is an ethnic, cultural, religious, linguistic or otherwise minority amidst an overwhelming majority group, and then there are high chances that they will be isolated and made a target of slurs and jokes.
Such behaviour can invariably lead to bullying, sadly. There are certain psychological traits associated specifically with the offenders and the victims.
While the victims are commonly seen to possess low self-confidence, low self-esteem, and a fragile self-image, the offenders might be seen to possess a certain urge to prove themselves in a certain way and a thirst to grasp power over someone else.
This power needs to be fear inducing and not otherwise. It is often seen that this urge stems from any abusive behaviour which was experienced by the victims themselves during some earlier part of their lives.
Therefore, the bullying caused by them might be a reciprocal act to undo a similar act which had adversely affected them previously.
Often, economic factors can also cause bullying to take place in a way where the financially better endowed group exerts their power accordingly over a group who does not enjoy the same privilege.
In schools, it is natural for certain cliques, or social groups to develop. Some people might bully others in order to feel the need to be a part of certain powerful cliques, thus stirring the need for social acceptance and validation.
Also, perpetrators might often be seen to have low self-esteem as well, and bullying others might give them some confidence in their abilities and somehow make them feel better about themselves.
Effects of bullying
Perhaps the most serious and dangerous effect of bullying is undoubtedly the high rate of student suicides.
We had recently seen such an instance in the famous book and TV show ‘13 reasons why’, which demonstrated how bullying and shaming others in a school led to a girl taking her life eventually.
Bullying has severely hamper one’s way of evaluating themselves and looking at life, as if someone is repetitively bullied, especially over a prolonged span of time, one can feel unimportant and feel like they do not matter much.
Such feelings of self-loathing can lead to despair and also self-harm in different forms.
Moreover, sexual violence and bullying are also widely prevalent among teenagers. Slut shaming, rape, verbal sexual humiliation, etc. fall under this category.
Cyber bullying is also a major form of bullying which greatly tampers with a person’s public (and also private) image and reputation by spreading false claims about certain things or events.
Another adverse effect of bullying school might be exclusion of the victims from extra-curricular and other activities.
This happens because the victim is bound to get afraid of any kind of further harassment if they enter an arena which might have him face any members of the aforementioned majority group.
Academic deterioration can also be caused as bullying can distract someone from their major goals and targets through inducing fear and self-hatred.
Ragging is the term most commonly used to describe bullying in academic institutions, and in the Indian context, it has indeed become a very serious problem, in places such as the IIT’s.
Several strict anti-ragging laws have efficiently curbed the problems at hand but it still continues to exist.
The main thing which might stop ragging is a nice and amicable relation between peer groups in schools and colleges which would not possibly allow any power relations to emerge.
We need to come up with new techniques to deal with bullies. The first step must be to name the problem as that would prevent to trivialise the actual issue at hand.
Legislation and proper awareness about the adversities of bullying as a practice must be the major weapons in combating any type of bullying.
Academic institutions must come up with strict rules and regulations to deal with such acts.
But they also should keep a proper check on whether the claims are genuine or not, as this type of complaints can also be used as tools to get back on someone against whom the apparent victims might have some personal grudges.
Also, sensitization programmes are important as the victims must be always made aware that there are certain support systems which can help them to cope with the problem they are currently facing.
The last thing one needs to hear during such tough times is that there are possibly no methods to help them deal with life.
Therefore, although bullying is a really bad act with serious consequences which can harm a lot of people, we essentially need to take effective measures to nip it at the bud and not let it spread its tentacles which would eventually hurt plenty of young, budding minds.