What will you do if you find out that your child is bullying another child?
What support can be provided to young people who practice or have experienced violence?
Can school sports be accessible to children with disabilities?
These are some of the questions that the youth from the “Megaphone” Youth Network and over 260 students in the hall of Voice It 2023 asked the experts and the representatives of the legislative and executive power, who joined in the discussions about #Bullying, #Curriculum and #SportAndHealthyFood.
See below an overview of the second topic that the children addressed – Bullying – and what the politicians answered on the topics that were important to them. The conversation was attended by: Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy Mrs. Elka Nalbantova, Ilina Mutafchieva, Member of Parliament and Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Children, Family, Youth and Sports, Daniel Bosilkov, psychologist, as well as Nia and Temenuzhka from “Megaphone”.
More and more attention is paid to the problem, cases of bullying are often covered in the media, pedagogical advisers and psychologists work on the cases, but at the same time, bullying is a neglected topic, said Nia from Megafon. And he gave the following example – if children see other children fighting and pushing on the street – no one will react. Along with this, it often happens that class leaders and teachers themselves miss the cases or do not know exactly how to intervene and resolve the conflict.
A megaphone survey of classmates shows that openly discussing the problem of bullying at school has a positive effect, even improving grades. There are many children who refuse to attend school because of bullying. Young people define as a problem (and their desire to change) the lack of places, spaces in schools where children can discuss their conflicts in an informal environment, talk about bullying, solve problems and achieve a change in attitudes towards the violence. Young people clearly see that past conflicts only lead to intensification of problems and more bullying. Therefore, the young people asked the politicians:
What support can be given to young people who practice or have suffered violence? Psychologists are very important, but they alone cannot change the environment – what else can be done?
What solutions can the education system offer and are there external services that can be involved? If there are – what and where are they?
Can bullying be stopped entirely, and if so, how?
What would you do if your child bullies others?
Ilina Mutafchieva: A significant problem is the lack of clear data on the exact number and type of cases of harassment. How and where young people spend their time after school is also a big question. There should be youth spaces where students can spend their time in a meaningful way. Places that offer an environment of trust, with experts who work with children and support this environment.
Deputy Minister Elka Nalbantova: It is worrying that adults fail to react appropriately in situations where children feel bullied. The social system in recent years, together with ministries, have created centres for personal development in kindergartens and schools, but there must be a mechanism to control their benefits and children should know where to address a problem regardless of whether they have caused a conflict or are on the side of harassment. The advice to the young people was to look for an adult (classroom teacher, principal) in the school to whom they could address a problem. To inquire whether the management of their school knows the mechanism that works for the prevention of bullying and to initiate the conversation with them. The curriculum can also help. In civic education classes, violence and its forms and manifestations should be discussed so that children can clearly recognise when they are in such a situation and how they can manage it.
Daniel Bosilkov: When we talk about harassment – we have to bring it to light, because only then can we think about how to deal with it, how to tame it. We must realise that aggressive behavior is part of our defense mechanisms and we cannot expect to always be nice and kind to each other. It is in the nature of each of us to compete, but we must manage how these competitive attitudes come out through harsh language or harsh physical expression, and helping adults have a role in teaching this self-control.
Ilina Mutafchieva: Critically important is the example that adults set – whether they talk, as a way to reach others, and how they act – with or without the aggressive actions that we see on the street and in families.
Deputy Minister Elka Nalbantova: We must know what violence is, have our own wording. To know where to signal and to whom to address a problem, and most importantly – for the state and institutions to start collecting the data in order to come up with meaningful solutions to combat all manifestations of harassment.
Daniel Bosilkov: The most effective measure is for each of us, when we see a manifestation of harassment, to talk about it. We (especially adults) often have to turn a blind eye to many things, but no one has to turn a blind eye when someone’s physical life and mental health is under threat.
Ilina Mutafchieva: The mechanisms do not work. The Parliamentary Committee on Children, Family, Youth and Sport has the ambition to finally coordinate the mechanisms, not to have them be sporadic and only thanks to units of people who want to implement them and find meaning in them There must be real coordination and measuring only the quantity in these systems, but the quality.
To the question How will you react if your child bullies others? Ilina Mutafchieva answered that for her the responsibility lies with the parents, because children often copy their behavior without the adults themselves realising it. “I would first look for what in my behavior provoked my child to behave like that,” she said.
Daniel Bosilkov shared that he does not have the fantasy that it will never happen to his child to be in the role of the aggressor. “I live with this fear that at some point he might be a bully or be bullied and what I can do is try to prepare him that that could happen.”
“We are talking about why something is happening and what we can do with each other in another way,” was the answer of Deputy Minister Elka Nalbantova.