Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers if they had experienced or were involved in school bullying, following a survey of 3,000 high school students in Ha Noi. Results from the survey showed that 80 per cent reported being victims of bullying at least once in their lives.
Here are some responses we received.
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi
I have been bullied and I was also a bully. Each grade and year of development presents its own sets of problems. No matter how many times my parents or school officials offered help, I did not speak up. Kids keep secrets.
There are also many problems found in the home. Parents, despite having once been kids, cannot appreciate the pressures modern kids face. There are impossible beauty standards for girls. Boys are still supposed to act tough. The 24/7 news cycle and social-media world adds pressures and distractions.
My older brother picked on me, I picked on my friends and we all picked on the new guy. It's a vicious circle. Viet Nam needs to encourage kids to participate in their own emancipation.
I joke with my students, but it's limited by language and cultural differences. I also see students make fun of each other. My style is to make sure everybody makes a mistake and then keeps trying. That way in my class it's safe to make mistakes.
Younger kids should be tasked with making and distributing posters about positive and preferred actions like "plant a tree" or "help new students." Older kids could and should mentor younger grades. Also, set up a free hotline telephone service.
Bullying is a natural part of human development and can be effectively managed. Develop a thick skin, a sense of humour and some perspective. Learning boxing or vovinam wouldn't hurt either!
Anh Pham, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I used to be a bully at school when I was a kid, but I did not realise it. Some time ago, a former classmate said I was mean and aggressive to him all the time we went to high school together.
I didn't believe it at first. I told him that it was normal for boys in high school to be a bit mean and sometimes even aggressive. I was also mean to most people, not just him.
"That's easy for you to say when you are not on the receiving end," he said. "We laugh about it now, but it was one of the things I hated most about high school," he added.
That got me thinking and, I had to admit, I used to take it out on him when I had trouble at home or at school. There was no way for him to know my bullying came from being upset about something else. But, even that isn't an excuse to pick on someone. I know that now, but back then he must have hated me for it.
Then there was also a group. There is always a group of bullies because kids are usually not that tough when they are on their own. The peer-pressure to act just like the rest of the group usually resulted in picking on someone weaker or someone you know won't fight back.
As a former bully, I think the most effective way to stop them is to stand up to them. It only takes one determined effort, and most bullies will find easier prey elsewhere.
If you can't or don't want to stand up to them, just try to make more friends. Bullies are usually afraid of picking on someone popular because someone may step in and stop them. That would put them in a difficult situation.
They would either have to back down, which means losing their "reputation", or take on whoever decided to stop them. Most of the time they'd prefer to back down.
John Boag, American, HCM City
Bullying, in all its forms, is a problem that seems to never go away; it exists at all levels and ages of society. It is a form of violence and abuse, both physical and psychological, with deep rooted consequences.
Although various methods have been used to discourage this type of behaviour in school, one finds acceptance and even glorification of violence in the media, entertainment, religion, education and the family.
Until we expose this epidemic for what it is, and support individuals and organisations that actively fight against the abuse, we will continue to witness the destructive consequences that bullying inflicts upon the world.
Trang Vy, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I was bitten almost every day when I was in primary school. It was my greatest childhood fear. Some bad students at my school pulled my hair and beat my back as they forced me to give them money. They wanted to buy the snacks and toys sold at the school gates. But since I didn't have any money, I was bitten as a result.
I told my teachers about it, but they didn't do anything to protect me. Sometimes I felt that they thought of it as normal. My friends were as frightened as me when they saw the bad students.
But that was not all. I was also frightened by my teachers who used rulers to whip my hands when I did something incorrect or let my notebooks get dirty. They also forced me to stand in the corner of the classroom for hours as punishment.
I just kept calm until I could cry alone. My heart would begin to beat strongly whenever I entered the school gates and when my teacher entered the classroom. I worried, wondering which punishment was going to come. No one at school could protect me.
Now I've grown up and have two five-year-old daughters who are quite timid. I'm really worried that next year they will go to primary school and will face the same problems.
To the school management board, please implement effective measures to prevent bullies, both students and teachers.
Rie Watanabe, Japanese, Ha Noi
School bullying happens everywhere in the world. It is a major concern for parents, and bullying comes in physical, mental, direct and indirect forms. Now children can be bullied through Internet and phone messages.
Bullying leads to severe and numerous consequences, so-much-so that students may stop attending classes or drop out.
In Japan it even can lead to children committing suicide. Earlier this year, a 14-year-old school girl in Japan hanged herself in her house after being bullied by classmates on the Internet.
I remember an emergency survey and report issued two years ago. It was requested six months after the suicide of a male high-school student in Japan. It showed that the number of reported bullying cases was at nearly 200,000 a year, triple the number of the previous year.
The report also said that few incidents were reported to the police. I think one reason for the high rate of school bullying is that the aggressors feel there will be no repercussions.
Japan and Viet Nam share many similarities in culture and lifestyle. I imagine bullied students in Ha Noi have been keeping quiet about their problems. Parents and teachers should play their part in preventing school bullying by listening and talking to children more to find out their secret problems.
Meanwhile, children should be well equipped with more life management skills so that they can cope with such situations. — VNS