An expert believes the media and Internet play a part in desensitising youth to violence.

JUST two weeks after the death of National Defence University of Malaysia naval cadet Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain, 21, from physical injuries believed to have been inflicted by his university mates, another victim of bullying breathed his last on Thursday.

T. Nhaveen was believed to have been physically and sexually assaulted by his former schoolmates in Penang while buying food. He was only 18.

Statistics from the Education Ministry revealed that there were more than 14,000 cases of bullying in schools between 2012 and 2015, with most of them involving physical bullying.

Although the number of reported cases has dropped over the years, there is an increase in cases in secondary schools, from 0.06 per cent of cases in 2015 to 0.11 per cent cases last year.

In 2015, 2,968 cases were reported compared with 2,825 cases in 2014 and 4,120 in 2013.

The figures paint a dark scenario — cases are becoming more brutal, with many youths showing aggressive tendencies online, often resulting in cyberbullying.

Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation senior vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye says social media makes it easier for youths to get involved in bad behaviour, such as physical bullying and cyberbullying.

“Based on CyberSecurity Malaysia’s statistics, cyberbullying among students occurs almost every day, with 338 cases reported last year compared with 291 cases in 2014.

“The number was equally high in 2012 and 2013, with 250 cases and 389 cases respectively.

“To make things worse, more youngsters are now suffering from mental health problems,” he says, referring to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015.

The survey revealed that about 4.2 million Malaysians aged 16 and above suffered from mental problems. The number is alarming because it shows an increase of 11.2 percent compared with 2006.

He says approximately 84 per cent of children in Malaysia suffer from some form of bullying, with 33 per cent having been bullied online.

“Another 45 per cent of kids say they’ve bullied others offline and 15 per cent admit that they have committed cyberbullying acts,” he says, referring to nobullying.com, an online forum aimed at stopping bullying.

He warns that with mental health problems predicted to be the second largest health problem in the country after heart disease by 2020, parents and teachers must ensure that children are getting the help they need.

Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE) chairman Datin Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim believes that schools should have a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying.

“Any form of juvenile behaviour must be dealt with promptly and in a serious manner.

“Students must be made to understand what constitutes bullying.

“There must be a safe channel for bullying to be reported. Establish standard operating procedures and enforce them.

“Parents undoubtedly play an important role to ensure and provide a healthy environment where peer groups and sibling interactions occur,” she says, adding that bullying traits can start at home.

“Kids pick up on what their parents say at home, such as using derogatory terms like cacat (retarded), fatty, pondan (sissy) and cursing while driving.

“Schools should break this cycle by teaching students that this is wrong. In turn, students should be brave enough to tell off their parents. I think parents will appreciate it.”

She says PAGE has consistently advocated a non-corporal punishment approach in schools to stop the cycle of bullying from recurring.

Counselling psychologist and former principal of HELP International School Dr Gerard Louis says social media contributes to a significant number of bullying cases.

“If social media is put under the broader category of media in general, such as movies, television, video games and the Internet, then many studies point to the role that media plays.

“This is especially so in influencing and forming attitudes
of young people in using violence as a means to resolve conflict
and becoming increasingly
emotionally desensitised to violence.”

Many people, he says, find it enjoyable to watch acts of violence committed online.

“These individuals have no sense of anxiety, as one normally will when watching such acts.”

He says those inclined to act that way could have come from an abusive family, an unhealthy school environment, have low self-esteem, are impulsive, have poor social skills or lack of positive role models.

“Such individuals are more likely to imitate what they see.”

Retired headmaster William Doraisamy, 74, who has 30 years of teaching experience, says many youth today are desensitised to violence in media.

“Violent movies and news about terror attacks and crime have diminished the value of life and the feelings of concern for others.

“These anti-social traits are usually displayed by the perpetrators, who often come from broken homes or from homes where guardians have lost control of their children or are completely ignorant of what their children do outside the home.”

He believes that the absence of spirituality and religion worsens negative behaviour in youth.

“Peer pressure and herd mentality also influence kids into committing such heinous acts.

“The media should highlight this catastrophic situation among teens and young adults to prevent society from being reduced to garbage humans bereft of dignity or direction.”

Kuala Lumpur Criminal Investigation Department chief Assistant Commissioner Mohd Rusdi Isa says the number of bullying cases in Kuala Lumpur remains the same compared with previous years.

“The number of cases involving death also remains the same,” he said, adding that the department does not have exact figures on cases.

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