September 20, 2019
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    Bullying behaviour often emerges in childhood, and the consequences for victims can last a lifetime. But what makes a child become a bully?

    When RubySam Youngz was singled out by a bully at the age of 10 in her last year of primary school, she felt isolated and confused. She’d just moved with her family from England to Wales and the bully honed in on her accent. They then started mocking her appearance. “Nothing really made sense to me,” she says. “I’m in a new place, I don’t really know anyone, no one likes me, and I really do not know why.”

    Youngz says the relentless bullying, which continued through secondary school, had a knock-on effect in all areas of her life, and she took up smoking and drinking in an attempt to cope. Now aged 46, it is only in the past year that she has come to terms with the effect that the bullying had on her.

    “I felt like ‘no one else likes me, so I don’t like me’,” she says.

    Her experience underlines a painful truth. Children, for all their innocence and inexperience of the world, can be some of the most vicious bullies. Their actions, perhaps less hindered by the social norms we learn in later life, can be merciless, violent and shocking. And they can have life-long implications for the victims.
    But what makes a child become a bully?

    “For the longest time, in the research literature, we thought there was just one type of bully: a highly aggressive kid that had self-esteem issues that may come from a violent home or neglectful home,” says Dorothy Espelage, a professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. That picture is now changing.

    A boy appears to bully a girl in a schoolyard
    There are several definitive types of school bully that have been identified by psychologists (Credit: Getty Images)
    The definition of bullying that academic researchers have adopted states that it’s a form of aggression between individuals or groups that have different levels of power. It perhaps fails to capture the terrible toll it can have on victims or the complex reasons why people become bullies in the first place. But one key element is the difference in power.

    Researchers’ picture of the typical school bully has become more nuanced in recent years

    “It could be that you’re bullying me, and you’re popular, and I’m not popular, and that power differential makes it difficult for me to defend myself,” says Espelage. While domestic violence and sibling aggression are still risk factors for children becoming bullies, they’re not the only reason, she adds. Children who grow up in violent homes but go to a school with an anti-bullying programme and a supportive atmosphere won’t necessarily become bullies.

    Researchers’ picture of the typical school bully has become more nuanced in recent years. Aside from the blunt and open aggressor, another more Machiavellian kind of bullying has come to be recognised. Children who fall into this category tend to have better social skills, are often charismatic and liked by teachers – far from the “oafish” stereotype of bullies. Crucially, these children can turn on and off their bullying to suit their needs.

    “Socially dominant bullies want to be the leader of the crowd,” says Espelage. “And the way that they do that is to push kids down the hierarchy.”

    A girl with a worried expression turns around to watch her peers in conversation
    Bullying is often more about the bully than the victim, according to studies into how children feel when they bully others (Credit: Getty Images)
    Other research backs up this idea that bullying is often more about the bully themselves, rather than their victims. In a study of school children in Italy and Spain, pupils took part in an exercise that entailed thinking about a bullying situation from the point of view of the bully. The researchers also gave the children a questionnaire about their peers to categorise each child as either a bully, a victim or an outsider.

    Those who were categorised as bullies by their peers were more likely to respond to the hypothetical bullying incident with statements that focused on how the incident affected the bully themselves (saying things like “I would feel great because I got the attention of other children!”) or statements that showed a lack of empathy (such as “I don’t feel guilty because I don’t think about it” and “I would feel indifferent because the victim doesn’t suffer”).

    Bullying has also taken on new forms in recent years. One common characteristic of bullying as previously defined by academics is that the aggression towards the victim is repeated. But the online world is blurring this due to the potential impact that just one instance of cyberbullying can have.

    “Does it have to happen more than once, when you’ve posted something that’s gone to a million people?” asks Espelage. “Probably not.”

    A child's hands type at a keyboard
    Cyberbullying is making some researchers rethink the definition of what it means to bully (Credit: Getty Images)
    In fact, there’s such a big crossover between school bullying and cyberbullying that some researchers argue they are becoming one and the same – especially now that children often have their phones with them in class. “In my research it was found that many times school bullies continue the harassment online,” says Calli Tzani-Pepelasi, an investigative psychology lecturer at the University of Huddersfield. “They may be sitting next to each other but prefer to bully each other through social media, as that way their actions can be viewed by more and they feel a false sense of fame.”

    So what should you do if you think your child may be bullying other children?

    Getting to the bottom of their motivations is a good first step. “If somebody called me and said your child is engaging in these behaviours, I would want to say [to the child], ‘OK, what are you getting from that? Why are you doing this?’,” says Espelage. “It may be that your child... is in a school where that’s what they’re expected to do.”

    It’s worth considering whether your own actions may be influencing your child’s

    It’s also worth considering whether your own actions may be influencing your child’s. “For some parents, their interpersonal style may be may be modelling that behaviour,” she says.

    One way to address school bullying could be a buddy system designed to foster peer support, where younger students are assigned an older mentee to show them the ropes when they start school.

    A small child looks sad and holds her face in her hands
    Being a victim of bullying in childhood can have life-long effects on a persons self-esteem and mental health (Credit: Getty Images)
    “The fact that younger students have the opportunity to model the right behaviour from the older students” is one advantage of such a system, says Tzani-Pepelasi. But having a supportive school environment in general is also important when it comes to tackling bullying. “It takes a lot of persistence, and consistency from the teachers and the school staff in general, as without them the system cannot function,” she says.

    Espelage agrees that strong relationships between teachers and among peers are key. “What we know from our research is those schools where they pay attention to the issues of connectedness, making sure every kid feels like they belong in that school, there’s less bullying,” she says.

    Often, though, that support isn’t there. In 2014, Espelage and her colleagues published a five-year study showing a worrying link between bullying and sexual harassment in schools. It revealed that bullying among younger children often involves homophobic insults, which then escalates to sexual harassment in later school years.

    Children involved in sexual harassment – both the perpetrators and the victims – often didn’t seem to understand how serious the incidents were

    But the children involved in sexual harassment – both the perpetrators and the victims – often didn’t seem to understand how serious the incidents were, perhaps because teachers may not be stepping in to prevent them.

    “That continuum of aggression from bullying, to homophobic name-calling, to sexual violence, to teen dating violence is real,” says Espelage.

    As for whether kids grow out of bullying once they leave school, Espelage says some may do so – or find a different outlet for their aggression – but not all. “I would argue, based on my experience, that some [school bullies] go into professions in which that type of behaviour works for them, whether that's a police officer, a professor at a university, a lawyer.”

    Perhaps saddest of all, however, is that the impact of bullying on victims can last for decades, leading to poorer physical and psychological health. Youngz, who was bullied throughout secondary school, has now trained as a grief recovery specialist, and hopes to be able to help others who have been through similar kinds of loss.

    The bullying was loss of feeling normal, loss of trust, loss of safety and security – RubySam Youngz

    “The bullying has been part of that because it was loss of feeling normal, loss of trust, loss of safety and security,” she says.

    Her main bully contacted her via Facebook earlier this year to apologise. When she received the message, Youngz felt angry. “It did nothing for me at all personally to relieve any pain that she put me through,” she says. “It might have helped her, I don’t know.”

    But when it comes down to it, she thinks the apology – just like the bullying that had such a negative impact on her life – was really more about the bully than about Youngz herself.

    “I have compassion towards her because I can understand maybe why she did what she did, because she may have been having troubles at home as well,” she says. “But I’m not agreeing with what she did.”

    The International Cricket Council (ICC) will review the security arrangements put in place in Pakistan before appointing the match officials for the upcoming home series against Sri Lanka beginning September 27.According to a Pakistan Urdu daily 'Daily Jang', the ICC will analyse the security plans to be put in place by the Pakistan government before appointing neutral umpires and match referees.

    Towering at an imposing height of 350 metres, the highest self-supported structure in South Asia, the Lotus Tower or Nelum Kuluna will now enable local and foreign visitors to enjoy panoramic views of our paradise island from today.President Maithripala Sirisena will open Lotus Tower in Colombo today (16) at the inauguration ceremony which will be held at 5.00 pm with the expected participation of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President and Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRC) has also invited all Parliamentarians among other dignitaries, to the inauguration.

    Among other features, the tower comprises a telecommunications museum, a revolving restaurant, a hotel, an auditorium, a conference hall, a ballroom and an observation deck.The construction of the 350-metre-high Multi-Functional Transmission Television and Telecommunications Tower was earlier scheduled to be completed in March 2015. Today, the Lotus Tower finally blossoms today after a delay of four years.

    A sum of US$ 104 million has been spent for the construction of the tower, of which 80 percent of the cost has been borne by China Exim Bank. The Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRC), China National Electronics Import and Export Corporation (CEIEC) and Aerospace Long-March International Trade Company Limited (ALIT) signed the contract for the project in 2012.

    Locally designed

    The Faculty of Architecture of University of Moratuwa was given the unique opportunity to provide professional advice on design for this project. The Faculty of Architecture also provided professional advice on cost planning and cost control of the project. The university team of consultants included Emeritus Professor Nimal de Silva, Senior Professor Samitha Manawadu and Professor Chitra Weddikkara, the TRC said.

    Senior Professor attached to the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Moratuwa Professor Samitha Manawadu, who is the Coordinating Consultant and Team Leader of the Lotus Tower project, told the Daily News: “Lotus Tower is the highest free-standing multi-functional transmission television and telecommunications tower in South Asia. There is a military antenna in India that is higher than Lotus Tower. But there is nothing like Lotus Tower, which is the tallest self-supported structure in the whole of South Asia.”

    Project cost

    Speaking of the total value of the project, Professor Manawadu said, “US$ 104 million was the initial value calculated upon which we entered into a contract. But now, the total cost of this project has increased. Nevertheless, since we entered into the contract with a fixed fee lump sum, the project is valued to be US$ 104 million and that value cannot be changed. There were many political interruptions that hindered the construction activities of Lotus Tower for four years.”

    “Technically, the contractor should be able to claim a payment for these delays. However, the nature of the contract we had entered into did not give space for that. Considering these factors, we can safely say that the whole value of this project should be around US$ 200 million, and if we add the value of the land, it should be worth US$ 300 million,” Professor Manawadu said.

    “In 12 years’ time, we should be able to recover the full cost of the project, and as forecast, after 14 years, this project should generate profits. This forecast was projected when the tower only facilitated conference halls. Now that the project has shopping malls included, I believe Lotus Tower would be able to make profits before the period of time we initially forecast. A well-designed business plan is crucial to achieve that,” Manawadu added.

    Recently, Cabinet approval was granted to set up a state institution to handle the administration activities of the tower. Prof. Manawadu said that the state body would function under the guidance of the Finance Ministry. The state body has been established as a precursor to the business plan introduced for Lotus Tower by the TRC, Professor Manawadu said.

    “This state body will follow the nature of a state institution such as SriLankan Airlines. This state body will promote business for Lotus Tower both locally and internationally. They will be responsible for finding investors, calling for tenders, evaluating them and implementation. The process to start the commercial activities of the tower would take another month or two,” he said.

    A report issued by the Auditor General’s Department recently caught media attention as it claimed that the government has incurred a loss of Rs. 5,475 million due to the delay in construction of the project.

    Commenting on these media reports, Professor Manawadu said that in fact it was not a “loss” that has been incurred, but an “opportunity cost.”

    “It seems that this so-called loss calculation was carried out based on the financial feasibility report prepared by us which predicted the annual income of Lotus Tower for 15 years. It seems that the projected annual income has been multiplied by the number of years the project was delayed, meaning from 2015 to 2019, and the conclusion arrived at is that there has been a loss. One must understand that this sum is not a physical cost but an opportunity cost. Sadly, the reports spread across the media but no one bothered to use the correct terms,” Professor Manawadu said.

    A unique tower

    According to the TRC, “Lotus Tower is a unique construction in the field of electronic communication in Sri Lanka. The base of this unique design consists of four storeys; the basement is reserved for the main kitchen, air conditioning, electrical operating systems and elevator systems. The ground floor is the surface level of the tower building. This level is completely reserved for entry of visitors, visitor-waiting facilities, VIP entrances, VIP waiting points, a shopping mall, and information counters. The first floor is dedicated to a shopping mall. The second floor is reserved for a shopping mall and an area for VIP access. The third floor is the roof of the tower. This area can be used for holding open shows, meetings and events.”

    Tower House

    The section known as the Tower House is in the shape of a lotus. The colours of the lotus petals change periodically. With a height of 45 metres from 215 to 260 metres, this section has nine levels. The first and second levels are exclusively for radio and television transmissions; the first level is exclusively for radio transmission, while the second level is dedicated to television transmission.

    The third and fourth levels will function as event halls and dining rooms. The third level lounge has space for 250 guests. The fourth level is also a reception hall, accommodating 280 guests. The two halls on the different floors are connected by staircases.

    The fifth level is a revolving restaurant. Up to 200 guests can use this facility simultaneously, and the cafeteria takes 90 minutes to rotate one circle. This revolving restaurant and the two halls are also linked by a stairway.

    The sixth level has eight luxury rooms designed for state guests. These rooms are well equipped with all amenities.

    The seventh level is an outdoor observation deck, giving people the opportunity to view the city and its surroundings at a height of 245 metres. This will be a unique experience for the people, the TRC media unit said.

    The eighth and ninth levels are dedicated to various services including elevators and air conditioning.

    Antenna Mast

    The Antenna Mast at the top of the tower is the main feature of Lotus Tower. The entire length of the Antenna Mast is about 90 metres and it is a heavy steel structure. It has been designed to accommodate 20 television broadcasting companies, 50 FM broadcasters and telecom operators.

    University don sums up

    Professor Manawadu also said that Lotus Tower has the fastest elevators in Sri Lanka. “There are five elevators operating in the tower. Three of these elevators function at the speed of seven metres per second, which means a person can reach the top of the tower within 40 seconds. They are the fastest elevators in Sri Lanka. Earlier, the fastest elevators were at the World Trade Centre which covered three metres per second. Our elevators run at more than twice that speed,” he said.

    Professor Manawadu said, “This is one of the largest projects to which I have contributed. But I did not do this individually. The University of Moratuwa was given this great opportunity to provide professional advice on design for this project. We are very proud of our contribution to this project. We are also extremely happy and humbled by it. Most importantly, when foreign countries carry out a project like this, they seek other foreign experts to run it. They will usually select a world-famous architect for such a project. I have to commend former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government for giving us the opportunity to contribute to this project.”

    “We took the technology from foreign experts and transferred it to the local construction industry. Our team had about 70 consultants including senior lecturers and we trained about 60 graduate engineers. Through this project, we were able to contribute immensely to the construction industry in Sri Lanka. I did not undertake this project in my private capacity, but in my capacity as Senior Professor attached to the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Moratuwa,” he said.

    Prevailing showery condition over the island is expected to continue during next few days. Showers or thundershowers will occur at times in Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, Central, Northern and North-western provinces and heavy falls about 100-150 mm are likely at some places in these areas. Showers or thundershowers will occur elsewhere over the island after 2.00 p.m and fairly heavy falls above 75 mm are likely at some places. General public is kindly requested to take adequate precautions to minimize damages caused by temporary localized strong winds and lightning.

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