The Norwegian Anti-Bully Method That Leaves No One Alone

A widely used approach in Norway to limit youth mob culture and violence has long been exported. Now look for it in Germany, following the July 22 attack in Munich by a teenaged victim of bullying.

The Norwegian Anti-Bully Method That Leaves No One Alone
Hannelore Crolly

MUNICH â€"The 18-year-old had just shot dead nine people and taken refugee in a parking garage, when a man from his balcony nearby started insulting and cursing at him. What did the teenaged gunman do in this extreme situation, with the police hunting him down? He replied, justifying his actions by saying he had been mobbed in school "for seven years." As if that could somehow explain or excuse his terrible act.

In the wake of the July 22 mass shooting in Munich, new questions have arisen about mobbing and bullying of teens. Although harassment and abuse don’t make a murderer, there clearly is a connection between mobbing (both victims and perpetrators) and anti-social behavior. Juvenile bullies are twice as violent as others, while victims are more likely to suffer from clinical depression.

German schools had been late in confronting the problem of bullying. But now there’s a major project to implement the Olweus bullying prevention method, developed in the 1980s in Norway, in 20 schools across Germany. Officials at Olweus, which was devised by the Norwegian psychologist Dan Olweus, say that incidents of mobbing and bullying drop by 70% wherever it is applied.

"Happy students don’t run amok," says Michael Kaess, medical director of the Department of Childhood and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in the Heidelberg University Hospital in central Germany.

German scientists will research the effects in the schools where the program is implement to see if long-term consequences like depression, anxiety disorder, suicide risks or the propensity for people to resort to crime can be minimized.

Playground bully â€" Photo: Thomas Ricker

According to anonymous surveys, one out of four students is effecting by bullying, as a victim, an offender or both. "That’s 25 girls and boys out of 100 students, who suffer from serious repercussions," says Ulrike Reinhardt-Klein, representative of the prevention program of the department of culture of Baden-Württemberg.

Olweus' approach tends to avoid sanctions, focusing instead on a "climate change."

"The school has to develop an attitude," says Reinhardt-Klein. "It is shared conviction that each student has the right to feel safe. The core are clear rules, for all, for example: We will not bully other students. We will try to help students who are being bullied."

The process is meant to involve all: students, teachers, parents, the school secretary, the janitor. Each person is meant to become something of an expert in the phenomenon of bullying and mobbing, with a particular focus on what otherwise might be considered unconcerned onlookers.

Those observing the scenes of bullying occupy, according to Dan Olweus, a central function: It’s the laughter and cheering that give the culprit the attention and acknowledgment that tends to motivate him. "That’s where you can step in," says the child-psychiatrist Kaess. "If the mobbing is not considered cool among peers anymore, it often stops by itself."

What sounds simple, however, requires a major effort for any school. Teachers need to be trained and work together as a group, detailed conferences are needed, students must be involved all along the way.

Bully in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917) â€" Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ideally, regular talks and role playing should be held in class, and it is strongly recommended to involve the parents. Urgent cases of alleged bullying must be discussed individually with the concerned students and parents, but never in class.

What’s particularly important is the atmosphere between lessons, for it’s during the breaks where most of the mobbing happens. It’s important to have a clear line that is followed consistently, says Reinhardt-Klein: Students who show disrespectful behavior towards other students must be confronted immediately.

All of this demands a lot of the concerned parties. This may be why the program has not been widely applied in Germany, even though the European Commission recommended its introduction in 2008. But nothing can be expected to go much further without adding additional staffing in schools.

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Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum


SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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