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Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 08:50

Parents worry about impact of school boycotts

By Frannie Guan in Hong Kong

Parents of secondary school students are increasingly concerned about the well-being of their children — fearing they risk being bullied or isolated at school if they refuse to join class boycotts.

Some student activists have been using aggressive tactics to pressure their classmates at school into participating in the rally.

Stella Kun’s daughter, a 17-year-old secondary school student in Tuen Mun, is one victim who feels cornered by over-zealous friends. 

Kun noticed the girl coming home last week silent and upset. She later told Kun her friends had threatened not to socialize with her if she did not join the boycott.

“They even ridiculed her that she did not care about the future of Hong Kong,” Kun said.

Although secondary school students are required to submit to school parental consent about their absence because of the boycott, friends of Kun’s daughter told her not to say anything to her parents. Absence from school without prior permission from parents can lead to punishment.

The girl was caught in the middle. She broke down in tears when she finally gathered the courage to tell Kun.

“She made a good decision by not taking part and telling me everything. But the concern that she would be isolated is real,” Kun said.

Peer pressure also affects Emily Wong’s 14-year-old son, a student at a secondary school in Kwun Tong. Wong said she had warned her son of the possible consequences of participating in the class boycott.

He has six close friends at school, but what they now mostly talk about is the boycott, which makes it hard for him to fit in.

Wong said she was worried about her son being bullied if he refused to join his friends.

“I saw news today that some students ran into conflict with guards in front of government premises. I can imagine the pain their parents would feel when they see their children exposing themselves to the dangers associated with this radical political activity.”

One Hong Kong parent called a local radio program on Tuesday, complaining about a bombardment of telephone calls to persuade their child to join the boycott. These have made the child fearful of answering the phone and waking up at night panicking.

“Children of my son’s age are not mature enough. What if they dragged him to join the boycott by force?” said Wong. She is prepared to ask for leave for her son from school, if the nagging and pressure from his classmates worsens.

Diana Lai, a psychological counselor in Hong Kong, said although peer pressure among adolescents was common, if a young student is put under such continuous stress the effects might be harmful to the student’s personal development and psychological well-being.


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