United Against Bullying

United Against Bullying

By Erin Archer


Friday was National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence (NDA), which is an Australian school initiative that provides learning environments with a range of resources and materials to combat bullying.

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, roughly 1 in 4 students around the nation have reported being bullied from primary school to high school.

To try and combat these figures, the national day of action aims to capture and share ideas that highlight the importance of working together to address the increasing problem of bullying.

image: Yass Tribune

Students all over the country participated in workshops, special events, and lessons on Friday at their respective schools for NDA, with some even starting their preparations earlier this week.

Springfield Central State students in Queensland were joined on Wednesday by the state’s Education Minister Grace Grace, in a cyber safety workshop.

The minister said young people are comfortable with the ‘how to’ of technology but it was important they know more about appropriate online behaviour – which is where the state’s Cybersafety and Reputation Management team comes into play.

“Our cybersafety team’s workshops cover safe, positive and respectful online behaviours and how to develop and leave a positive online footprint”, she said.

Another school which had events in the lead up to NDA was Yass High School in New South Wales.

It hosted an information session for parents on Thursday night, which discussed ideas around bullying prevention, and was an opportunity to educate parents about bullying in general.

Two million students took part in activities for the national day, across 4,355 schools in Australia – a number that is nearly double the participation rate of 2017.

According to CEO of Headspace Jason Trethowan, NDA is a good opportunity for Australians to ‘stop, think, and reflect on the impacts of bullying’, and provides parents a gateway to start a conversation with their children about bullying.


Communication Is Key

One of the key messages Headspace wants to get across to parents, is that the child being bullied should be a part of the decision making process, and involved in what the appropriate steps forward should be.

Mr Trethowan warned parents to remain calm when talking to their child about bullying, and that it’s important to ask what they want to see as a result of them being bullied, and have a shared plan.

“Being very supportive, allowing the young person plenty of time to engage in the conversation, because they need to be a part of the solution with the parents”

According to Mr Trethowan, conversations about bullying is always a two way street.

But parent involvement in the fight to eradicating bullying in schools and online, can go further than just communication and it involves being a good role model for children.

This is the view of yourtown/Kids Helpline CEO Tracy Adams, who wants more of the anti-bullying debate to cover what’s causing the bullying behaviour, and addressing this at it’s grass roots.

She said the way adults manage conflict resolution in both a home environment and in the classroom, can be reflected in the way children treat other children.

“Often when we think about behaviours that can lead to bullying, it’s behaviours relating to how we manage conflict or our inability to manage conflict in ways that are respectful or collaborative,” she said.

Ms Adams said children can pick up on the negative mannerisms adults use with when conversing with each other, like aggressive language and tone, or disregarding opinions.

“As adults we’ve got a lot to reflect on as role models, and the way that we behave, because children are watching,” she said.


Technology and Bullying

National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence also highlights the importance that parents understand the technology that their child can access.

Figures from the eSafety Commission state that one in five young people have experienced cyberbullying, and with the quick advancements of technology, these incidences could grow.

image: Bullying No Way

Kellie Britnell is the manager of education and outreach for the office of the eSafety commissioner, and her advice for parents is to talk to their children on national days like NDA, but to also follow up with future conversations about the issue of bullying.

She also advised parents to know about what technology their child is using, and have a sound understanding of how it works, so they can communicate effectively with their child if cyberbullying is occurring.

“As adults we mightn’t be as familiar with the Snapchat and Instagram stories, because we’re not as ingrained in that way of communicating [but] we have to talk and get them to explain how it works.

“You don’t have to be on it, but you have to have an understanding of what happens,” she said.

According to Ms Britnell, there is a direct correlation between online bullying and face-to-face bullying in the school yard, and that these days what happens in the playground will often make its way to social media.

However Jason Trethowan stressed that social media is not the enemy when it comes to addressing cyberbullying, and that online communicating shouldn’t be demonised.

“We need to recognise that it’s here and we need to work with it, in the same way we’ve learnt for generations on how to deal with bullying in the school yard, we’re now trying to work through the best way to deal with bullying online,” he said.


Why Do Kids Bully Others?

While digital devices play a part in bullying, banning smartphones and computers from young people’s lives won’t make the behaviour stop, as stated by yourtown/Kids Helpline CEO Tracey Adams.

She said the reasons for bullying behaviours can vary from retribution for harm, peer pressure, or just immaturity.

New data from the Kids Helpline found 52 percent of young people who reported they engaged in cyberbullying, were also being cyberbullied themselves, something the organisation said blurred the line of “bully” and “bullied”.

Ms Adams said the issue of bullying is complex and there isn’t just one solution, and more focus should be on delving into the many reasons why young people bully.

Mr Trethowan also recognised that bullying is a complex issue, and said that in nearly 9 out of 10 times that bullying occurs, it’s actually being witnessed by others.

“You’ve got the bully themselves, you’ve got those who are being bullied and those who are the bystanders,” he said.

The first step to combat bullying, according to Ms Adams, is for adults in the community to promote inclusiveness and effective communication, and show children the benefits of a positive relationship with others.

“I think if we can promulgate that in the classroom and our homes, then the children are learning behaviours that are going to mitigate some of the really serious consequences that we see from bullying,” she said.


Don’t Wait To Talk About Bullying

There are no official statistics on suicides due to bullying, and while national suicide rates in Australia are declining, the number of people between 15 and 24 taking their own life has seen a rise in recent years.

National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence came following the devastating news of Amy “Dolly” Everett taking her own life earlier this year, due to online bullying.

The 14-year-old had been the face of a well known ad campaign, for the iconic Australian outback hat firm Akubra, when she was eight years old.

Kellie Britnell urged to parents that the conversation about bullying can’t wait until another incident like this is covered in the news.

“The earlier you can start the better, and it’s about making it a part of everyday conversation.”

Mr Trethowan said young people can often feel like they can’t speak up if they are being bullied, in fear that it might get worse, but this in reality can have adverse effects.

“Mental health issues may emerge, it may trigger some feelings around anxiety or symptoms of depression as well,” he said.

But he said it’s important young people find someone they can trust to have that conversation, if bullying is occurring.

“We’ve had so many great examples where young people have identified that they are being bullied, they have spoken to a trusted person, and together they have actually worked out a plan on how to deal with it,” he said.


Have a listen to NRN Senior Journalist Erin Archer’s long form radio piece on bullying in Australia


About author

earche04 72 posts

Erin joined the NRN team straight after graduating from a Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) at Charles Sturt University in 2016.

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