Ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour and cy­ber­bul­ly­ing on so­cial me­dia is on the rise, mak­ing it cru­cial that stu­dents, schools, com­mu­nity groups and Gov­ern­ment work to­gether to re­duce bul­ly­ing in the class­room and beyond.

The Australian Education Reporter - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA DAVIES

WITH the deaths of young bully vic­tims like Amy “Dolly” Everett in the spot­light, sta­tis­tics show sui­cide as the lead­ing cause of death for Aus­tralian chil­dren aged be­tween 5 and 17 years.

Pro­fes­sor Donna Cross is an ex­pert in child and ado­les­cent men­tal health, bul­ly­ing and cy­ber bul­ly­ing pre­ven­tion, with more than 22 years of re­search un­der her belt.

In her work with the Telethon Kids In­sti­tute and the Friendly Schools Plus pro­gram, Pro­fes­sor Cross has stud­ied the causes, ef­fects and ways to pre­vent and re­duce bul­ly­ing with in­volve­ment of more than 300,000 Aus­tralian stu­dents.

Pro­fes­sor Cross ad­vo­cates for a whole school and whole com­mu­nity ap­proach to cre­ate sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ments to re­duce bul­ly­ing.

“Every­body needs to be tak­ing ac­tion that dis­cour­ages bul­ly­ing,” she said.

“There’s ev­i­dence that shows that if a teacher is on duty at re­cess or lunchtime and they ob­serve two chil­dren be­ing ag­gres­sive with each other, that ag­gres­sion will in­crease more if that teacher, adult or par­ent does noth­ing, than it would if there were no adults there at all.”

Ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Cross, young peo­ple read in­ac­tion on the part of adults as con­don­ing the be­hav­iour. When an adult or teacher does re­act, kids know that’s the thresh­old point.

“The most ef­fec­tive way to re­duce bul­ly­ing is if the by­standers take ac­tion – by sup­port­ing the tar­get, seek­ing adults’ help, show­ing dis­taste to­wards the be­hav­iour, or even mes­sag­ing the per­son be­ing bul­lied to check to see if they are okay; any ac­tion that will min­imise the harm to the tar­get and

demon­strates that they do not agree with the ac­tions be­ing taken by the per­pe­tra­tor,” she said.

“If a young per­son doesn’t feel they have enough so­cial sta­tus to step in and help some­body who’s be­ing bul­lied, they can try to dis­tract the per­son bul­ly­ing by say­ing ‘oh come on, let’s go do some­thing else’, to try to re­duce the con­flict in­di­rectly.”

Tak­ing ac­tion is al­ways more ef­fec­tive if the school has a strong anti-bul­ly­ing cul­ture. This means stu­dents stand­ing up to bul­ly­ing know there is ac­cep­tance or en­cour­age­ment within the school for that pos­i­tive be­hav­iour or ac­tion from by­standers; an ac­tive dis­cour­age­ment of bul­ly­ing be­hav­iour.

“The most pow­er­ful ways to dis­cour­age bul­ly­ing are through peers, and set­ting a school cul­ture and tone that en­cour­ages pos­i­tive so­cial be­hav­iour,” Pro­fes­sor Cross said.

Re­search has shown that it’s rare for chil­dren to come to an adult for help – around a quar­ter of girls and 10 per cent of boys.

Pro­fes­sor Cross sug­gests if a stu­dent does ap­proach a teacher for help, teach­ers need to struc­ture their re­sponse around four ac­tions that form the ba­sis of the LATE Model.

LATE can be used by adults and peers to show young peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dif­fi­cul­ties that they are be­ing lis­tened to and that they are in con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion and what hap­pens next.

“This ap­proach is restora­tive and em­pow­er­ing, we’re try­ing to build on the strengths of the young per­son rather than tak­ing over and en­cour­ag­ing learned help­less­ness,” she said.

“It’s a del­i­cate con­ver­sa­tion and teach­ers need to re­spect how hard it was for that young per­son to speak to an adult and to work through a process that em­pow­ers that young per­son and gives them con­trol and agency in the sit­u­a­tion.”

“The er­ror we’ve of­ten made in the past is be­liev­ing that the best ac­tion is for par­ents or teach­ers to take over and quickly fix the sit­u­a­tion. When we talk about chil­dren not hav­ing enough re­silience, or not be­ing able to help them­selves, it’s largely be­cause we haven’t trained and sup­ported them to do that.”

Pro­fes­sor Cross ad­vises par­ents not to just block or ban chil­dren from the in­ter­net as they also risk block­ing chil­dren’s learn­ing.

“We of­ten draw anal­ogy with cy­ber bul­ly­ing, on­line en­vi­ron­ments and dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy with the way par­ents think about swim­ming pools,” she said.

“If par­ents con­sider that the tech­nol­ogy or on­line en­vi­ron­ment is like a swim­ming pool – you can put a fence around it, fil­ter it or block a child’s use but will the child ever learn to swim prop­erly?

“They need ed­u­ca­tion and sup­port and adults to be more knowl­edge­able and help­ful in un­der­stand­ing dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ments. We all need to make an ef­fort to un­der­stand our chil­dren’s needs and skills to keep them safe and en­hance the pos­i­tive ben­e­fit of on­line en­vi­ron­ments.

“Tech­nol­ogy is not go­ing to go away, swim­ming pools are not go­ing to go away – chil­dren are go­ing to be swim­ming at some point in their life.”

While cy­ber­bul­ly­ing of­ten hap­pens beyond the school yard, Pro­fes­sor Cross said that schools have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­vide stu­dent sup­port if the be­hav­iour is af­fect­ing the stu­dents’ learn­ing. Schools can ap­proach the e-safety Com­mis­sioner’s of­fice if they feel it’s beyond their ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“If a child is be­ing bul­lied about an im­age on­line and they don’t know how to get it down the E-safety Com­mis­sioner’s of­fice can help,” Pro­fes­sor Cross said.

State Govern­ments are ris­ing to the chal­lenge, in­tro­duc­ing a range of ini­tia­tives for a whole school com­mu­nity ap­proach to re­duce bul­ly­ing.

South Aus­tralian State Lib­er­als have re­vealed an anti-bul­ly­ing pack­age which would re­place the con­tro­ver­sial Safe Schools pro­gram with a tar­geted fo­cus on cy­ber­bul­ly­ing.

The An­drews La­bor Gov­ern­ment in Vic­to­ria has in­tro­duced a $7 mil­lion Anti-bul­ly­ing and Men­tal Health Ini­tia­tive which in­cludes re­sources and train­ing for schools to help re­duce the risk of sui­cide and man­age stu­dents’ re­cov­ery from bul­ly­ing.

Queens­land Pre­mier An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk has also fo­cused on cy­ber­bul­ly­ing for the new Youth Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil and the Queens­land Fam­i­lies and Child Com­mis­sion (QFCC), and a statewide sur­vey of chil­dren will be in­cluded in an is­sues pa­per the Pre­mier in­tends to spon­sor at the Fe­bru­ary COAG meet­ing.

The Queens­land Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion also co­or­di­nates the Na­tional Day of Ac­tion against Bul­ly­ing and Vi­o­lence which this year will be held on 16 March.

The NSW gov­ern­ment is also launch­ing a com­pre­hen­sive ini­tia­tive to re­duce bul­ly­ing in schools dur­ing 2018.

For more in­for­ma­tion about how your school can get in­volved visit: www.bul­ly­ing­

For more in­for­ma­tion on the e-safety Com­mis­sioner visit:

Im­age: Of­fice of the esafety. Com­mis­sioner

Pro­fes­sor Donna Cross has stud­ied more than 300,000 stu­dents across the coun­try to de­velop ef­fec­tive anti-bul­ly­ing pro­grams.

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