Let's talk about bullying
Bullying remains one of the most pressing issues in the Australian school system. It is a problem that impacts 27 per cent of students between the ages of eight and 14. While these figures have dipped in recent years (down from 38 per cent in 2006), there is little doubt that one in four children experiencing bullying is a damning statistic.
Essentially the use of real or perceived power to control or harm other people, bullying is typically thought of in a schoolyard environment. While this is a common occurrence, the reality is that bullies operate in broader circles including personal relationships and the workforce.
Forms of bullying
Physical abuse like punching or kicking another person may be the first thing that springs to mind when the notion of bullying is brought up but hurtful teasing and lying are reported to be the most common forms of the practice. There appears to be a distinct gender divide when it comes to bullying, with males adopting a face-to-face approach compared to females who tend to operate in a more covert manner.
Technological advancements in the last decade have been extensive and have fostered the growth of cyber bullying. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can be manipulated into platforms for online abuse, while the instantaneity of smartphone messaging can also be exploited to inflict emotional harm.
Influence of peers
On many occasions, the act of bullying doesn’t simply involve the perpetrator and the victim. In fact, a recent report revealed that peers were present in 87 per cent of instances and the majority were spectators who made no attempt to assist the person being harassed.
This type of inactivity is detrimental as it creates a situation where the bully stands unopposed and will therefore be less likely to stop. However, if one of the onlookers were to intervene, it sends a strong message that bullying isn’t tolerated.
Bullying can have significant ramifications that extend beyond leaving school. A 2015 report on Victorian Year 10 students documented that cyber bullying victims were four times more likely to experience depression, with the risk of self-harm doubling.
The same research uncovered that the cyber bullies themselves were twice as prone to violent behaviour and even more likely to steal/Both victims and perpetrators alike were at three times increased risk of school suspension and binge drinking.
The advice given to children being bullied traditionally revolved around ignoring the perpetrator, standing up for yourself and informing a teacher or guardian. Yet the birth of cyber bullying has resulted in fierce debate about what measures should be implemented to stop the type of online abuse that has seen teenagers take their own lives both in Australia and overseas.
From the victim’s perspective, informing a parent or trusted adult remains a key factor, as is saving the evidence and when possible, reporting the conduct via the social media network being used. Avoiding situations that can lead to cyber bullying is also important, such as sending inappropriate photos or sharing passwords to social media accounts.