Bullying: enough is enough
- Union submission to anti-cyberbullying taskforce in response to growing concerns about the prevalence and impact of cyberbullying in schools.
- Bullying begins in early childhood, making early intervention important.
- Clear policies in schools are needed on how to deal with cyberbullying where it impacts on interactions between students at a school.
Policy-makers are eager to show they take bullying and cyberbullying seriously; however, what is required to address this issue in schools?
The formation of the Taskforce by the Queensland government was to provide advice and coordination in relation to developing and implementing an anti-cyberbullying framework for Queensland.
What is the issue?
Lecturer in Child Development, Child Protection and Educational Psychology at the University of South Australia, Dr Lesley-anne Ey, said while there was a shortage of research on bullying amongst very young children, it has found that bullying is present in early childhood educational settings, making early intervention important.
“International and Australian research has found that children under the age of eight years commonly confuse bullying behaviour with developmentally normal conflict and aggression, suggesting a need for education about bullying with this age group.
“Currently there is a lack of anti-bullying educational resources and programs for young children, with formal education being absent in the Australian curriculum in the junior primary and preschool years.
“Early intervention and education can prevent pre-bullying and bullying behaviour from occurring and such approaches should begin in early childhood,” Dr Ey said.
How will this impact on teachers?
School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Professor Marilyn Campbell, said the best way to address bullying in schools was to take a longer term, multi-tiered approach.
“Programs which work in primary schools are much less effective in secondary schools, whose students need a different approach. In our research on individually counselling students who persistently bully using motivational interviewing, it took about three months of weekly sessions to effect a change,” Professor Campbell said.
Building on existing programs is also important.
“Any approach takes time and effort and should have a strengths-based focus, making use of the invaluable, nationally available resources which are evidence-informed. The Student Wellbeing Hub with its professional module ‘Resilient & Inclusive Classrooms’ and the internationally unique National Safe Schools Framework provides an overarching anti-bullying wellbeing policy framework for all schools.”
Our members’ experience shows that schools need to establish clear policies about how they will deal with cyberbullying where it impacts on, or is an extension of, interactions between students at a school.
Such policies should make it clear that cyberbullying — including cyberbullying outside school hours or on external devices — will not be tolerated.
It is also imperative that teachers educate students to understand that if they engage in cyberbullying, they can be the subject of disciplinary action, including suspension or exclusion, taken by the school.
To address cyberbullying, members have flagged the need for:
- Clear policies regarding how schools deal with cyberbullying;
- Consistent and strong action taken by school management when dealing with complaints of cyberbullying; and
- Clear zero-tolerance message to students.