The National Day of Action [NDA] against Bullying and Violence, held on the third Friday of March each year, is an opportunity for Australian schools to highlight their everyday work to counter bullying and violence. The theme for the 2019 NDA is Bullying. No Way! Take action every day.
The NDA gives schools the chance to take action and empower young people to be part of the solution when addressing bullying in their school community. It provides an opportunity to focus on bullying and the big changes we can make to create safer communities for everyone.
Many of us are familiar with the concept of bullying in one way or another, yet we seem to lack a shared understanding of what exactly constitutes bullying behaviour, especially in the context of online bullying. Despite the way it’s presented by the media, conventional face-to-face bullying is still more common than cyberbullying; though the two often occur simultaneously.
According to Trudy Ludwig ‘What makes bullying different from the normal conflicts kids have with one another is the fact that bullying is comprised of the following key elements: the intent to harm; an imbalance of power; repeated aggression and/or the threat of further aggression.’
Not all hurtful behaviour is bullying and it’s helpful to understand the differences. Having a shared understanding of what bullying is and what it’s not within families, schools and the wider community helps having conversations, as well as prevention and intervention practices and programs.
Cyberbullying is quickly proving to be more insidious than conventional bullying due to a range of distinguishing characteristics:
- It has fewer limitations, insofar as the bully does not have to occupy the same physical space as their target.
- Online bullying can take place at any time of day or night.
- Cyberbullies can remain anonymous and are therefore harder for parents, teachers, or authorities to monitor and/or reprimand.
- The offensive material generally has a much larger and more widespread audience, meaning it can be seen and spread easily and often.
- Cruel or damaging content is hard to ever fully delete from the internet, giving it a sense of permanence.
Australian researchers found that 90% of cyberbullying victims will actively avoid talking to an adult about their experience; either out of fear of reprisal or uncertainty about the identity of the bully. Therefore, parents need to be aware of any changes in their child’s behaviour that could indicate that they’ve been cyberbullied.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides examples of these behaviour changes together with guidance about how to report cyberbullying material to the social media platforms where it’s happening or if that is unsuccessful to the Office of eSafety.
Tips for parents
If your child talks to you about bullying:
- Listen calmly and get the whole story.
- Reassure your child that they are not to blame.
- Ask your child what they want you to do about it and how you can help.
- Visit www.bullyingnoway.gov.au to find strategies.
- Check in regularly with your child.
Parents wanting more advice on addressing cyberbullying will find an excellent resource in “The Parents Survival Guide To Children, Technology & The Internet”.