The National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence (NDA) is now permanently on the third Friday in August – in 2023, this day is today, Friday 18 August.
In 2022, 68 per cent of Australian schools joined together to say ‘Bullying. No Way!’ The NDA is an opportunity to create a shared understanding of what is bullying, outline your bullying prevention policies and show support to students who may be experiencing bullying.
The NDA theme for 2023 is ‘growing connections’. This theme supports research findings that strong school community connections and social skills are protective factors in the prevention of bullying and help enable positive, help-seeking behaviours in students.
Whether you’re a parent, teacher, student or member of the broader community, everyone has a role to play in preventing bullying.
Signs of bullying
Each student who has been impacted by, or involved in, bullying others will respond and act differently.
A student’s behaviours and moods can change for a variety of reasons.
Teachers, parents and carers need to be alert to the possibility that a change in a child’s behaviours and moods could be related to bullying.
If you are concerned about your child’s behaviour or mood, talk with them about school and ask general questions about how things are going.
Signs a teacher might notice include if a student: seems upset, unhappy or angry; starts to experience conflict with peers; is sitting alone during class or lunch times; does not want to talk about what is wrong; withdraws from friends and activities they previously enjoyed, or; drops in academic performance.
Types of bullying
Bullying is usually described by the types of behaviours involved, so we talk about verbal, social and physical bullying.
Bullying is sometimes also labelled by where it occurs or by what type of harm is done. These words can be used alone or in combination. It can be confusing!
Type of behaviour – verbal, physical and social
There are three types of bullying behaviour: verbal bullying which includes name calling or insulting someone about their physical characteristics such as weight or height, or other attributes including race, sexuality, culture, or religion; physical bullying which includes hitting or otherwise hurting someone, shoving or intimidating another person, or damaging or stealing their belongings, or; social bullying which includes consistently excluding another person or sharing information, images or other digital content that will have a harmful effect on the other person.
These behaviours alone don’t define bullying. If any of these behaviours occur only once, or are part of a conflict between equals (no matter how inappropriate) they are not bullying. It is important to note that when a behaviour occurs online and is published, distributed or shared to a wider audience, that this may be considered bullying.
Online settings have added complexities which can create additional concerns for students, parents and carers, and teachers. For example, cyberbullying includes the potential for content to be recorded, distributed and viewed by an audience far beyond what was intended.
Research shows that children who experience cyberbullying are often also bullied in person. This means that effectively dealing with cyberbullying may require an examination of bullying behaviour in other settings.
The potential to cause harm
The physical harm caused by some types of bullying is well recognised.
More recently, research has confirmed that short-term and long-term psychological harm can result from bullying. This includes the harm to a person’s social standing or reducing a person’s willingness to socialise through bullying (particularly covert social bullying).
In fact, just the fear of bullying happening can create distress and harm. The ongoing nature of bullying can lead to the person being bullied feeling powerless and unable to stop it from happening.
The effects of bullying, particularly on the mental health and wellbeing of those involved, including bystanders, can continue even after the situation is resolved.
Sometimes the term ‘psychological bullying’ is used to describe making threats and creating ongoing fear, but it is more accurate to describe this type of behaviour as ‘verbal or social bullying’ and the impact on the person being bullied as ‘psychological harm’.
Bullying can happen anywhere
Bullying can happen at home, at work or at school, and can occur between students, staff and parents. It can happen to anyone.
Bullying. No Way! focuses on bullying between students, usually called student bullying or school bullying.
Teachers who are experiencing bullying at school should contact their supervisor, health and safety representative, human resources department or union. Information related to workplace bullying is available at Australia’s Fair Work Commission
Whether you are a parent, teacher, student or member of the broader community, everyone has a role to play in preventing the bullying of children and young people, says yourtown Chief Executive Officer Tracy Adams.
Today, Ms Adams is urging everyone to think about how we can develop stronger connections within our communities to foster positive, help-seeking behaviour, and stop bullying behaviour in its tracks.
In 2022, one in 10 Kids Helpline @ School sessions delivered by counsellors to primary schools focused on bullying or cyberbullying, with a total 109 sessions being held on bullying (64 sessions) and cyber bulling (45 sessions).
In addition to Kids Helpline@School, Ms Adams said bullying was in the top 10 concerns for young people in 2022 connecting with Kids Helpline counsellors with 1 in every 23 counselling responses.
‘At Kids Helpline we talk to young people every day about not being a bystander when they witness bullying but being an upstander instead.’
Some recommended strategies for parents to talk to their children about include: show you disapprove, e.g., frowning at a mean joke, shake your head to show you don’t think that it’s right; interrupt the bullying by talking to the person being bullied, e.g., ‘Hey Jack, there you are!’; give the person being bullied an excuse to leave the situation. e.g., ‘The teacher is looking for you’ or, ‘Hey, can you come help me with something for a minute?’.
When a young person reaches out to a trusted adult to tell them they are being bullied, they should be heard and taken seriously. Parents play a critical role in bullying prevention by role modelling positive behaviours and also providing the space for their children to connect and talk openly about this issue. By encouraging connection and discussion about bullying, parents are also role modelling how children should talk about and approach the issue with their peers when they see it happen.
‘We encourage parents not only to lead by example by demonstrating respect, but to educate themselves about how and where bullying is conducted, including online, and to look out for the signs that something might be worrying their child,’ says Ms Adams. ‘A really good way to “open the connection” with children is to go through some of the tips and information on the Kids Helpline website.’
Connecting children to help through yourtown’s free Kids Helpline @ School program is an excellent way that primary-aged children can build strong social skills to stop bullying behaviour, and support those experiencing bullying.
The program is supported by the BUPA Foundation and delivered by qualified Kids Helpline counsellors via video link to school classrooms and is free to all primary school students across Australia.
Teachers can book a free session through schools.kidshelpline.com.au.
Good quality research on bullying in schools is critical to guide effective practice.
An enormous amount of literature exists on this topic, and it can be daunting to know where to start.
Bullying. No Way! has reviewed the research on bullying for Australian educators and produced a series of research snapshots that outline the implications of the research for educational policy and practice.
Fact sheets including: • What is bullying, including online bullying? • What is the prevalence of bullying in schools? • Who is involved in bullying? • What are the impacts of bullying? • What role do parents and carers have in relation to bullying? • What is the role of school culture and school climate in countering bullying? • What is the role of school policy? • What evidence-based practices can schools adopt?
Fact sheets can be downloaded from the from the Bullying. No Way! website.