Bullying No Way!
“Eat the dirt now” was all that I could hear.
The demand was ringing in my ears, louder and louder! My heart was hurting, but not because I didn’t want to eat dirt but because I was afraid for my little brother. They were making him eat dirt and I needed to make them stop. They had to stop. “Stop doing that,” I said. “Leave him alone. Leave us both alone.”
This isn’t a scene from a movie, this happened to my younger brother and I at school and unfortunately situations like this happen every day of the week in other schools across Australia.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. March 17 is the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence and it is an opportunity for schools, students and community organisations across Australia to work together and say “Bullying No Way!”
Bullying is harassment and can be a violation of a person’s human rights. Yet it is such a common and often ignored serious problem – especially in schools.
Everyone has the right to learn, live, work and play in a supportive environment that is respectful, safe and free from violence. But in a world where bullying seriously impacts the person being bullied, those around them and even the person doing the bullying that is hard to achieve.
There are five main forms of bullying – physical, verbal, mental, cyber and sexual. All forms can negatively affect the wellbeing of young people and in some cases the effects can be catastrophic, with some people choosing to take their own life as a result of being bullied. Recent data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows Australian youth suicide rates have reached their highest point in thirteen years. And while there are many factors influencing young people who attempt to take their own life, there are many tragic cases of children at school who have been unable to manage the sadness and stress of being bullied.
Bullying also negatively impacts the academic success of many Australian school students. According to the Australian Council for Educational Research’s Snapshots Global Assessment for 2015 “Australian year four students who reported being bullied weekly scored lower, on average, in reading, mathematics and science than students who were bullied less often”.
“Bullying is physical or psychological abuse that
can seriously impact the person being bullied.”
Australian parents are certainly expressing their concerns about the way some schools handle bullying, claiming that either no action is taken, or victims are blamed for bullying incidents. Sydney Morning Herald journalist Cosima Marriner reported in an article published last year that a national study of bullying in schools by the University of South Australia exposed a large gulf between what parents expect schools to do about bullying, and what schools actually do. The researchers, UniSA Adjunct Professor Ken Rigby and Dr Kaye Johnson, found that the success rate of stopping bullying for students who sought help from teachers or school counsellors was 36 per cent for primary school students and 22 per cent for secondary students. “Parents were especially concerned about schools not acting promptly, not recognising the serious effects of covert bullying, not informing them of what they were doing about it and generally achieving less satisfactory outcomes for their children,” Prof Rigby said.
Bullying is even filtering into young people’s physical and sexual relationships. Social media has opened the floodgates for young (and older) students to become a target for sexual harassment through cyber bullying. ReachOut.com defines cyber bullying as “any kind of bullying or harassment using technology” which makes it really hard to deal with because it can be very public and hard to remove. According to Child Family Safety Australia girls and boys are often pressured to send nude images of themselves across Snapchat or other social media sites, where receiving users can easily anonymously screenshot and share them. And in a recent article published in the Advertiser journalist Tim Williams reports that cyber bullying is so out of control that it is actually a bigger concern for parents of children who are going back to school than drugs, alcohol, or smoking.
Campaigns like “Bullying No Way” certainly help to educate young people about bullying but there are also a range of other resources that are having a positive impact, like the documentary A Girl Like Her. Through the tragic story of Jessica Burns, who attempted to take her own life because she was bullied, the idea that “only those who are hurt choose to hurt others” is introduced. This is a complex and compassionate message for young people to grasp. A Girl Like Her is a dramatic depiction of bullying that can be shocking and emotive for some viewers, mostly because of the confronting links to teen suicide. Despite many challenging scenes, it has received a hugely positive response from young audiences because its message is simple – compassion and awareness are essential when it comes to bullying because it is everyone’s responsibility to keep children safe.
So, as we move towards the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence, why not encourage your school to get involved. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Doing simple things like running seminars and talks so students and teachers can have open discussions will go a long way to supporting those in need in your school community. Delivering interactive and relatable sessions about how to handle bullying as a bystander, or what to do if you are the victim of bullying, are practical ways every school can make a difference. Lots of cool resources for the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence are available from Bullying No Way! So take a look because its time to tackle this problem head on by loudly and proudly saying “Bullying No Way!”
If you or anyone you know is experiencing distress, there is help in the form of Youth Support Services:
- Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (27/7 crisis support) kidshelpline.com.au
- Headspace: 1800 650 890 headspace.org.au
And the Australian Human Rights Commission also has a complaint handling service that investigates complaints of discrimination, harassment and bullying – 1300 656 419.