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A series of key messages by education experts about Bullying in schools and strategies to address this topical issue.

1. Safe students are successful students

“Brain research shows that children who are happy, feel safe and are emotionally balanced do better at schools. Whether your child is personally being bullied or not, we know the environment they are studying in has a huge influence over their student achievement.

In fact schools with bullying problems show academic results on average 5-10% lower than other schools”.

(Virginia High School Safety Study, 2008)

2. “Ignorance is the root of all evil.”

“As Plato wrote around 487 BC, “Ignorance is the root of all evil.” To eradicate discrimination, hatred, bullying and stereotyping, students need to appreciate differences in everyone regardless of background.

Students need to be open-minded, to care and to be empathetic to others. It is these attributes that are instilled by professionally trained educators. We make the world a better place without bullying, without hatred and without discrimination.”

(Mr Will Ore, Head of School – Kingsgate International School)

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3. Some words hurt more than others

“While all teasing, bullying and harassment is harmful, even at moderate levels we know that children who are harassed based on race, religion, ability, perceived sexual orientation, or gender are effected even worse.

In fact research shows that these children are:

  • twice as likely to have their personal belongings stolen or deliberately damaged at school;
  • more likely to report being depressed and attempting suicide;
  • more likely to skip school and have lower grades; and
  • up to 4 times as likely to have been threatened with a weapon at school.”

(Stephen Russell et al. 2012 American Journal of Public Health)

4. You can’t just teach bullying away

“While many schools offer in-class programs to teach children about bullying and harassment they are rarely successful on their own. It is not exactly a topic best learnt from a book. The issues need to be tackled through strategies that impact on “whole of school culture.”

We know Bullying and harassment decreases under circumstances where:

  • the whole school is working together,
  • established school wide rules and consequences for bullying are enforced,
  • educator training is extensive,
  • parent engagement is consistent,
  • classroom management is effective,
  • playground supervision is thorough, and
  • cooperative group work is actively taught and developed.”

(Maria Ttofi and David Farrington, 2011 Journal of Experimental Criminology)

5. Create an environment where negative behaviours are not accepted

“I believe the most successful strategy is to target the bystanders. When children no longer accept these behaviours and the environment does not tolerate bullying and harassment, less incidents occur. To observe is to accept. To accept is to foster bullying and harassment. The whole school community needs to say no and that begins when the energy that comes from “group mentality” becomes a positive force instead of a negative one.”

(Greg Parry, CEO – Global Services in Education)

6. Bullying and Harassment happens more than you think

Primary school staff often underestimate the number of students involved in frequent bullying and harassment. Studies show that occurrences may be up to 3 times more than staff expect in average schools. Children often don’t report or the behaviour is ‘normalised’ or accepted as OK.

(Catherine Bradshaw et al. 2007 School Psychology Review)

7. Things schools can do better

Children can make things better by:

  • spending time or talking with friends at school,
  • helping children get away from the situation,
  • making a distraction,
  • and helping other children tell an adult at the school.

Children can make things worse by:

  • blaming others for what happened,
  • making fun of children for being teased or for asking for help,
  • and ignoring the situation.

(Stan Davis and Charisse Nixon, 2010 Youth Voice Research Project)

Adults can make a difference by:

  • listening, giving advice and encouragement,
  • checking in over time to see if things got better, after interventions,
  • increasing adult supervision,
  • and disciplining the student who was mean.

Adults can make things worse by:

  • telling children to stop tattling,
  • telling children to solve problems themselves,
  • telling the student that they should have acted differently,
  • and ignoring the situation.

8. Acknowledging differences is normal

Babies and children are driven to make sense of their world. One way they do this is to sort things and people by categories.

  • Infants as young as 6 months of age notice skin color differences.
  • By age 2-3, toddlers pick up the implicit and explicit messages about categories of people including stereotypes.

(Meagan Patterson & Rebecca Bigler, 2006, Child Development;
Phyllis Katz, 1997, Race, gender, and young children
Lawrence Hirschfeld, 2008, In the Handbook of Race, Racism, and the Developing Child)

“It is not the differences that create the challenges. It is the values adults impose on differences, whether accurate or not. Embracing change and embracing difference require similar values including an openness to not accepting all judgements we hear or see and not accepting that things are, just because a number of people around you behave that way.”

(Shanna Parry, Senior Managing Partner – Global Services in Education)

Conversations about racial differences and inequities are associated with lower levels of bias in young children.

(Phyllis Katz, 2003 American Psychologist)