This weeks forum on cyberbullying was a day well spent out of the office. New (and young) faces from across Aus gave a welcome mix of opinion– the highlight was the two keynotes- Donna Cross (Edith Cowan) and Marylin Campbell (QUT). But also the student voices-some of which contradicted the conventional wisdom. One thing was clear legislative and technical preventative measures are not the solution. We need a whole of community approach, to behavioural change. This includes resilience training. For too long I think we (as a Dept) have sheltered behind techhical protection- kidding ourselves its a ‘solution’ which has detracted from more educational/behavioural based approaches. Also we need to remind everyone (esp parents) that access to the www and social networking technologies are of high educational value. The tools we are introducing will ensure that students have the opptunity to use these constructively- modelling good practise and pedagogical benefit.
Donna’s research based on surveys of 7,500 students about bullying, says 80 per cent of children who report being cyberbullied also experience face to face bullying.Twenty-five per cent of children in Australia are bullied every few weeks or more often.
“In Australia social network sites are the most popular sites [used] to bully. Previously it was SMS texting.”
Professor Cross says her research shows bullying peaks during Year 5 and spikes again during the transition to high school as a result of changes to student social groups.
“We have to be intervening prior to Year 4 to address bullying,” she says.
In the national bullying study, Professor Cross and her co-researchers examined overt, or physical, bullying and covert bullying experienced by children unseen by adults.
Data suggests while overt bullying is decreasing the incidence of cyberbullying is rising, she says.
“The challenge for us is what do we focus on – the technology or the behaviour? Our data suggests it’s behaviour,” Professor Cross says.
“Sure we need to understand the technology … but we can’t forget this is a behavioural issue that requires a behavioural response.”
“Eighty per cent of kids hate bullying but less than 10 per cent will do something proactive to address it,” she says. “We know that if young people step into the bullying situation it will extinguish a lot faster than if an adult does.”
However the students at the forum stated a reluctance to do this- claiming that they were then targeted for bullying. The also spoke of more active engaement by students in campaigns -decrying the slick approach of advertising agencies.