Teachers and parents have been so effective in reducing bullying behaviour in schools that it has gone ‘underground’, with young people who bully turning to covert methods to avoid detection.
Recognising the difficulty in identifying and stamping out this type of bullying, researchers from Edith Cowan University (ECU) are advocating a new approach.
Friendly Schools PLUS, a new resource to be rolled out to schools across Australia and developed by ECU’s Child Health Promotion Research Centre, focuses on building the emotional intelligence of children.
The idea is that the children who use bullying to gain status, respect or friends, are taught how to achieve this in a healthier, more positive way.
The targets of bullying are given skills so that they can deal more effectively with bullying including techniques to help them discourage the behaviour.
Professor Donna Cross said covert bullying behaviours cause a great deal of distress and psychological harm.
“Our research has found that students who were covertly bullied, or who covertly bullied others, reported higher levels of loneliness at school, felt less safe at school and were more likely to experience difficulties such as emotional symptoms, conduct problems, inattention and peer relationship problems,” Professor Cross said.
“Rather than seeking to punish the behaviour, our research has identified strategies to help schools to reduce the likelihood of it happening in the first place.”
Friendly Schools PLUS is the first anti-bullying strategy for schools to be based on extensive research with Australian children and adolescents. It draws on 13 major research projects conducted over 15 years involving 27,000 Australian school students.
Source: Edith Cowan University