Tackling bullying head on

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ACU and the NRL team up to arm kids against schoolyard bullies.

It’s hard to imagine a strapping rugby league player being bullied as a school kid. Yet for many in the NRL episodes of bullying were a common occurrence, and they know just how cruel the playground can be.

Throughout February players will head into schools around NSW to confront and address bullying with a program developed by ACU researchers and the NRL.

Children, teachers and parents are included in the initiative to help empower students to cope with difficult social situations, such as adopting the ‘Tackle Bullying Green Hand’, a five-fingered action plan aimed at helping victims to cope and stand up to bullying.

The action plan involves the following proactive strategies:

  • Stand strong
  • Stay calm
  • Respond confidently
  • Walk away
  • Report

The NRL has provided its best possible resource – well known players who are role models to children of all ages. Players in pairs, groups or full teams are visiting public schools to share their own stories and encourage children to stand up to bullies.

ACU education lecturer Suzan Hirsch was part of the team who wrote the school-based program.

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“The program provides practical strategies for victims and bystanders of bullying,” she said. “Presenting these strategies through the popularity of NRL players is a powerful tool to combat bullying in Australian Schools.”

During his visits to south coast schools, St George Illawarra (Dragons) player Trent Merrin shared his own experience of being teased about his size.

“Every child is bound to experience bullying at some stage in their lives but I think it’s important to share our stories so that kids realise they are not alone and that bullying can happen to anyone,” Merrin told the Illawarra Mercury.

“We want to help change the mindset among kids so that supporting your peers is considered the cool thing to do, not teasing one another.”

The Tackle Bullying program follows the success of other ACU and NRL collaborations – the Sea Eagles Reads and Rugby League Reads programs – which addressed low reading rates among schoolboys.

Tackle Bullying was initiated by the NRL’s One Community and is a joint campaign with Sydney’s Telegraph newspaper.

The program is expected to reach 300,000 primary aged children in NSW in February and has been adopted in the United States and New Zealand.

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Separate ACU research recently published in the Journal of School Violence found that playground bullies are twice as likely to become violent adults and four times more likely to participate in anti-social activity.

The study, Protective Factors Against the Impact of School Bullying Perpetration and Victimization on Young Adult Externalizing and Internalizing Problems, also considered the long-term effect of bullying and found that victims were less likely to perpetrate violence as adults.

Lead researcher Professor Sheryl Hemphill said prevention was the key to breaking the cycle. “Trying to address these behaviours before they become entrenched is likely to solve a whole lot of problems down the track.”

(Source: ACU, Journal of School Violence)

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Date Created: March 8, 2014