True scale of bullying in schools to be exposed by new laws [The Irish News, by Simon Doyle, 21/11/2015]

The true scale of bullying in schools is to be exposed by new legislation to come before Stormont.

Schools are to be ordered for the first time to record all incidents, education minister John O’Dowd has confirmed.

There is no requirement to report every occurrence and no detailed figures for primary or secondary schools exist.

While there are about 200 suspensions every year for bullying, the full extent of the problem is said to be much greater.

The new bill was given the green light as Anti-Bullying Week drew to a close on Friday.

Schools organised activities around the theme What Bullying Means To Me.

On Friday children from Christ the Redeemer PS in Lagmore welcomed the GAA’s Cúl Heroes – footballer Finn Macúl and hurler Cúl Cullen.

The pair awarded anti-bullying ambassadors certificates to pupils as part of a day of GAA activities designed to beat bullying.

Mr O’Dowd said the new bill would be introduced as early as November 30 so legislation could be enacted within this assembly mandate.

The legislation has three main objectives: to provide a legal definition of bullying; to introduce a requirement for schools to record all incidents of bullying; and to require boards of governors to have specific responsibility for anti-bullying policy and practice within schools.

Bullying is a complex issue with no single, easy solution however, we all have a part to play in creating a society, and an education system, in which bullying behaviour is always challenged, and dealt with effectively, as soon as it rears its head,” Mr O’Dowd said.

Irish teens obsessed with validation online, new survey finds. [ Belfast Telegraph, 27/8/2015 ].

In a sign of social media’s growing influence on kids’ self-esteem, almost half of teenagers here “always or sometimes” feel disappointed if they don’t get a response quickly after they have posted.

The survey, by social media site Ask.fm, asked 206 Irish teenagers and their parents about their attitudes to social life online, privacy and cyber-bullying.

It found that Irish teenagers are almost twice as fearful of being laughed at for talking about a problem on social media as their teenage counterparts in the US. The most common embarrassments identified were romantic “crushes” and problems at home.

The survey also has some interesting findings about teens’ attitude to online anonymity. 46pc of Irish teens say that being anonymous online “allows them to share new ideas without the worry of being made fun of”, according to the survey. And 41pc of teenagers who have been bullied online say they are “more likely to talk about difficult topics online if they were anonymous”.

Only 5pc of Irish teenagers would talk about “difficult topics” on their public profile, compared to 50pc if anonymous, according to the survey.

Both teens and their parents say that bullying is more common in the “real world” than online, it claims. 43pc of parents have been told by their teenaged child that they have been bullied in the physical world compared to only 13pc who have been told about cyberbullying.

Seven out of ten teens told the survey that they would “step in” if they observed bullying happening online.

For parents, the main concern was apparently not about abuse or what their children might see or do while using social media services, but rather the amount of time they spend online (61pc) that could be spent on other activities such as homework.

But Irish parents are more cautious than British ones when it comes to monitoring their teenage childrens’ activity online.

Four out of five (80pc) of Irish parents say that they monitor their kids’ online activity, compared to just 55pc in the UK. And over a third of parents here (38pc) know their teenage child’s passwords and log into their accounts.

However, a third of Irish parents say that they don’t know how Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter works. These are three of the most popular social media services used by teens in Ireland.

It found that only a quarter of Irish teens feel the need to hide their social media activity from parents with three quarters claiming that they “rarely, or never”  say something they will later regret online.

Ask.fm, which commissioned the survey, has faced sharp criticism in recent years over cyberbullying episodes on its social media service, which is largely used by teenagers. The company has recently changed its procedures, requiring mandatory registering for those who wish to remain anonymous.

Bully That: Tips for Kids and Parents for Dealing With Bullies. [ Huffington Post, by Jamie Davis Smith, 20/7/2015 ]

Bullying can start very early and can even be seen among kids who are still in pre-k.

According to Dr. Craig Bach, VP of Education for The Goddard School, bullying can have long-term consequences but the earlier children learn to respond to it the less likely it is to have long-term consequences.

Here are some tips from Dr. Bach about what children and parents can do to addressing bullying:

Encourage children to take bullying seriously and work to make it stop when they see it occurring. Tell children not to ignore it because it usually won’t just go away. With your child, use creative intellect to find ways to make it stop. Think of it as a problem-solving opportunity.

Don’t wait until a bullying incident happens to talk to about bullying with your child. Get used to discussing it so it is not so strange when it does occur. Let your child know it’s okay to talk to friends and parents, teachers, and other adults about anything that concerns them.

Let children know they can talk to the bully if they feel comfortable. The can look the bully in the eye and tell them to stop.

If talking to a bully doesn’t work, walk away from the bully. Don’t run, act scared or angry — things that often encourage a bully — just walk away calm and steady.

It is helpful to hang out with other people and avoid kids who bully others. Children should make sure to have friends or a trusted adult around if they think they might get bullied.

Children should talk to an adult they trust and not let bullying happen without other people knowing about it. This can be parent, relative, teacher, school counselor, or friend.

Learn to recognize the different kinds of bullying and call it for what it is. Whether it is physical (getting beat up) or emotional (regularly being left out of a group or teased in a mean way), it is bullying.

Don’t remain silent when other children are being bullied.

There is no magic formula that will work in every situation. There are times when you will need to defend yourself. When those times happen, be calm and thoughtful.

The effects of bullying will stay with children for a long time. Showing confidence and courage in the face of bullying discourages bullying, minimizes its impact. Encourage your child to respond to bullying in ways that will help him walk away feeling as courageous, smart and as good about himself as he can.

Tell children that bullying happens to almost everyone so they don’t feel so alone.

There are several steps parents can take to help their children be prepared if they are bullied or cope with being bullied.

Role-play with children.

Don’t wait until a bullying incident happens to talk to children about it. Start early and talk regularly.

Talk to school officials and make sure the school has an effective plan to prevent and respond to bullying behavior.

Talk to children about bullying and ways to respond. Also, talk to them about avoiding becoming bullies or how they would respond if they saw another child being bullied.

Recognize your child’s emotional responses to bullying. It is normal to be scared and upset after being bullied. Talk to them about it.

Learn to recognize the signs of bullying and keep an open line of communication with your child. However, no matter the relationship you have with your children, there may be times when they are too embarrassed, upset or scared to tell you about it. Demystify bullying by talking about it openly and often.

Talk about your own experiences with bullying, how it made you feel, and how you responded. If you wish you had responded in different ways or had discussed it with friends, teachers, or family members let them know.

60 per cent of youths admit to cyberbullying others, survey shows [djs research, 10/2/2015]

According to a recent survey by Action for Children, approximately 60 per cent of young people admitted to bullying others online, in order to fit in with the crowd.

The survey questioned 2,000 children aged 8 to 17 and found that 2 in 5 (40 per cent), were actively trying to avoid falling victim to online abuse.

The findings of the survey also highlighted that half of the children who responded admitted to not reporting disturbing content, which they’d come across on the internet.  This may be something they’ve read, or a picture they’ve viewed, which made them feel uncomfortable.

1 in 5 (20%) of children claimed that they had not reported content which made them feel uncomfortable, out of fear that a bully may harm them as a result.

1 in 7 claimed they feared that if they spoke out about inappropriate online behaviour or content, they would get into trouble.

However, some children had chosen to consult an adult about what they had seen in the past.  Of the children who claimed to have spoken out at some point, 65 per cent talked to their parents.

One of Action for Children’s aims is to educate parents about how to protect their children online. The charity suggests that parents should set rules before their children sign up for a social media account, and that they should also ensure that the child’s profile is set to private.  They also suggest that parents should check the age requirements of the site beforehand.

Action for Children also urges parents to have a discussion with their children, about the dangers they should be aware of when they are online.  Children should be warned to not share personal information with anybody, and to not speak to strangers online.

Should anything happen, whilst on the internet, which makes a child feel uncomfortable, Action for Children insists that the child should know that they can approach a parent for help.

Head of Child Protection at Action for Children, Deanna Neilson said of the findings: “Online bullying is so prevalent, but we must not lose sight of the fact that many of these children bully others because of something going wrong in their own lives, or being driven to it through fear of being bullied or socially shunned themselves.  Low self-esteem, stress at school or being victimised themselves by peers or adults, are all reasons a child might act out on others.

“It’s important for parents to ask children about the day they’ve had online, just as they ask about the day they’ve had at school – whether your child is being bullied or bullying others, the problem, and any potentially more severe issues surrounding it, must be addressed.”

 

Smart babies can spot a bully at one year old [The Telegraph, by Agency, 05/2/2015]

Babies are smarter than previously thought and can understand complex social situations at 13 months old, psychologists have claimed.

They can comprehend what constitutes bullying, friendship and what it means to be a bystander, a study found.

In an experiment with puppets the children responded to scenarios in a way that suggested they were more engaged than had been expected.

They were observed to have “strong feelings about how people should deal with a character who hits others”, the researchers said.

The psychologists asked parents of 48 infants aged around one to bring them into the lab for the experiment.

The babies sat in front of a stage where two puppets, A and B, appeared, initially interacting in a friendly manner.

The psychologists, from the University of Missouri in the US, then used the puppets to play out various scenarios.

A third puppet, C, was introduced and was deliberately knocked down by B as A looked on. In the next scenario, B knocked down C, but A was absent.

A third scenario involved C being accidentally knocked down as A looked on.

The researchers monitored how long the babies looked at the stage to gauge their interest and engagement.

They found babies looked longer at things that were not expected.

The study is published in the journal Psychological Science.

Cyber bullying finds new platform [The Daily News, by David Vitrano, 04/2/2015]

Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal cautions parents about a new social media tool that has emerged in Washington Parish and is being used as a mechanism for bullying.

Yik Yak was launched in 2013 and works by combining the technologies of GPS and instant messages. Very simply, it is an anonymous bulletin board on which users can post comments to be read by anyone within a limited geographical area.

On its website, Yik Yak describes itself as “…an anonymous messaging app that allows users to create and view posts — called Yaks — within a 10-mile radius. Users can also expand the conversation by posting replies to existing Yaks.”

The misuse of Yik Yak to bully two students has already been reported in Washington Parish. The Sheriff’s Office has been notified and the WPSO Cyber Crimes Investigator is handling the complaints.

In early December, two University of Central Oklahoma students were arrested for posting Yik Yak threats to shoot up the university. Students from Drake University in Iowa were arrested in September for similar threats. Other incidents have occurred at the University of Southern Mississippi, Penn State University, the University of Georgia and other schools, which resulted in the arrests of students making the threats. In January, a 16-year old high school student in Oxford, Ala., was arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat on Yik Yak.

“Since I took office, we have developed a mechanism for investigating crimes involving all social media, including the Internet,” Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal said. “Our Cyber Crimes Investigator has been certified in Mobile Forensics, Computer Forensics and Cyber Investigations. He provides a valuable service to parents, local schools and law enforcement throughout the parish.”

Seal said parents should know what their children are doing on computers.

“I strongly encourage parents to closely monitor their children’s use of all social media,” Seal added. “While social media itself is not bad, the misuse of social media as a tool to threaten, bully or disseminate false information can be a criminal act. We will aggressively go after anyone making social media threats to any individual, group, school or school function.”

Seal said any parent, teacher or other person who knows of cyber bullying or threats on any form of social media is asked to report the matter to the Sheriff’s Office at 985-839-3434.

Understanding and defining bullying – adolescents’ own views [Archives of Public Health, by Lisa Hellström, Louise Persson and Curt Hagquist, 02/2/2015]

Abstract (provisional)

Background

The negative consequences of peer-victimization on children and adolescents are major public health concerns which have been subjected to extensive research. Given all efforts made to analyze and estimate the social and health consequences of peer-victimization, the adolescents’ own experiences and understandings have had surprisingly little impact on the definition of bullying. Therefore, the aim of the current study is to explore adolescents’ definitions of bullying.

Methods

A questionnaire study (n = 128) and four focus group interviews (n = 21) were conducted among students aged 13 and 15. First, gender and age differences were analyzed with respect to what behaviors are considered bullying (questionnaire data). Second, analysis of what bullying is (focus group interviews) was conducted using qualitative content analysis.

Results

The adolescents own understanding and definition of bullying didn’t just include the traditional criteria of repetition and power imbalance, but also a criterion based on the health consequences of bullying. The results showed that a single but hurtful or harmful incident also could be considered bullying irrespective of whether the traditional criteria were fulfilled or not. Further, girls and older students had a more inclusive view of bullying and reported more types of behaviors as bullying compared to boys and younger students.

Conclusions

The results of the current study adds to the existing literature by showing that adolescents consider the victim’s experience of hurt and harm as a criterion for defining bullying and not only as consequences of bullying. This may be of special relevance for the identification and classification of bullying incidents on the internet where devastating consequences have been reported from single incidents and the use of the traditional criteria of intent, repetition and power imbalance may not be as relevant as for traditional bullying. It implies that the traditional criteria included in most definitions of bullying may not fully reflect adolescents’ understanding and definition of bullying. Assessments of bullying behaviors that ask adolescents to strictly adhere to the traditional definition of bullying might not identify all adolescents experiencing peer victimization and therefore not provide estimates of prevalence rates reflecting adolescents’ own understanding of bullying.

The complete article is available as in  http://www.archpublichealth.com/content/pdf/2049-3258-73-4.pdf . The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.

Study: Bullying victims nine times more likely to suffer from depression[ The Copenhagen Post, by Philip Tees, 30/1/2015]

Results of Danish study not surprising for experts

According to new Danish research published in the scientific periodical Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the risk of suffering from depression is increased by a factor of nine among those who are the victims of bullying.

Maria Gullander, a PhD in public health and epidemiology from the University of Copenhagen and the lead author of the paper, told the science publication Videnskab.dk that the study sent a clear message.

“We need to take this seriously,” she said. “Our study shows that one of the consequences of bullying can be depression.”

Poul Videbech, a professor in psychiatry at Aarhus University, agrees with the findings. “It is an interesting and important result. I can recognise it from clinical practice,” he said.

“We know that bullying affects one’s self-confidence and self-esteem. So it is easily imaginable that bullying pushes towards depression and maybe triggers it or makes it worse than it otherwise would have been.”

The chicken or the egg?
The study is the biggest of its kind to date and involved 5,485 people in employment being interviewed three times at two-and-a-half-year intervals. Each time the participants were asked questions to determine if they were being bullied and whether they were suffering from depression.

Extra interviews were conducted with 1,481 of the participants: half of whom were the victims of bullying and showed signs of depression or anxiety while the rest were selected randomly.

Gullander explains that despite the strength of the results, it is still difficult to say if bullying leads to depression or whether depression increases the perception of being bullied.

“The problem is that we still can’t say anything conclusively about the extent to which your depressive symptoms make you more vulnerable to negative relations,” she said.

Schoolyard bullying: are boys meaner than girls? [The Age National, by Amy McNeilage,01/2/2015]

In anecdotal tales of schoolyard bullying, young girls spread rumours and alienate their victims, while boys push and shove.

But new research is challenging these cliches, which experts say are shaped by  gender stereotypes rather than evidence.

The preliminary findings of a study conducted in Sydney high schools suggests female students are more likely to engage in social and relational aggression – rumour spreading and manipulation – in the junior years. But, by years 9 and 10, the boys overtake them.

The researcher Katrina Newey, a developmental psychologist and PhD candidate at the University of Western Sydney, also found male students were more commonly the perpetrators of cyberbullying, particularly when it comes to hacking social media accounts or spreading embarrassing videos and photos online.

The research follows the recent publication of a major longitudinal study from the University of Georgia in the US that found boys were more likely to indulge in rumour spreading and social exclusion than girls.

Jennifer Germon, a gender studies academic at The University of Sydney, says there is mounting evidence to debunk the myth that boys use their fists as weapons and girls use words.

“It seems very clear to me that, when boys bully, social exclusion, gossiping and name-calling are crucial to their arsenal,” she says. “It’s really a misnomer to just attribute the language-based forms of bullying to girls.”

Dr Germon says ignoring the nuances of anti-social behaviour means interventions risk overlooking crucial aspects of bullying, particularly among boys.

“Those old arguments just don’t hold,” she says. “They’re counterproductive and they get in the way of effective interventions.”

Helen McGrath, from Deakin University, is a psychologist and leading education academic in the area of bullying.

She says myths around the ways boys and girls bully emerged to fill a research vacuum.

“There was a lack of good research in this area, so people made the assumption that it was more consistent with socialisation for girls to use rumours and social exclusion and for boys to use direct aggression,” she says.

Professor McGrath says while studies suggest there may be some differences, they are not as great as once thought. She says girls might focus more on subtle ways of excluding their peers, while boys have been shown to prefer direct attacks.

The Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study published in 2009, for example, found girls were more likely than boys to bully in covert ways, with the behaviour beginning as early as year 3.

Girls were also more likely to have been sent mean messages over the internet, while boys in junior high school were more afraid that they would be physically hurt by bullies.

Bullying: anyone different can be a target [The Telegraph, by Jenny Hulme, 31/1/ 2015]

Katherine Long can’t remember the actual moment when her wonder in her son’s ability and love of learning turned into a worry. Or when she started losing confidence in herself and her parenting, and faced every school meeting trying to hold it together, to stop the tears, when she sat down to discuss “how Josh was doing”.

Josh was seven when he moved from a local primary school, where he had been happy but frustrated, into a carefully chosen school that promised small classes and the chance to thrive, says Katherine, a doctor from Sussex.

“Josh had always been so articulate – he was reading by the age of three, conversing with adults like a child more than twice his age,” she says. “It was like he couldn’t switch his brain off. We could see he was longing to go a bit faster, learn a bit more. But after a year at the new school he seemed unsettled and was talking about boys hurting and taunting him.”

When Katherine shared her concerns with Josh’s teachers, they treated her reports as Josh’s problem rather than the school’s, saying they saw no evidence of bullying in class and calling on her to challenge Josh’s “idiosyncrasies”, suggesting he was triggering problems by “always putting his hand up” or by being “oversensitive” to normal playground banter.

Katherine says each meeting that followed seemed to focus on Josh and how he was coping rather than his classmates and the behaviour he was reporting.

“My husband – who had been taught in a school where bullying was part of a man-up culture – felt Josh needed a little toughening up, and my mother, who had been a head teacher, had often talked about nuisance parents who are always fussing rather than letting a school get on with its job. Her words would ring in my ears whenever I felt inclined to call the school,” says Katherine. “Josh was a happy, bright, confident boy and I just couldn’t believe – or didn’t want to believe – that he was being bullied.”

He was, though, and the abuse continued for more than two years and caused the Long family untold anguish – until a visiting gap-year student saw, and reported, what was happening out of sight of teachers.

This is, it seems, what bullies so often do. Slowly but surely they not only undermine a child’s happiness (and therefore learning) at school, but also – if they go undetected – leave teachers to shine a spotlight on their victim’s behaviour rather than theirs when problems arise. As a result, it’s not only the child’s confidence that is affected but the parents’ too.

The Longs’ case is shockingly typical. Even with all we know about bullying, hundreds of thousands of children are still victims of physical and emotional abuse at school.

The focus during Anti Bullying Week late last year was the staggering number of children with special needs in mainstream schools who suffered at the hands of their peers. But reports around this particular issue can sometimes leave parents feeling the causes of bullying are somehow cut and dried: large classes, or a challenging intake.

When they look more closely at how bullies operate they become aware, as Katherine did, that in any setting where there is an imbalance of power among pupils (and where children’s concerns aren’t heard and acted on) anyone who is different and misunderstood can become a target.

“Josh was small for his age, had red hair and joined halfway through the term. I can see now that there were lots of things that made him vulnerable,” says Katherine. “But it seemed to be his eagerness to do well and contribute a lot that attracted attention. The ones who went for Josh were the boys he called the ‘popular ones’ or the ‘top dogs’ in the class.

“Maybe they felt challenged, or just irritated by his enthusiasm. But they weren’t encouraged to get to know, understand or include him. Josh says now that he felt worthless and ignored, and that it was like we’d been brainwashed into believing it was all his fault. He feels our response – and the teachers’ reaction – was almost harder to deal with than the bullying. He carries that with him still, and so do we.”

Kidscape, the national anti-bullying charity, says that the multifaceted and often manipulative nature of bullying (be it physical abuse or persistent teasing, excluding or humiliation) can be a stumbling block to teachers recognising the problem and delivering a clear anti-bullying policy.

Settings where there is an imbalance of power – the “populars” or “top dogs” described by Katherine would be typical of this – can create a culture where bullying can thrive and where anyone who is different can become vulnerable. In fact, they report frequently seeing bright children such as Josh at their self-help workshops, brought along by parents and carers who, like the Longs, have been made to believe they’re somehow to blame.

“We know this is a side of bullying that doesn’t often get discussed partly because, once families feel vulnerable and start to doubt themselves and each other, they keep the problems hidden away,” says Peter Bradley, Kidscape’s director of services.

“We know it can often bring up a clash of opinions at home. Who knows who is right or wrong? But when emotions are running high, this can cause huge conflict. We meet fathers, for example, who find it incredibly painful to see their child bullied, and feel impotent in the face of the school’s reaction.

“They may, sometimes, put pressure on their kids to react in a certain way. They may want to see them fight back. Their partner may want the opposite. Couples may argue about whether the child should go in to school at all.

“We also know that a child who has been through hell at school can lash out at siblings,” Bradley says. “This is not only frustrating for parents, but can leave them at odds over how to discipline their child – who they know has already had a rough day – or even thinking such behaviour somehow proves the school is right to think their child has problems.

“Bullies effectively disempower the family in the same way they disempower the child. What we try to do is give those families power back by explaining what bullying is, what their rights are, and help them find a path through the destruction. The workshops make a huge difference, but we know there are so many more parents who never seek out help.”

Kidscape has teamed up with four other national charities to help schools understand how differences can trigger bullying, and how by helping children understand difference better, the whole school community can learn more effectively – about themselves, as well as about the subjects of study.

One of the charities, Potential Plus UK, supports children with high learning ability. Its chief executive, Denise Yates, says that schools often don’t understand how being gifted or talented can lead to emotional abuse.

“It’s an issue for children from all social and cultural backgrounds, but I know parents who’ve gone out of their way to find a good school where they believe their child’s talents will flourish and simply don’t expect their child to be bullied. They can be left confused and believing that same good school must be right when they suggest it is them, or their child, that is to blame,” she says.

“If the problem is recognised, there are strategies teachers can introduce to prevent it. If left to carry on, though, we find that children will modify their behaviour and start hiding their ability or messing around to fit in with their peers rather than be bullied by them. Then you have new conflicts between parent and child. It can be soul-destroying.”

“We moved Josh to a different private school when he was 11,” says Katherine Long. “They heard our story and said they could help. I remember the first parents’ evening. I crept in fearing the worst; I’d got so used to teachers talking about Josh as a problem. But it was all positive. It wasn’t about Josh being the perfect student; it was more that they understood him, related to his passion, recognised and embraced his differences.

“In doing that – and doing that for everyone – they promoted more understanding among the pupils. That has continued – Josh is doing his GCSEs now and is loving school. When I think about how they have nurtured him, I am overcome with emotion all over again, but this time for all the right reasons.”