Australian parents have called for firmer action against schoolyard bullies rather than focusing on making vulnerable children more resilient.
Just over 50 per cent of parents who responded to a recent UniSA study said their child had been bullied at school and were highly critical of how teachers addressed the problem.
The study, by UniSA bullying expert Professor Ken Rigby, tracked parental attitudes towards bullying and the actions they believe are needed to tackle the issue in Australian primary and secondary schools.
Schools should focus more on changing bullies’ behaviour by confronting them and applying appropriate sanctions, rather than encouraging victims to become more resilient, many parents suggested.
Closer supervision of student behaviour in classrooms and the playground is also needed, parents say, as well as better communication between schools and parents.
“Finally, there was a call for schools to address the social and emotional skills of students who become bullies,” Professor Rigby said.
Professor Rigby is a former teacher and leading international researcher on bullying in schools, with 25 years’ experience in the field.
His most recent study, published in the Educational Review, reveals attitudes from 167 parents of both bullied as well as non-bullied children.
“The bulk of the reported bullying was non-physical, in the form of cruel teasing, being excluded and rumour mongering,” Professor Rigby said.
Cyber bullying came next, followed by being hit, pushed or kicked. Sexual and racial harassment were the least common forms of bullying reported by schools and parents.
“It is clear from this study that parents of bullied children experience considerable distress and frustrating regarding the situation at their child’s school. They believed that in 40 per cent of cases, the actions of the school to address bullying had either made no difference or created even more problems for their children.”
Not surprisingly, parents of non-bullied children were less knowledgeable about their school’s bullying policies but also more confident that any bullying incidents would be dealt with effectively.
Professor Rigby said that contrary to widespread belief, bullying in schools is on the decline due to the work that schools are doing to address it. Cyber bullying is increasing, however.
“All bullying should be seen in perspective,” he says. “Teasing does not kill you but around 30 per cent of bullying is extreme and potentially very harmful.
“The perception that bullying is increasing is because in the past it was hidden and not discussed. Now there is a lot more awareness of it,” he says.
Notes to editors
“How Australian parents of bullied and non-bulled children see their school responding to bullying” is available online in the latest issue of Educational Review.
Media contact: Candy Gibson mobile 0434 605 142 email mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org; Professor Ken Rigby mobile 0410 035 500 email email@example.com