Academic says "dobbing" the key to eliminating bullying
University of South Australia Professors Kenneth Rigby and Bruce Johnson said that fellow students turning a blind eye to bullying is the main factor that perpetuates the problem of bullying in schools.
The Southern Cross reports on the conclusions of an international study that the glorification of Aussie mateship is cultivating an untouchable bullying culture in schoolyards across the nation.
It says almost 35% of Australian students surveyed in the global study reported they had ignored verbal or physical bullying in the schoolyard. 6% of Australian students actually supported the bully. In comparison, 45% of students surveyed in England reported bullies to a teacher and 20% turned a blind eye to bullying.
The comparative results revealed to the Southern Cross form part of a student bystander behaviour study conducted over the past 18 months and spearheaded by South Australian University Associate Professors Kenneth Rigby and Bruce Johnson.
The study involved more than 2500 students aged 10 to 14 years from primary and secondary schools in South Australia, Bangladesh, England, Israel, Italy and South Africa.
"The big difference between the countries was that Australian kids were far less likely to tell a teacher that something was happening," said Associate Professor Rigby.
"The Australian kids were more likely to ignore bullying or support the victim," he said. "I think it is a cultural thing. I think it's a question of being brought up thinking that you don't dob on your mates."
The concerning issue of children fearing social alienation for "dobbing" on their abusive mates is one which South Australian Catholic school educators are tackling from the classroom floor up.
"It's a huge challenge to involve bystanders in anti-bullying measures," said Adelaide St Pius X Primary School principal Paul Bennett. "We need to keep reinforcing the notion of mutual obligation and teach kids a sense of ownership of the problem."
While Mr Bennett recognised minor incidents of bullying and harassment at the Windsor Gardens school, he said implementing a pro-active policy was vital to reassuring students, staff and parents that unsafe behaviour would be monitored and addressed.
"We want to make sure that, in our school, kids really know explicitly what their choices are," Mr Bennett said. "And one of them is not standing on the side and doing nothing."
St Pius X Primary is developing a safe-school policy and last year engaged its student taskforce members to mentor fellow students on how to deal with and resolve conflict in the playground.
Challenging the culture of silence (Southern Cross February 2005 - temporary url)
Dr Ken Rigby: Bullying in Schools and what to do about it
St Pius X School Homepage
NZ schools worried about "text bullying" (CathNews 1/6/04)
3 Feb 2005