Working with children who are experiencing or engaging in bullying behaviour
10 August 2022, 01:00PM to 02:00PM
Lesley-Anne Ey, Julie Clifton, Vanya, Nicole Rollbusch
About this webinar
This webinar was held on Wednesday 10 August 2022.
Childhood bullying is a complex social issue and our understanding of bullying dynamics has evolved over time. Bullying has significant psychological, physical and socio-economic consequences for children as well as the wider community and these effects can be observed well into adulthood if there is little or no intervention.
Childhood bullying has long been considered an issue for the education system. However, more recently, childhood bullying has been regarded as a public health concern that needs to be addressed by multiple systems, including primary health care and social services. It is important that practitioners in these sectors understand children’s knowledge and perspectives on childhood bullying in order to better support them.
This webinar is designed to support practitioners to:
- understand how childhood bullying affects child mental health
- understand the importance of prevention and early intervention in limiting the effects of childhood bullying in adulthood
- be curious about children’s understanding and perspectives on bullying and why this is important
- explore strategies to work with children experiencing bullying or engaging in bullying behaviour.
This webinar will be of interest to practitioners who work with children and families in a broad range of settings, given the wide reach of bullying involvement. It will be of particular interest to those working with children aged 4–12 years.
Audio transcript (edited)
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar: Working with Children who are Experiencing or Engaging in Bullying Behaviour. Co-produced by CFCA and Emerging Minds. We’ve received a wonderful response to this webinar, so it’s great to have you all with us today.
My name is Nicole Rollbusch, and I work with Emerging Minds National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health. I am pleased to be here to facilitate this webinar today.
In today’s presentation, we’ll aim to increase your understanding of childhood bullying and its impacts on child mental health. You will also be introduced to ways in which you can begin to explore bullying involvement, with the children and families you’re working with. Just to note, we will be sharing children’s stories of bullying, so if you find any part of this webinar distressing, please take care of yourself by practicing appropriate self-care, and reaching out to your support networks.
Before we go any further, I would like to acknowledge the lands that we’re all meeting on today. I’m on Kaurna land here in Adelaide, and I would like to extend that acknowledgement, for the different lands that you’re all coming to us from today. I acknowledge the traditional owners’ deep connection to the land, waterways, kin, community and culture, and the importance of these to the wellbeing of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And pay my respects to the Elders, past, present, and those who are emerging.
So, as I mentioned, today’s presentation will be about increasing understanding of childhood bullying and mental health, as well as looking at ways of working with children who’ve experienced or engaged in bullying behaviour. To expand on that, let’s have a look at the learning outcomes, so we can be clear for you about what’s ahead in the next hour.
This webinar is aimed at supporting you to understand how childhood bullying affects child mental health, understand the importance of prevention, early intervention in limiting the effects of childhood bullying in adulthood; be curious about children’s understanding and perspectives on bullying, and why this is important; and exploring strategies to work with children experiencing bullying, or engaging in bullying behaviour.
This webinar is part of a series of webinars, that’s focussed on infant and child mental health, that will be facilitated in partnership between CCF, CFCA, and Emerging Minds in 2022. So, we’ve got some upcoming webinars, which include, Supporting Infant and Toddler Mental Health and Wellbeing; Engaging Children; and Engaging Father’s to Support Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing.
A couple of our recent webinars include, Supporting Children Who’ve Disclosed Trauma, and Approaches to Support Child Mental Health in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities. So, if you did miss those ones, they are available to access via the Emerging Minds and the ACE websites.
This webinar is also part of a suite of resources on childhood bullying, and these are just some of the resources that have been released in recent weeks, and some that are being released soon. So, these are all available on the Emerging Minds website. Got some practise papers, a new eLearning, and a two-part podcast upcoming as well. And they can also be found in the related resources document, that you can access in your handout section for this webinar today.
It is now my pleasure to introduce today’s presenters, Dr Lesley-Anne Ey, who is a senior lecturer and researcher at the University of South Australia. And we have Julie Clifton, who is a social inclusion worker at Hallett Cove Archwell School, and also works with the Bully Zero Australia Foundation. And Vanya, who is our child and family partner.
So, to introduce each of you to our audience, I wanted to ask you a question, about why it was important for you to be part of this webinar today? So, Lesley, I’ll start with you, why was it important for you to be here today?
LESLEY-ANNE EY: Thank you Nicole, for inviting me and having me. I think as a researcher, it’s important to be able to share my knowledge, and help to educate professionals to understand what bullying is, so that they can respond in an educative and supportive manner.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Great, thanks Lesley. And Julie, why was it important for you to be part of this today? I think we’ve just lost your microphone, Julie.
JULIE CLIFTON: Okay, sorry. I guess from a frontline perspective, I’ve noticed a definite gap in knowledge and experience with teachers and practitioners around how to deal with bullying, when young people come into their world. So, I just hope today, the research and experience of the panel, will help the viewers moving forward in that space. Thank you.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Okay, thanks, Julie. And Vanya, why was it important for you to be here today?
VANYA: As a mum, and also a child and family partner with Emerging Minds, it’s just a wonderful opportunity to provide some education, some information on how to help children you’re working with, if they are enacting bullying behaviours, or are affected by them. So, thank you all for attending today.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Great, thanks, Vanya. So, please join me in giving our presenters a very warm virtual welcome. So, I’ll now hand it over to Dr Lesley Ey, who is our first presenter. Thanks, Lesley.
LESLEY-ANNE EY: Thanks, Nicole. So, we know that bullying is a significant social problem impacting children and adolescents globally. It has significant impacts on children’s physical health, mental health, and general wellbeing. And the United Nation Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, found that approximately 246 million children and adolescents are experiencing school violence in some form every year, and that bullying is the most common form. So, it is quite a significant problem.
The AMF report estimates that the costs associated with bullying, total approximately $2.3 billion while children are in school, and for the 20 years after they’ve left school – this is because of the long-term impacts that bullying can have.
So, bullying is a subset of aggression, that must have the three elements of intention to harm, power difference, and repetition, to be classified bullying. So, bullying is defined as repeated acts of physical, relational, or verbal violence, with the intent to harm or humiliate another person. It involves a certain level of power imbalance. The child experiencing the behaviour, perceives that the other child has more power than themselves. Now, this could be due to race, or physical size, sexuality, or sheer numbers – it could be four children against one child.
Bullying can be overt or covert, and there’s generally five different types of bullying. So, these are physical violence, relational violence, verbal violence, sexual violence, or cyberbullying. Single incidents and conflicts or fights between equals, whether in-person or online, are not defined as bullying, however these conflicts still need to be addressed and resolved.
Cyberbullying is bullying behaviour that is carried out through the internet or mobile phone technologies, and it’s often combined with offline bullying. So, children who are experiencing online bullying, are commonly also experiencing bullying in real life, in face-to-face situations. It may include a combination of behaviours such as insulting online messages, publishing someone’s private information, creating hate sites, or implementing social exclusion campaigns. So, cyberbullying can be quite nasty.
Cyberbullying can include relational, verbal, or sexual bullying, and the severity of cyberbullying is related to the nature of the online environment, in that one attack or one shared image, or one hate site can go viral. Which highlights the potential of repetition, which can have long-term effects on those involved, including bystanders.
Research in 2019 with Gen Z participants, so these are children and young people aged between 10 and 24, found that around about 80% of participants reported that bullying was a problem in their school. Three in five children and young people experience bullying, and were impacted by it, and one in five had engaged in bullying behaviour. Of those that experienced bullying, one in five experienced bullying on a weekly basis, and one in 12 experienced it daily.
The most common forms of bullying were verbal, followed by cyberbullying, and then physical bullying. Fourteen percent, or around about 350,000 students who were bullied, do not seek help, or talk to anyone. So, this can be quite a big problem. Those who did talk, generally sought support from their parents or from their peers.
So, I’m going to have a look at the impact of bullying now. So, for the child engaging in bullying behaviour, they’re more likely to develop externalising disorders. So, this can be AD/HD, conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and they’re also more likely to have lower self-belief, lower emotional competence, and lower credibility and trust from others. They’re more likely to self-harm and have suicidal thoughts, and these children are more likely to engage in criminal offending and substance abuse, have poor educational and employment outcomes, and are at high risk of depression later in life.
The children experiencing bullying, they’re more likely to develop internalising disorders, such as separation anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, and phobias, and they generally have an overall poor life satisfaction. They’ve vulnerable to hyperactivity, inattention and emotional symptoms, including low self-esteem, lower levels of belief in self, lower levels of belief in others, poor emotional competence, increased stress, and subjective wellbeing. They’re more vulnerable to social isolation, suicidal thoughts and attempts, and deterioration of physical health.
So, the impact of bullying for those experiencing bullying, can be not only psychologically impactful, but also physically impactful as well. They’re also more vulnerable to poor academic achievement, leading to financial, emotional, and psychological harm in the future.
For children who both engage in and experience bullying, which is around about 20% of the children involved in bullying, these children are at the greatest risk, and they generally develop externalising, and internalising disorders. Some of the mental health impacts include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, separation anxiety, and deliberate self-harm behaviours such as cutting. They’re vulnerable to conduct disorders, and conduct disorders are most severe for children and young people who both engage in, and experience bullying. These children are more susceptible to lower self-esteem, and higher failure anticipation, alongside all of the other impacts that I’ve discussed in the previous two slides.
Professionals working with children, need a clear understanding about bullying, and bullying roles. Teachers have some understanding of bullying, but not comprehensive. So, in their definitions of bullying, a minority of teachers mentioned all three of the defining characteristics of bullying. Parents also had limited understanding of bullying, and they tend to confuse bullying and fighting. And children had limited understanding of bullying, and in particular they were over-labelling aggressive behaviours as bullying. But this was research done with teachers, parents, and junior primary children.
Some of the key strategies to prevent and intervene in bullying, is education and collaborative responses, and to do this we need to consider children’s ecological systems. Now, some of the strategies that we can use for our intervention and prevention, is to help children to understand their emotions, and to self-regulate. We need to help them to understand what bullying is, what’s bullying and what is not bullying. So, we need to define those behaviours with them. We need to help them understand the roles of the bystanders and the defenders.
So, bystanders can inadvertently encourage bullying behaviour, through watching or gathering around, and not intervening. Whereas defenders can divert the attention of the child engaging in the behaviour, they can say, “Stop,” they can point out the inequity or unfairness, or the impact or the harm of the behaviour. And the more defenders, the more power they have over the child displaying those bullying behaviours, because those children have a need for social acceptance. So, if we have several defenders, they’re more likely to be successful in their intervention.
We need to help children understand the difference between reporting versus dobbing. A lot of children who are experiencing bullying behaviour, are fearful of telling anybody, in case the behaviour escalates, and it becomes worse for them. We need to debunk gender myths. So, there are myths that girls can be catty, so relational bullying is normal, developmentally expected. It’s not. And boys are more physical, so more physical bullying is expected from boys. But we still need to understand the differences between general fighting, and bullying behaviour.
We need to teach children empathy, from a very early age. So, understanding how to empathise with others, and respect and value their feelings. We need to help children engaging in that behaviour, how to manage conflict, so that they can manage conflict. We know that conflict is a normal part of developmental, social development, so teaching them how to manage conflict so that it doesn’t escalate into those bullying behaviours. We need to help build resilience, we need to help them to understand the role of friendship, what it’s like to be a friend, and what good friends look like. And importantly, we need to teach them how to seek help.
Now, in the research that I’ve done with one of my colleagues, Barbara Spears, we found that by teaching junior primary children, and educators, that we found a significant increase in their ability to identify an intent to harm, an imbalance of power, and repetition. So, this was just a short education strategy that we used, and it worked really well for very young children, so it could work for older children as well. We need to collaborate with, and educate children, and others in children’s ecological systems, around all of these things.
Now, this is an activity that was developed by teachers, to help children understand the key elements of bullying. So, children made these cards to identify what repetition looks like, what power differentials looks like, and what the intent to harm looks like. And teachers made a bullying checklist, so that children knew if they were experience bullying, or if they were displaying bullying behaviours.
Another activity, or resources that were made by children. So, this was an activity designed to educate parents. With the support of teachers, children identified what bullying is and what bullying is not, the three elements of bullying, and what we can do to help. And some of the other educational activities that we’ve done in the research, was screwing up a piece of paper, so that we can see the impact. So, if you screw up a piece of paper and you try and straighten it out again, you can see that that paper is not going to be straight again. So, it really highlights to children some of the impacts that bullying can have.
Another activity we did was, dropping an apple. So, over several days, just dropping an apple over and over again, and then on about the fourth or fifth day, cutting the apple open and seeing all the bruising that lays underneath that skin. So, we can see that even if we don’t understand or see that these behaviours may be impacting others, it is impacting others, and they’re not always visible.
So, that’s all I have to say for today, so thank you for listening. And I will hand over to Julie. Thank you.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Thanks, Lesley. I think you’ve really highlighted what a significant issue bullying is for Australian children. And I really liked those examples at the end of the work that you shared, that kids had done, as well as supporting, I suppose, parents understanding of bullying as well. So, thank you. I will now hand over to Julie. Thanks, Julie.
JULIE CLIFTON: Thanks very much. Thank you, everyone. So, I’m going to focus on, how might children and adults view and define bullying differently. So, I guess it depends on, from a child’s perspective, the different meanings, some things which adult view as minor, children can view as major, and we have to think about with a child-focussed, and a child-lens.
Some children believe that those that they think are their friends, aren’t necessarily going to bully, but their parents definitely know that their children have been bullied. Sometimes it comes down to the language that we use with our children, around conflict and bullying, and making sure that we define definitely what bullying is, and have our children understand the same language. It’s difficult to distinguish if the power imbalance in a bullying situation, when you talk about parents and children, if we’re not on the same page.
So, why is it important for practitioners to understand children’s perspectives on bullying? So, when a child’s perspective is heard, as we know in matters regarding bullying and personal-centred support, can be designed that specifically addresses what they want and what they need, rather than what we may interpret, and we can then support them with that. This way the children, or the child, will be able to communicate openly and freely, and feel heard and supported in a safe space. And you are building that trust and relationship, which is really important.
How can practitioners best do this? So, the first key point here is building that rapport, and building relationships. Relationships are key to everything. So, for a child to be able to openly communicate, the teacher or practitioner needs to be intentional about building a meaningful engagement and a relationship with them, so that they are assured of being in a safe space and building that trust again. And creating that safe environment, practitioners should create that by not blaming, or stop blaming a child, in which the children engaging in bullying, are not shamed for their behaviour as well. So, having that acceptance and empathy for both sides of, both for a perpetrator and a target.
So, we also must listen without judgement, which is imperative, so children feel understood and supported, when the teacher or the adult takes the time to listen and understand what they’re saying, without forming or including their own biases, and bringing their own values to the table. Or perhaps having a previous incident in their own lives around bullying, bringing that to the table, and almost switching off because you’ve felt that you know what that felt like. It’s really important to kind of, leave that at the gate as you enter, so the kids feel a hundred percent like you’re there for them, and that you’re not going to get emotionally attached to whatever they’re going to say.
We must explore the underlying issues. So, some studies have found that strong associations between victimisation and mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, and poor general health, suicidal ideation and behaviour. The child’s family can provide perspective on how best to help them. From my experience, family tend to know better about how their kids will respond to different situations. A meeting with them could provide insight into how a child will react to a situation at home, or how to help them and come up with solutions that will be both helpful at school and at home.
For strategies and tools and skills, practitioners need to be on the lookout for children’s wellbeing, support and mentor them, and teach them valuable skills that will help them to be assertive and stand up for each other. A lot of that comes with kindness and empathy – and my theory is, that you can never be too kind. So, it’s really important for the kids to experience that, and role play if you need to.
Further support is, reassuring the child that they did the right thing by talking, and bringing up issues. Explaining to them that they are not to blame – it’s really important not to blame a child. Sometimes we have parents say to the children, “Johnny deserved it.” Not necessarily. So, if we understand how everybody’s feeling, assure the child that their feelings are validated, and make sure they do walk away feeling heard and that they’re not dealing with the situation alone, and that they’ve got you in their corner.
Asking questions is very vital as well. So, the only way a practitioner can gain information from a child, is asking relevant questions, in a way that will make them feel comfortable enough to share their experiences. So, I use a strategy of what, how, and gain their trust. And get children to be able to trust that you acknowledge, and you’ll act on the information shared, and not dismiss their concerns and act like it didn’t happen.
It’s also really important that we do ongoing check-ins with the children, particularly in a school environment, it’s important that we get their feedback, and find out about how the child is now engaging, if there is bullying behaviour, and how they understand, the child experiencing the behaviour feels, and the consequences of the bullying. Most schools have an anti-bullying policy – very few have an action plan on how they will manage that. So, it’s really important from a teacher’s perspective, if you have the potential to be able to have influence in that space, it’s definitely valid to make sure we have an action plan on how to manage bullying.
The practitioner may also do some constant follow-up with the child, to ensure that they are responding to their interventions and their methods and that sort of thing as well.
So, why is it important that practitioners are mindful of their own attitudes to bullying? And I mentioned that just a little bit before. So, a practitioner’s attitude towards bullying, will determine how they view the actual incident that’s happened. So, whether they consider it to be problematic, or their ability to support a target of the bullying, is really important. So, if we come in with our own values and previous incidents, and we deal with it how perhaps somebody told us to deal with it, rather than what the new practice is on managing bullying, we can come in with a clouded head. So, it’s important that we remain objective and put aside those perceptions and preferences, to avoid projecting the same onto the children that we work with.
How can practitioners be mindful of their own attitudes, and how these may impact their practice. So, practitioners can practice some self-reflection, in order to recognise their attitudes and possible biases towards bullying. And I would also extend that out to self-care as well – it’s really important that if you have had a history of being bullied, that you actually practice some self-care, and come up with some ideas on how you are going to manage that in a situation, because in schools, bullying happens every day. So, the aim would be to be non-judgemental, and to develop a trust within themselves and their feelings, to realise that when their personal differences and history around the subject of bullying are affecting the execution of their role as practitioners.
How could labelling children as a bully or a victim impact on the mental health. And we’re trying to move away from that, that language. The term ‘bully’ can be described as a behaviour that can’t be changed. And while the term ‘victim’ is a label on an individual, but it’s disempowering, and it may leave the person feeling really helpless. A label that sticks, can lead parents and teachers and peers, to treat a child differently, and it might be that label can stay with them all the way through their schooling time. Which may affect, of course, the psyche of the child in their own personal world, as well as in their school life.
So, the child may internalise the label as part of an identity, and in turn increase their likelihood of behaving in a manner that identifies with the label in the future, making change more difficult. The social stigma associated with the labels of bully and victim, give more negative impacts of psychosocial functioning, than children and those who have not been labelled, especially for those who perceive themselves as a victim. I’ve had some children in the past say, “I’m a bully, and that’s all I’ll ever be.” So, they’ve latched onto that label, and “I don’t need friends because I’m a bully.” So, it’s important that we try and move away from that language.
How might practitioners support a movement away from these labels, to support a child’s mental health? So, practitioners may adopt a strength-based approach, that focus on the child’s unique qualities, and teaches the child to acknowledge and adopt these qualities, in an effort to further develop them. And if we change the narrative around the child, we’ll encourage change within them. And cognitive restructuring may also help, that we may remind them that experiencing bullying is not their fault, and it’s not about them, but it’s about the other person, who may have some stuff going on in their own world, and not doing so well with their own mental health.
Thank you, that was quick. Thank you very much for listening, and I move on to our next presenter. Thank you.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Great, thank you, Julie. I think you raised some important practice considerations. I really liked that “Change the narrative to encourage change in them.” It’s really important. I think our language is very powerful.
So, I now hand over to Vanya. Thank you, Vanya.
VANYA: Thank you, Nicole. I’m speaking as a parent of children who have experienced bullying. So, from that, I’ve noticed some of these impact on their mental health over time. Troubles with sleep, I’ve got loss of increase in appetite, troubles with self-regulation, increased meltdowns, poor physical health because of the constant fight/flight/freeze, so an overabundance of adrenaline, which is affecting them physically. There’s school avoidance, due to fear that they may get bullied again. Low self-esteem and confidence, feelings of rejection, isolation and powerlessness, they feel hopeless they can’t change anything. They’ve got a lack of trust in people; they may be withdrawn. Poor performance and concentration. Unfortunately, self-harming behaviours. Acting out with aggression, and the showing of antisocial behaviours.
And when I think of the mental health impacts, I like to think of it in this bio-psychosocial model, where it’s not just the physical, not just the psychological, it’s all combined into one, and the effect it has can be devastating, short-term and long-term.
So, early intervention and prevention. I’ve said here that teachers have so many children to support, that we can’t rely on them, on teachers alone. So, not just for in the school, but practitioners outside as well. Encourage the parents and families to build rapport with the school staff and the wellbeing team, I’ve found that incredibly helpful to build up that relationship with the school support. And through them, we came up with a plan, and it was really, really helpful. Speak to the school, if they have any concerns that the child may be experiencing or engaging in bullying behaviours.
Understand the ever-evolving forms of bullying. As we know, cyberbullying now is, I think Lesley said, it’s the second highest form of bullying. So, we need to have a real understanding of what that involves. Be aware of the changes in that child’s demeanour, no matter how small, if they become withdrawn, or they’re acting out more. Talk to the children about what bullying is, and how to speak up and respond. This way, you can promote resilience in their children, and explain how to do that.
I think really important, the next two points as well, seize the moment, be completely present, listen to what the child is saying, because it may have been really hard for them to step up and voice their concerns. So, just be open, honest, understanding, and thankful, that when they come to you for help, you are there to help them. And also, allow access to safe online and in-person support services, because there is so many out there, so tap into those.
Number one, support the parents and caregivers to trust their instincts. The parent, I always say, is the expert on their child. So, really build that rapport, get to know them. They spend 24/7 a day with their children, so they know, they’re the experts.
So, this next slide might be a bit raw, and these comments were unfortunately, but kindly, provided by my two children. So, as said from the mouth of the babes, “Bullies do mean things to me. They say yucky things about me. Bullies hurt my feelings. My body hurt where they hit me. Every day I’m scared that they are going to do something bad to me. Why won’t they leave me alone? I don’t want to use social media, because I know they can get to me. They keep hurting me, not just physically, but emotionally too. What did I do to make them hate me so much? I thought I could trust my friends.” Sad, but true. And that’s why we are here today, to advocate, and try and educate.
Okay, another aspect that’s close to my home, is children with medical conditions and different abilities. So, advocating against bullying as a parent. So, as a parent, I’ve found that educating myself about bullying has been vital. When I was at school, obviously it’s far different to what it is now, but some of those characteristics obviously still are present.
So, it’s been important for me to educate myself, so I can educate others. This was gathering information on my daughter’s medical condition, and also my son’s autism spectrum. Gather age-appropriate information and resources to share. So, I’ve gone to the school leaders, I’ve gone to the teachers, and I’ve provided them with resources that they can use and share with the class. So, not only the class, but the teachers get a better understanding of what’s going on – there’s rare conditions do exist, and they need to be acknowledged.
So, even if they don’t look different, we need to know that there are hidden conditions, and they need to be recognised, supported, and also spoken about. Understand that every condition presents differently in each individual. Sounds easy, but it’s so true. It’s so easy to put someone in a box, and just say, “Right, you’re on the spectrum, this is how you are.” No child is the same.
And through all this, being a carer of children with medical needs and different abilities, it’s not easy. So, we’d love practitioners to find alternative ways to interact with children, if they’re unable to communicate what they are going through. Maybe they’re non-verbal, or they’re too shy, or they just don’t know how to explain, or don’t feel safe. Please be ready to speak up and ask questions. A very important one too, was actively engage with the specialists of the child, because they do spend that time, they’re the ones providing, say occupational therapy – work together on how you can support that child.
Also, reach out to little-known associations and not-for-profit organisations, because, like myself, we have lived experience, and an understanding of the challenges the families may be facing. So, definitely, seeking supporting to assist my children, has made the world of difference. And that’s the one thing I would take away, please support the parents, they know their child the best, and yeah, educate and advocate.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Thank you, Vanya. It was great to hear your experience, and I think a privilege to hear from your children. So, thank you for sharing those quotes with us. Really, knowing what was helpful for you as a parent, is an important piece of the puzzle, so thank you very much. Thanks, Vanya. Thanks all three of you for your presentations.
So, that leads us into our question-and-answer time, if Lesley and Julie would like to join us again. So, I thought I might start with you, Julie. One of the questions that came through, which I thought was interesting and might provide some context is, what makes a child or a young person more likely to engage in bullying behaviours?
JULIE CLIFTON: Good question. So, I guess there could be many, many different things, and Lesley touched on a few earlier on. But I guess from my perspective, what I’ve seen is, the multiple factors that can contribute, is the feeling insecure, picking on someone who seems emotionally or physically weaker, can provide a feeling of importance or popularity, or control. A lack of awareness, so some students or children don’t even know or realise that it’s unacceptable to pick on other children who are different, because of their size, their looks, their race, or their disability, or their religion. And particularly those that frequently see this behaviour from other people in their lives, if it's mirrored. You know, monkey see, monkey do kind of thing as well.
So, which goes on to behavioural role models as well, so being exposed to aggressive and unkind interactions with family members in other areas of their life, can result in students treating other people the same way.
Also, I guess, behavioural problems, which can be part of an ongoing pattern, or aggressive behaviour which can stem from ADHD, or situations like that, where children are having to deal with those internalised things that are happening within their own worlds as well.
And I think the last one for me is about problems at home, you know when there’s divorces, separation, and things happening in a child’s world, the wheels can fall off. So, I think it’s important to understand the certain situations where a child needs power back, so that imbalance of power needs to happen. I know Lesley touched on that earlier about the imbalance of power, and I think it’s understanding that that’s where a child is in their world. And just because they are a bully, doesn’t mean that they are necessarily unfixable, and that we can support them in changing things. It doesn’t mean they’re like that forever. That’s a good question, thank you.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Thanks, Julie. I think exploring that context is really important isn’t it, for practice – it kind of gives some clues as to why something might be happening for a child. Thank you.
Something else that’s come through a bit, which I thought was interesting as well. Lesley, I’ll ask you this one. I’m wondering how bullying in young children, is different from bullying in older children, whether there’s different behaviours, or things to look out for, and what that might mean for practice as well, and working with kids of different ages?
LESLEY-ANNE EY: So, bullying for, it’s contested in the field at the moment in relation to whether young children can be classified as engaging in bullying behaviour. Because we know that young children, particularly children under five, are still learning social competence, their social skills. They might use aggressive behaviours to achieve a goal, but not intend to harm. So, for example, if there are two children in a sandpit, and one child wants the spade, they might hit the other child over the head. And they might do that on a daily basis, because that want that spade, and that child seems to always have it.
So, that is, by definition, bullying behaviour, but it’s about educating that child around social competence, around how to ask for that spade, rather than just trying to engage in aggressive behaviours to try and reach their goal.
For young children, the bullying behaviour is more likely to be physical behaviour, and relational bullying comes in fairly early in the age range, and that continues on. I guess as they get older, the physical bullying tends to decline, the relational, social and cyberbullying tends to increase. As children have more access to internet technologies and mobile phones, they are more vulnerable to the cyberbullying behaviour.
Again, we have a look at the developmental levels of older children, so the young people that are going through puberty, they’re learning about their identity, they’re experimenting. They might engage in those behaviours, and it’s more likely to go online and offline. So, if there’s a student that’s being bullied at school, that’s likely to go to outside of school through the online platform.
And as far as responding to that behaviour, I think we need to educate from a really early age, around what bullying means, what it is, and the impact that it can have. How to build empathy for others, how to consider others’ feelings. And like I said in my PowerPoint, in relation to educating kids around social competence, and the impacts that their behaviour can have on others, really needs to be implemented at a very early age.
And as far as responding to bullying, educating kids around self-regulation, around managing conflict, around help-seeking behaviours as well is really important, from a very early age. But also, to normalise that as they get older, because we know that as adolescents tend to seek help from their peers before they seek help from professionals. So, if we educate our kids around bystander behaviours versus defender behaviours, maybe their peers can play a role in supporting them, to seek help, or seeking help on their behalf.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Great, thank you, Lesley. And Vanya kind of related to that. One of the questions we got through was, what can I do if a child is being bullied, and they don’t want to talk about it? I thought that was quite interesting, because that happens a lot.
VANYA: It does. I must admit, it happened with my two. It took them, probably a year, which is awful, but it took them a year to build up the courage to actually tell me, and whether that’s because they didn’t know how.
But for saying that, if you do see someone enacting bullying behaviour, or if they are experiencing it, do step in, and just see – just see how you can get out of them what it is. And that may be, do a social story on what to do if you are experiencing it. The same if they are enacting bullying behaviours, educate them, train them, teach them. Provide support for those experiencing bullying, just enforce gently the facts, that they have the right to feel safe, and to do so, they can come to a safe person or safe people, a safe place.
And I think one saying that I heard for those engaging in bullying behaviours, was help those that least deserve it, because they’re the ones that need it the most. And that just struck a chord with me, because there’s clearly something going on behind the scenes. As Lesley and Julie said, it’s not just the children, that that child is unkind or catty or whatever, it has had to come from somewhere – modelling from parents, monkey see, monkey do. So, yeah, definitely take the time to build rapport and trust with the child, so that they can open up and tell you what exactly is going on.
LESLEY-ANNE EY: May I add to that Nicole, please?
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Yeah, of course.
LESLEY-ANNE EY: As I said earlier, the research shows that children and students, are not actually reporting bullying, in the way that they should be, and they are not seeking help from professionals. And I think a big key in that is relative to the fear of the bullying escalating. And there’s other research out there that talks about students that have reported bullying, and it hasn’t been managed very well within a school context. So, that then acts as a role model, as a measure, for how bullying is going to be responded to, and whether the responses are actually working.
So, it’s really important as professionals, and as parents, that if a child does report bullying behaviour to us, that we respond in a way that’s going to be really supportive to them, and not leave them more vulnerable to that bullying behaviour escalating, and then feeling even more unsafe than what they did before they reported.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Yeah, great. So, building that trust and that rapport, but then also, once that disclosure happens, making sure that that’s being taken seriously. Yeah, great.
We did get a lot of questions about the idea of labelling, so I wanted to touch on that a bit, because I thought that was a really important point. So, what can we name it instead? We’ve sort of been using the terms, experiencing bullying behaviour, or engaging in bullying behaviour. But someone else was really interested in what, so if we’re not labelling, what are we talking about? So, is it important then to label behaviours?
I sort of just thought I’d open it up to the panel to discuss that.
LESLEY-ANNE EY: I think we need to label the behaviour, not the child. So, we need to say, that if a behaviour is bullying, we need to recognise that, acknowledge that, and talk about that behaviour is bullying. But it is about labelling that behaviour, not the child. So, we don’t label the child a bully, we label the behaviour. That’s why we sort of, use the terms, well use the language, a child displaying bullying behaviour, or engaging in bullying behaviour. Otherwise, as Julie said, they adopt those labels, and they live up to those labels – they just assume, “I’m seen as a bully, I might as well just continue on engaging in those behaviours, because that’s how I’m being treated, and that’s how I’m seen.”
VANYA: I find the term ‘victim’ very disempowering. It takes away your sense of worth, and you just keep perpetrating, “I am a victim, I’m a victim.” So, I definitely think that one can stay with that child for a very long time. I think it would be wonderful to get rid of the term ‘victim’, because it’s just so disempowering for the person.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Yeah, for sure. So, really, stepping away from labelling the child, but still labelling the behaviour as bullying, and recognising it as bullying.
JULIE CLIFTON: In my space, we kind of, look at it as more above the line and below the line behaviours, rather than what was okay, what’s not okay, and then looking at what can we do about that, rather than it be, “You’re a bully, and you’re a victim.” It’s, what are the behaviours that aren’t okay, and what does that look like, what does that feel like. And then come up with solutions of, how do we manage that with that child. So, we try not to label.
It’s hard when, for so many years we’ve been calling them victims and bullies, to change that. And so, it’s a process, but we’ll get there.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Yeah, I like that below the line – above the line, below the line behaviour, and really defining what that is. Great.
Someone did ask a specific question for Julie as well, which I wanted to ask whilst we were still live. Someone wanted to know about whether you could expand on the what, who, where technique. Have I got that right?
JULIE CLIFTON: Yeah, what, what, how. So, it was what, what, how. So, it’s a real simple engagement tool in working with kids. When a kid walks into my space, it’s normally, “Hey, what’s going on, what’s happening for you?” And then they might say something has happened, and then going, “Okay, what did that look like, and what did that feel like?” And then exploring, “How can I help you, or how can I work with you to create some solutions for that, and what’s important for you?” Because I think what’s important for me as an adult’s perspective, isn’t always what a child wants.
And so, a child might come in and report an incident that’s happened, or whether it’s conflict, or whether it’s bullying behaviour, and they might show those signs that they’re completely upset. But it might not necessarily be the words that’s been used, it might be the exclusion.
So, you can go in tunnel vision of what you think they need, whereas if you go in, being child-focussed and asking them, “Out of that whole scenario, what’s important; what’s the most important thing that you would want to have fixed?” Or little kids I say, “If you could wave a magic wand, what would you want to happen?” And the kids will come back with, “I just want them to be kind, or I want them to be nice, or I want them to be friendly to me, I don’t want them to leave me out.” And so, they’re almost labelling those behaviours, above and below the line behaviours, and what they expect a good friend to be.
Programs like ‘Friendology’ are like that as well, where you place everybody on a platform of, “We are all friends; just what level of friend are we?” And we’re not always going to be kind to each other all the time, but we can try.
So, what, what, how. What’s happening for you, what’s going on, what’s important for you, and how can I support you, and how can I make things better, and how can I help you make life a little bit easier for you at school, or wherever you’re at, sports or, I don’t know. So yeah, does that make sense to everyone?
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Yeah, great. Thanks, Julie. One of the final questions that I might ask you today, might open it up to each of you, is whether there’s any child-friendly resources that you’ve come across, around supporting children to understand, and be able to identify bullying – anything that you’ve come across, that would be really helpful.
JULIE CLIFTON: I have a really interesting video that I like, particularly with the older kids. There’s lots of great videos out there around, demonstrating bullying, and the effects of bullying, and the emotional attachment that happens, and the long-term effects. And Lesley used the paper one before, which is one we use in school as well, but there’s another one, a video about McDonald’s, or a hamburger shop or something, and a guy smashes the hamburger, and nobody does anything about it. And yet, in the actual, you have actors in the restaurant part, and they’re actually playing out a bullying scenario of a kid being picked on, and nobody’s doing anything about that. But everyone’s returning their smashed hamburger and wanting to complain about it.
And it’s a really interesting dynamic, where they turn around and say, “Well, if you saw a child being bullied and being picked on, how come you did nothing? But the burger that was picked on before you got it, you did nothing about.” So, that’s a really good way to introduce how things can then be damaged, because the burger’s broken for a long time now, unless you eat it.
There’s some really good videos out there. There’s lots of different programs that schools utilise. We use Big Talks, Little People, I think it’s called, and we use ‘Friendology’. There’s lots of resources for teachers on Teachers Pay Teachers, there’s lots of stuff from America. America do a lot of really good graphics, and really good child-friendly little things as well. So, there’s lots of programs out there to work with kids, around what does bullying look like, what does it feel like, and all that sort of stuff too. From my perspective, that’s the stuff that I use.
And also doing role plays, it’s really important as an adult, it’s okay to have fun as you said before. And I’ll quite often do a role play with kids around, it’s hard for someone who is being really mean to a child, to turn around, when a child is being kind back. So, there’s a great video in America of a presenter doing a scenario where they’re being picked on, and the child is actually turning – they turn around and they say, “You’ve got beautiful eyes,” or “You’re a really kind person, I wish I could be like you.” And so, changing that imbalance of power, to bring it back to a level playing field, I suppose, and just by being kind. You don’t have to change the world, just be kind.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Thanks, Julie. I was just going to say, is there anything Vanya, that you came across as a parent?
VANYA: Not on bullying per se. So, no, I can’t help with that. I prefer, as Julie has said, it would be wonderful to the teachers to have those resources as well, available. So, stock up on those resources, find as much as you can. Not just to educate the children, but the parents too. Yeah, something that they can engage with, as well as the child, that would be wonderful to have.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Great, thanks.
LESLEY-ANNE EY: I’m going to go back to the old but good experiments, the blue eye, brown eye experiment, where it looks at exclusion of children based on the colour of their eyes. That’s an excellent opportunity to talk about power differentials and bullying.
But also, I’ve created a resource with teachers, early childhood teachers in South Australia, that is available, that I’ve passed on to you Nicole.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Yes, that’s available in the handout section.
LESLEY-ANNE EY: The junior primary teachers in particular, but it can be used I guess, for kids with special needs, but also can be adapted to use with older children as well. That looks at all of those areas that I identified when I was talking about how to educate kids around what bullying is, what bullying is not, building resilience, managing conflict, all those types of things.
I highly recommend, because of the lack of understanding with parents as well is, whatever resources that you use and create with children and students, try to get them to share that with their parents, so that we build on community understanding about what bullying is. Because we have days specific towards, you know, Harmony Day, and we do talk about bullying a lot, but we don’t really drill down into what it in fact is. So, I think we largely have an uneducated community, so we need to go beyond kids, and broader.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: We’ve got a lot of questions around helpful approaches or evidence-based approaches to addressing bullying. So, I thought I’d just open it up to you guys to have a bit of a discussion around things that you know are helpful.
LESLEY-ANNE EY: It’s difficult to point out a particular program, because there’s so many to choose from. And there are limited evaluations of some of those programs, but it doesn’t mean that they’re not research-informed, and it doesn’t mean that they can’t be effective. So, it’s important that you actually have a look for programs that might be suitable to your context, to make it relevant and effective within your setting. So, it is difficult, but there are lots of resources out there.
VANYA: I’ve found as a parent, using my son’s occupational therapist, she’s been working a lot on what emotions look like, what emotions are depicted in faces, how to recognise sarcasm. I think that’s a very important tool, to work with their therapists, as I said in my slides. And teach those children, because it’s part of their therapy anyway, just that’s a great way for them to start building an idea of, “Hang on, they’re taking the mickey out of me,” rather than just taking it blindly and thinking it’s okay. So, I think, work with the OTs, or whichever therapists.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Great, thanks Vanya.
JULIE CLIFTON: I would say from my perspective, in a school environment, restorative practice is really important, for schools to train their staff, around how to manage conflict, and be good at it. So, that would be my feedback.
LESLEY-ANNE EY: And I think you need the consistency Julie, as well. Whatever program you are implementing, you need to make sure that your staff are trained in that, and that it gets implemented in the same way, so that it’s effective.
JULIE CLIFTON: Yeah, definitely.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Great, thank you. A few people asked about building resilience in children. So, we do hear that a lot, building resilience. They wanted some specific guidance on how you can build resilience in children, I suppose particularly around bullying experiences? I might throw that one to you, Julie?
JULIE CLIFTON: I’m going to say, what I use particularly is, using those strength-based models. And working with kids around the circle of control, and how they can actually, the things they can control, and the things they can’t control. And getting kids to understand that.
My voice is going to go. I might just pause for a second if that’s okay.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Sure.
LESLEY-ANNE EY: I might jump in while Julie is paused. I think building resilience comes from a strengths-based perspective, where you help children identify their strengths, also, building their social networks. So, if they’ve got some peer support, parental support, family support, school support, that helps them with their resilience.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Yeah, for sure.
JULIE CLIFTON: Still catching up from my tonsilitis. So, I think, when I definitely work with the kids, it’s around getting them to understand the things – people will always be mean, and people will always say nasty things, and we can’t control that. And getting them to reflect on what are adult problems, and what are kid problems, and how can they differentiate between the two.
And then, work with them on you don’t necessarily have to have the right words to come back at somebody who’s being mean to you. But if you can understand in your own mind that – and I think for as long as I was a police officer and things like that, that was the trick, is getting people to know that you can’t change other people. But the way you respond to that, it’s that respond versus react situation, and if you respond in a respectful manner and in a kind manner, kindness breeds kindness, as we know, and kindness creates all sorts of wonderful things for our health and wellbeing.
And if we can actually focus on the kindness, and teaching our kids to be kind, and be a better person than they were yesterday, and I think that’s the key to moving forward. And we are all different, we all come from diverse and very different backgrounds, and if we’re respectful of that, and we’re kind, then it’s hard to be mean to someone who’s kind to you, because that makes you out to be almost like a monster, and nobody wants to be made a monster.
So, I think for me, in our school, that’s what I focus on, is that circle of control, and getting kids to understand. For me, that’s where the magic is, when it comes from inside. There’s no magic wand that’s going to make bullying go away, it’s just about changing the way we process things, and what can we do better today than what we did yesterday. So, I hope that helps. There’s no, one solution doesn’t fit all, but kindness does. Kindness makes a big difference to everyone’s lives.
LESLEY-ANNE EY: And I think also, reiterating to the child that it’s not them, there’s nothing wrong with them, they haven’t done anything wrong. I know Vanya was saying, when she was talking about her children, how they said, “What have we done wrong?” Helping them to understand it’s not them, it’s not something they’ve done wrong, it’s not their problem why this is occurring or happening to them. It’s helping them to, I guess, understand that there might be other issues happening in the child’s life, who is exhibiting those behaviours towards them.
Did you want to add anything to that, Vanya?
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Yeah, I might ask Vanya, maybe how you responded to the sorts of things that your kids were saying, and how you did build them up?
VANYA: I think once they finally opened up, I just was open and honest, and really listened to what they were trying to say. So, through doing that, and having that loving connection, them knowing that they could come to me about anything. That I feel, helped them build the resilience to then go in the school situation, and realise, “Actually it’s not me that’s wrong, it’s what they’re doing to me is wrong. I haven’t done it.” So, through that open communication with me, and also the school wellbeing leader, and the OT, it was definitely a combined effort, to reinforce that it’s not them, and it does need to change, and this is how it’s going to change. So, I found that really helpful.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Yeah, so building that support team around the child.
JULIE CLIFTON: Create the village.
NICOLE ROLLBUSCH: Well, thank you all. It’s been a pleasure having a chat with you, so thank you very much for joining us. And thank you to our audience again for watching, and we’ll see you next time.
JULIE CLIFTON: Thank you everyone.
LESLEY-ANNE EY: Thank you.
1. Working with children who are experiencing or engaging in bullying behaviour
Dr Lesley-Anne Ey, Julie Clifton, Vanya, Nicole Rollbusch (Facilitator)
CFCA Emerging Minds Webinar 10th August 2022
2. Working with children who are experiencing or engaging in bullying behaviour
Dr Lesley-Anne Ey, Julie Clifton, Vanya, Nicole Rollbusch (Facilitator)
We recognise and pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners of the Lands we work, play, and walk on throughout this Country. We acknowledge and respect their Traditional connections to their Land and Waters, culture, spirituality, family, and community for the wellbeing of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.
4. Learning outcomes
This webinar will support practitioners to:
- understand how childhood bullying affects child mental health
- understand the importance of prevention and early intervention in limiting the effects of childhood bullying in adulthood
- be curious about children’s understanding and perspectives on bullying and why this is important
- explore strategies to work with children experiencing bullying or engaging in bullying behaviour.
5. Webinar series
CFCA and Emerging Minds webinar series: Focus on infant and child mental health
Upcoming webinars include:
- Supporting infant and toddler mental health and wellbeing
- Engaging children
- Engaging fathers to support children’s mental health and wellbeing
Previous webinars include:
- Supporting children who have disclosed trauma
- Approaches to support child mental health in culturally and linguistically diverse communities
6. Related resources
- Identifying and responding to bullying in the pre-teen years: The role of primary health care practitioners
- Working with families to prevent bullying
- Exploring bullying in context: Children’s relationships, friendships, and social functioning
- Supporting families to navigate school responses to bullying
- Understanding childhood bullying and mental health
Upcoming - Podcasts
- Considerations for working in child mental health and bullying – Part 1 and Part 2
- Send through your questions via the question box at any time during the webinar.
- All our webinars are recorded.
- The slides are available in the handout section on the webinar platform.
- The video, audio, transcript and presenters’ responses to additional questions will be posted on our website and YouTube channel in the coming week.
- Dr Lesley-Anne Ey
Senior Researcher and Lecturer, University of South Australia
- Julie Clifton
Social Inclusion Worker, Hallett Cove School & Bully Zero Australia
Child and Family Partner
9. Dr Lesley-Anne Ey, University of South Australia
10. Bullying: Context and Background
- A significant social problem impacting children and adolescents across all parts of the world (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2017; Bayer et al, 2018; Husky et al 2020).
- Significant impacts on children’s physical, mental and general wellbeing (Slee, 2016; Spears et al., 2017; United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2017).
- 246 million children and adolescents experience school violence in some form every year… and that bullying is the most common form’ (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2017, p. 12).
- Economic costs of bullying: $2.3 billion, whilst children are at school and for 20 years afterwards, for each individual school year group (AMF, 2018)
11. Bullying Basics
- Intent to harm
- Intent to harm
- Power Differentials
- Repeated over time
- Bullying is a sub-set of aggression, with unique characteristics
12. What is bullying?
Bullying is defined as repeated acts of physical, relational, or verbal violence with the intent to harm or humiliate another person.
Bullying involves a certain level of power imbalance whereby the child experiencing the behaviour perceives the child engaging in the behaviour as having more power than them (Olweus, 1994).
Overt or Covert
Physical violence (physical assaults e.g. hitting, kicking)
Relational violence (social isolation, spreading rumours)
Verbal violence (name calling and threats)
Sexual bullying (unwanted sexual touching, advances, language, harassment) (Armitage, 2021)
Cyberbullying is bullying behaviour that is carried out through internet or mobile phone technologies. It is often combined with offline bullying. It may include a combination of behaviours such as prank calls, insulting text messages, publishing someone’s private information, creating hate sites, or implementing social exclusion campaigns in social networking sites (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2017).
14. A snapshot of bullying in Australian schools
Text description: Retrieved from McCrindle (2019) Gen Z 10-24
- There are 3,893,834 students enrolled in 9,477 schools.
- There are 4.7 million Gen Z, aged between 10-24, in Australia who are in schools and higher education providers.
- There are 2 billion Gen Zs globally
- Today’s Gen Z students will make up one third (33%) of the Australian workforce by 2028.
Bullying in schools is a serious problem in Australia
- 80% of students say that bullying is a problem in their school
- 20% of students say bullying is an extremely/very serious problem
Three out of five students (59%) have experienced bullying. That’s 2.3 million students nationally.
One in five students (20%) admitted they had bullied another person.
Of those who have experienced bullying...
- One in five (20%) experience bullying at least weekly
- One in twelve (8%) of those who experience bullying suffering it daily
- Three out of five (57%) say experiencing bullying upsets them a lot/great deal
Types of bullying experienced by those who have been bullied include:
- 50% Verbal
- 13% Via social media
- 20% Physical
- 11% via text message
- 6% Other (answers included social exclusion, gossiping, emotional/mental)
One in seven students who are bullied do not speak to anyone (14%). That’s 340,656 students in Australia who stay silent.
Bullied students who do speak up are most likely to talk to parents (27%) and friends (24%).
15. Impact of bullying
For the child engaging in bullying behaviour - externalising disorders: attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), conduct disorder (CD) and oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) (Husky, et. al, 2020), lower self-belief, lower emotional competence (Chrysanthou & Chrysovalantis 2019) lower credibility and trust, self-harm and suicidal thought- more likely to engage in criminal offending and substance abuse, poor educational and employment outcomes, higher risk of depression later in life (AIHW, 2020; 2021; Paulmony, et al, 2022)
16. Impact of bullying part 2
For the child experiencing bullying behaviour - internalizing disorders (including separation anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, and phobia) (Husky, et. al, 2020) poor life satisfaction, hyperactivity/inattention and emotional symptoms, including lower levels of belief-in-self, belief-in-others, emotional competence, and subjective wellbeing (Chrysanthou & Chrysovalantis 2019), low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts or attempts, social isolation, increased stress, and deterioration of physical health, poor academic achievement, financial, emotional, or mental harm (Paulmony, et al, 2022)
17. Impact of bullying (approx. 20%)
For the child both engaging in and experiencing bullying behaviour – externalising and internalising disorders (Husky, et. al, 2020) – mental health impacts (anxiety, depression, eating disorders, separation anxiety, deliberate self-harm behaviours) and conduct disorders are most severe for children and young people who are bully-victims (Armitage, 2021; Husky et al, 2020; Özdemir & Stattin 2011) lower self-esteem, higher failure anticipation (Özdemir & Stattin 2011).
18. Prevention and early intervention
- Understanding bullying and bullying roles
- Collaboration – children's ecological systems
- Defining bullying and not bullying behaviours
- Bystanders and Defenders
- Reporting Vs Dobbing
- Gender Myths
- Managing conflict
- Building resilience
- Understanding friendship
- Help Seeking
- Significant increase in ability to identify
- an intent to harm (X2(3) = 11.862; p<0.01; ASR = 3.4)
- an imbalance in power (X2(1) = 9.001; p<0.005)
- repetition (X2(3) = 13.15; p<0.005; ASR = 2.3)
20. Intervention Example: Defining Bullying Activity
- Repetition - did they hurt someone over and over again?
- Power - Is there a power difference?
- Intent to harm - Was it done on purpose?
- Bullying Checklist
- Intent to harm - was it done on purpose?
- Power - was the person bigger, stronger, older, or was there more than one?
- Repetition - has it happened over and over again?
21. Resources made by children
Text description: Bullying No Way (by JP class 2017)
- What is not bullying?
- Hurting someone by accident
- Developmentally normal fighting, physical, verbal (teasing, insults)
- Conflict: a disagreement
- Being mean, nasty, not nice, hurting others
- Treat people the way you want to be treated
- What can we do? Tools to help us
- Take a deep breath
- Use an "I message"
- Step back
- Walk away
- Have a talk
- Calm your body and mind
- It's ok to disagree
- Make rules - make an agreement
- It's about...
- Power (control)
- Intent to harm (purpose vs accident)
- Repetition (again and again)
- Power - Using your power to create unequal relationships
- Intent to harm
- hurting others on purpose
- targeting someone to hurt them
- Picking on someone again and again
22. Thank you
23. Julie Clifton, Social Inclusion Worker in Hallett Cove School R-12, Bully Zero Australia Foundation
24. How might children and adults view or define bullying differently?
25. Different meanings
- Somethings which the adults view as minor can be major to children, e.g., name-calling
- Some children believe that those they consider as friends do not bully, but their parents think their children are bullied.
- Difficult to distinguish if the power imbalance is a bullying situation
26. Why is it important for practitioners to understand children’s perspectives on bullying?
- When a child’s perspective is heard in matters regarding bullying, person-centred support can be designed that specifically addresses what they want and need rather than what we may interpret to be supportive of them (O’Brien, 2019).
- This way, the child will be able to communicate openly and feel heard and supported in a safe space.
27. How can practitioners best do this?
- Build rapport: For the child to be able to openly communicate, the practitioner needs to be intentional about building a meaningful engagement and relationship with them so that they are assured of being in a safe space.
- Create a safe environment: Practitioners should create a safe space in which children experiencing bullying will not feel self-blame and in which children engaging in bullying are not shamed for their behaviour.
- Listen without judgement: Children feel understood and supported when their teacher or adult takes the time to listen and understand what the children are saying without forming or including their own biases.
28. How can practitioners best do this part 2
- Explore underlying issues: According to Moore, et al. ( 2017) studies found strong associations between victimization and mental health problems including depression, anxiety, poor general health, suicidal ideation, and behavior. The child’s family can provide perspective on how best to help them. A meeting with them could provide insight into how the child has reacted to the situation at home and help to come up with solutions that will help both at school and at home.
- Offer strategies, tools, and skills: Practitioners need to be on the lookout for the children’s well-being, support and mentor them and teach them valuable skills that will help them be assertive and stand up for each other.
- Further support: Reassuring the child that they did the right thing by talking. Explaining to them that they are not to blame will go a long way in assuring the child that their feelings are valid, and they are not alone in dealing with the situation.
29. How can practitioners best do this – part 3
- Ask questions: The only way for the practitioner to gain information from the child is by asking relevant questions in way that will make them comfortable enough to share their experience.
- Gain trust: Children need to be able to trust that the practitioner will acknowledge and act on the information shared and not dismiss their concerns and act like it did not happen.
- Ongoing check-ins: It is important that the child’s feedback, contributions, and experiences are taken seriously, and that the child engaging in bullying behaviour understands the child experiencing the behaviours feelings and the consequences of bullying. The practitioner may do constant follow up with the child to ensure that they are responding to their intervention methods.
30. Why is it important that practitioners are mindful of their own attitudes to bullying?
- A practitioner’s attitude towards bullying will determine how they view bullying, whether they consider it to be a problematic behaviour, and their ability to offer support to targets of bullying.
- It’s therefore important that they remain objective and put aside their personal perceptions/preferences to avoid projecting the same onto the child.
31. How can practitioners be mindful of their own attitudes and how these may impact their practice?
- Practitioners can practice some self-reflection in order to recognize their attitudes and possible biases toward bullying.
- The aim would be to be non-judgmental and to develop a trust within themselves and their feelings to realise when their personal differences and history around the subject of bullying are affecting the execution of their role as practitioners.
32. How could labelling children a ‘bully’ or a ‘victim’ impact their mental health?
- The term ‘bully’ can be described as a behaviour that can’t be changed, while the term ‘victim’ is a label on an individual that is disempowering and may leave the person feeling helpless.
- A label that sticks can lead parents, teachers, and peers to treat a child differently from how they treat other children, which may have effects on the psyche of the child.
- The child may internalise the label as part of their identity and in turn, increase their likelihood of behaving in a manner that identifies with the label in the future making change more difficult.
- The social stigma associated with the labels of ‘bully’ and ‘victim’ give more negative impacts to psychosocial functioning of children than those who have not been labelled, especially for those who perceived themselves as a victim.
33. How might practitioners support a movement away from these labels to support child mental health?
- Practitioners may adopt a strength-based approach that focuses on the child’s unique qualities and teaches the child to acknowledge and adopt these qualities in an effort to further develop them.
- If we change the narrative about the child, we will encourage change in them.
- Cognitive restructuring may help that we may remind the child experiencing bullying that it is not their fault, it is not about them but about the other person who may not be feeling good about themselves.
34. Thank You!
35. Vanya, Child and Family Partner
- Impacts on Mental Health
- Troubles with sleep
- Loss/increase in appetite
- Troubles with self-regulation
- Increased meltdowns
- Fight/flight/freeze - adrenalin
- School avoidance due to fear
- Low self-esteem and confidence
- Feelings of rejection, isolation and powerlessness
- Lack of trust
- Poor performance/concentration
- Self-harming behaviours
- Acting out with aggression
- Anti-social behaviours
The Biopsychosocial Model of Mental Health
- Biological - genetics, disease, injury, hormones, diet, exercise, drugs, alcohol, toxins, stressors
- Social - Upbringing, family/peer relationships, poverty, school, media, culture, work, stresses, traumas, discrimination
- Psychological - Beliefs, emotions, resilience, coping skills, emotional intelligence, cognitive biases, behaviour, IQ
- Mental Health
Retrieved from Image: https://delphis.org.uk/
37. Early Intervention and Prevention
- Teachers have so many children to support, we can’t rely on teachers alone
- Encourage parents and families to:
- Build rapport with school staff and the well-being team
- Speak to the school if they have any concerns that their child may be experiencing or engaging in bullying behaviours
- Understand the ever-evolving forms of bullying
- Be aware of changes in their child’s demeanour, no matter how small
- Talk to their children about what bullying is and how to speak up and respond
- Promote resilience in their children and explain how to do so
- Seize the moment, be completely present and listen to what their child is saying
- Be open, honest, understanding and thankful when their child comes to them for help
- Allow access to safe online and in-person support services
- Number One: support parents/care givers to trust their instincts. The parent is the expert on their child!
38. Bullying from a Child’s Point of View
- From the mouths of babes:
- “Bullies do mean things to me”
- “They say yucky things about me”
- “Bullies hurt my feelings”
- “My body hurts where the they hit me”
- “Everyday I am scared that they are going to do something bad to me”
- “Why won’t they leave me alone?”
- “I don’t want to use social media because I know they can get to me”
- “They keep hurting me, not just physically but emotionally too”
- “What did I do to make them hate me so much?”
- “I thought I could trust my friends”
- Comments unfortunately but kindly provided by my two children
39. Children with Medical Conditions and Different Abilities – Advocating Against Bullying as a Parent
As a parent I’ve found that educating myself about bullying has been vital.
It’s been important for me to:
- Educate myself so I can educate others
- Gather age-appropriate information and resources to share
- Understand that rare conditions exist and need to be acknowledged
- Know that hidden conditions need to be recognised, spoken about and supported
- Understand that every condition presents differently in each individual
Being a carer of children with medical needs and different abilities is far from easy.
Help families to:
- Find alternative ways to interact with children if they are unable to communicate what they are going through
- Speak up and ask questions
- Actively engage with specialist/s
- Reach out to the little known associations and not-for-profit organisations, they have lived experience and an understanding of the challenges their family may be encountering
Seeking support to assist my children has made a difference.
40. Q & A Discussion
41. Feedback survey
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Senior Lecturer and Researcher, The University of South Australia
Dr Lesley-Anne Ey is a senior lecturer and researcher at Education Futures and the Australian Centre for Child Protection at the University of South Australia. She has two research strands: (1) Harmful Sexual Behaviour and (2) Bullying in Early Childhood. Dr Ey’s research is child-centric and aims to support the wellbeing of children. Her research on bullying explores and seeks to promote an understanding of bullying amongst young children, their parents and early childhood teachers. She was the lead researcher on ‘Co-creating anti-bullying interventions with early childhood educators (CABI-ECE): Supporting early childhood educators to address bullying in junior primary classes’. She is a full member of the Research in Educational and Social Inclusion Concentration (RESI) and an affiliate member of the Australian Centre for Child Protection (ACCP).
Social Inclusion Worker / Bully Zero
Julie Clifton is currently working as a Social Inclusion Worker at the South Australia Department of Education and Child Development (DECD). Julie spent 15 years with the South Australia Police and has 20 years’ experience educating on Cybersafety. She is a registered trainer for the e-safety Commissioner on internet safety as well as a qualified trainer for the Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship Program. Julie was also the South Australian State Manager for Bully Zero Australia from 2013 to 2016.
Vanya is a single mother to two children, both of whom have medical issues, present from birth. Her 12-year-old daughter was born with bilateral talipes (clubfoot), which required extensive medical intervention, operations and physio. At 7 she required further treatment that left her wheelchair bound for 3 months. Vanya’s son was born with eosinophilic oesophagitis, a rare condition that causes the oesophagus to close over due to food allergies. This led to her son needing to be fed via a feeding tube, from the age of 14 months to 8 years of age. At 5 he was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. Unfortunately, these conditions have led to her children being severely bullied at school, but thankfully this is now under control.
Vanya is passionate about advocating for the prevention of bullying, for her own children and those with disabilities. She recently provided her family’s lived experience of bullying in an interview with Emerging Minds for the new e-learning course ‘Understanding Child Mental Health and Childhood Bullying’. Vanya is currently a third year Bachelor of Psychology student and volunteers her time for the Women’s Information Services SA, providing referrals to women and children who have or are experiencing domestic violence.
Content Development Officer, Emerging Minds. Facilitator
Nicole is a Content Development Officer with Emerging Minds. With a background in psychology and social work, Nicole has worked in both government and non-government organisations providing therapeutic support to children and families. Nicole’s particular areas of work have been in child and adolescent mental health, domestic violence and homelessness, and post-separation support for both children and parents. Moving into content development in child mental health has provided Nicole with a different perspective on the work and she enjoys the challenge of translating knowledge from research and practitioners, along with the expertise of those with lived experience, to support the learning of health and social service practitioners.
This webinar is co-produced by CFCA and Emerging Minds: National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health in a series focusing on children’s mental health. The work is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.
Featured image: © GettyImages/Juanmonino