With Bullying-Free NZ Week happening this week, JUDE BARBACK suggests we need to make sure our children understand what constitutes bullying and how to deal with it.
“Kayla bullied me today,” said my Year 2 daughter sombrely.
“That’s terrible,” I responded. “What happened?”
“She snatched my fidget spinner from me and wouldn’t give it back.”
I resisted the temptation to tell her off for taking her fidget spinner to school in the first place. (To digress quickly – I was over the fidget spinner craze before it even began. How is this even a thing?!) I resisted a lecture on sharing with her friends. Of more concern to me was her misuse of the b-word.
“That’s not bullying,” I said, “It isn’t nice behaviour, but it’s not bullying.”
These days the word ‘bully’ is brandished here, there and everywhere. Kids know the power of it, the consequences it can provoke. But do they really understand the difference between a shove during some rough play and intentional vindictive bullying?
We need to give our kids the tools to understand what constitutes real bullying and how to deal with it.
Fortunately, the Ministry has this week revamped the www.BullyingFree.NZ and launched new online resources on the website to support schools, parents and their communities to tackle bullying.
The resources include a new parent pack with information and tips for parents, carers and whānau on how to deal with and talk to children about bullying issues, and resources for professional development workshops that step through what bullying is, responding to bullying behaviour, and bullying-prevention.
Hopefully Bullying-Free NZ Week - which culminates with Pink Shirt Day on Friday - will give schools the opportunity to discuss some of these issues and integrate these with their culture and values. It’s also a good time to review their anti-bullying policy.
‘Resilience’ is one of the core values at my kids’ school and one I want to see them model. I want them to be able to recognize a situation for what it truly is and respond appropriately. This means knowing the difference between tiffs and skirmishes, and actual bullying; knowing the difference between telling tales and speaking up when needed.
Of course, as NZ Police Prevention Manager: Community Focus, Inspector Paula Holt says: “Bullying doesn’t stop at the school gate.”
“Adults have a role in modelling the behaviour they want to see at school and home, and effective prevention needs the support of the whole school community working together to build an environment where everyone feels safe.”
And as Netsafe Chief Executive Officer, Martin Cocker points out, increasingly bullying amongst students doesn’t just happen at school.
“Often if the bullying is happening offline, it’s happening online too. One of the difficulties with online bullying is that children can feel like there’s ‘no escape’ because it doesn’t stop when they leave the school grounds. It’s important that parents and carers teach kids how to stay safe and where to get help if they need it, as well as how to behave positively toward each other online and offline.”
Netsafe and NZ Police are among the 18 organisations from across the education, social, justice and health sectors involved in the Bullying Prevention Advisory Group, the group behind Bullying-Free NZ Week.
Anti-bullying programme having positive effect in Kiwi schools
The anti-bullying programme KiVa has successfully reduced bullying in New Zealand schools and online, a preliminary evaluation from Victoria University of Wellington shows.
The report, led by Professor Vanessa Green from Victoria’s School of Education, evaluated 14 primary and secondary schools in New Zealand that had been using KiVa over a period of 12 months.
“These changes are a good indication that KiVa could be an effective anti-bullying programme in all New Zealand schools, particularly as these results are after only 12 months of implementation,” says Professor Green.
“The findings suggest there was a significant decrease in the frequency of bullying, the frequency of victimisation at school and on the internet and an increase in students’ feelings of safety within their school environment.”
The children were asked how often they had been bullied at school and via the internet, and whether they had bullied others at school. They were also asked about their feelings of safety when at school and their perception of teachers’ involvement in decreasing bullying over the previous year.
The results showed a 10.5 percent increase in the number of children who were not bullied in the previous year, and a 5.4 percent increase in those not bullied over the internet. There were significantly fewer students engaging in bullying behaviour over the year.
Professor Green says the role of teachers and peers is also essential in addressing bullying, and results from the report show that KiVa has had successful teacher engagement.
“The results show a significant change with students indicating that teachers were doing more to decrease bullying, which suggests a good level of buy-in by the teachers and participating schools.
“This initial evaluation shows a positive result and that participating schools are going in the right direction to combat bullying. What we are now doing is seeking funding to be able to continue implementing KiVa into all schools interested in the programme.”
The 2017 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report on students’ wellbeing, which surveys 51 countries, shows an average of 8.9 percent of 15 year olds are bullied. In New Zealand, this increases to 25 percent.
“The PISA report further shows how essential it is for New Zealand schools to be using effective antibullying programmes. My research now shows that KiVa is a successful antibullying programme to implement in New Zealand schools. I hope this will prompt more schools to get onboard with KiVa.”