Despite ongoing community efforts, stories of bullying continue to be reported with the recent death of a South-East Queensland school student the latest to make the headlines. Fifteen-year-old Zaeden, who aspired to become a school principal and was described as a kind, selfless and caring kid, was the victim of a humiliating catfish prank that led to a tragic spiral of events late last year. Sadly, this beloved child joins a litany of others who, as victims of bullying, took their life. Whilst most bullying cases do not end as tragically, they often inevitably take their toll on individual mental health long into the future. These cases remind us again that we still have a way to go as a society in fixing this social malady.
Professor James Scott, Head of Child and Youth Research at Queensland’s Berghofer Medical Research Institute, believes that whilst overall rates of bullying are not increasing amongst children there have been shifts in the data. The most notable changes are the decline in incidents of physical bullying whilst rates of relational (e.g., social exclusion, gossip) and verbal bullying have risen. Cyberbullying, a phenomenon unknown in previous generations, has become an extension of relational and verbal bullying enabling these to now insidiously reach into the home environment. The new animation series for the 2022 National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence, Be kind online, encourages young people to block content, report it, and support each other if they see or experience cyberbullying.
For the past twelve years the Bullying. No Way! organisation has used the third Friday of every March to raise awareness of the seriousness of bullying behaviours through its National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. This year more than 1200 schools in Queensland alone are marking this day with their communities through a range of events designed to raise community awareness and find workable solutions.
This year the theme for the National Day of Action across Australia is “Kindness Culture – It Starts With You.” For our society to reduce and prevent bullying we need everyone, the collective us, to play our part. This involves not just schools, but all levels of government, employers, families and organisations uniting and committing to a culture of kindness wherever a group of people live, work and play. After all, kindness is the ultimate antidote to bullying and violence.
How can schools commit to developing a kind and inclusive culture in which everyone’s wellbeing is fostered? Be You, the national mental health in education initiative, recognises that one of the key ways is through the implementation of school wide (universal) Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs. Second Step can be found listed in the Programs Directory on the Be You website and it is a prime example of a whole-school approach to teaching SEL.
The Second Step program for primary schools explicitly teaches kindness across all year levels through one of its four units that is dedicated to developing students’ empathy. But did you know that Second Step also has a unique supplementary Bullying Prevention Unit? This curriculum focusses on proactive school approaches such as establishing positive classroom rules and climate as well as teaching children how to recognise and report bullying: how to respond assertively to bullying and how to be a helpful bystander. These Second Step resources can make a significant contribution to every school’s efforts to create a safe supportive learning community in which bullying is unable to flourish.
Promoting kindness and preventing bullying really is up to you and me. And Second Step has made that a whole lot easier for teachers and schools.
Positive Pieces Education is the Australian and New Zealand publisher of the Second Step social-emotional learning program. Learn more