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Impact of Bullying on Children

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Childcare
Wordcount: 3880 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Background to the issue and what is known about how it impacts on children/young people/families

Bullying is a pertinent issue in Australian schools today. It is an issue that is consistent and regular in and outside of the classroom. My focus is going to specifically relate to covert bullying in primary schools which includes school social and verbal bullying.  “Research in Australia has indicated that approximately ten percent of school students reported being bullied most days or even every day at school. These rates of bullying between students are among the highest in the world.” (Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. 2009, intro). This is an area that must be treated seriously and actively at school as statistics are alarming and the effects on all students can be highly damaging and distressful impacting on all areas of a student’s life. “Bullying affects everyone involved, including people who witness it. It can have serious and long-term emotional or psychological consequences in addition to the immediate harmful effects”. (Bullying FAQ, n.d., p.5)

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Bullying can be understood to occur in three forms: “face-to-face bullying, covert bullying and online bullying” (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2017, p.3). Bullying is always in the headlines and becoming a major daily issue for children. Extensive research demonstrates that “bullying can have serious short-term and long-term consequences” (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2017, p.3) including “feeling unsafe at school, psychological distress, lower levels of academic achievement and lower levels of school attendance”. (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2017, p.3). Schools have the responsibility of supporting students and having processes and procedures in place as well as guidelines and support agencies that can assist students, teachers and families in crisis.

“Covert bullying has been broadly defined as a subtler, often hidden, form of non-physical, aggressive behaviour aimed at inflicting harm through peer relations, feelings of acceptance, friendships, and self-esteem that can result in social and psychological bruises that are equally, if not more painful than physical ones”. (Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. 2009, p. 18). For many students, this type of bullying can play tricks on their minds and be very hard to prove which makes its long-term effects particularly to those already with social and emotional worries, even more damaging.

Bullying can affect anybody, but vulnerable students who are more at risk of bullying include young people experiencing homelessness, young people with a disability, same sex attracted young people, and young people from racial, ethnic and religious minorities.

(ReachOut, 2017, p.5).  Australian research has revealed that bullying peaks in the middle primary school years and the first year of high school. This appears to be related to the rapid changes in the social skills and social demands for students at these stages. (Bullying No Way FAQs, n.d. p. 4). Primary schools are the first port of call to address bullying and have procedures in place at a young age.

“Research has found that the effects of bullying change behaviour in school, b) impact on students learning, c) what can be done to bullying” (Gleason, 2011, p.18). Primary students are generally very vocal about being bullied, but unfortunately are not always believed or listened to by teachers. “Most if not all participants expressed that bullying happens more in areas that are not well supervised and are out of earshot of the staff”. (Gleason, 2011, p.19). This is particularly true of covert bullying where the bully can disprove any wrong doing.

The most important fact about bullying is that, “All teachers, staff and administration expressed that there is a major impact on learning “(Gleason,2011, p. 20). This is the bottom line about the effects these experiences can have on students. (The Australian Student Wellbeing Framework) affirms children’s rights to education, safety and wellbeing under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.(Bullying no way). This issue must be taken seriously and dealt with. We must keep in mind how difficult it is to gain hard evidence when covert bullying takes place and the victim can be made to feel that they are “overreacting” by those who are in our care.

What responses might be recommended for teachers who encounter students experiencing this issue

Teachers have an important role and may sometimes be the one person who students feel comfortable talking to. We must be prepared to assist and take the matter seriously and carefully. “Bullying can negatively affect how children and young people see themselves and how they feel about themselves” (Bullying No way FAQs, n.d, p.6). So, our response and approach need to be effective and supportive. We have a “duty of care” to respond to any bullying occurring.

Students who have been bullied found the following information helped when dealing with their issue positive relationships, distractions, talking to a friend, confronting the bully, removing yourself from the situation (Reach out what helped students, p.10). This intervention would need teacher guidance and the assistance from other classmates.

Teachers have the role of taking any situation seriously and responding in helpful and caring ways. Mindmatters suggests, “Demonstrating an interest in the student’s wellbeing, being approachable, being empathetic, developing good listening skills, being non-judgemental when a student tells you of difficulties, knowing where the student can get help and helping them (where possible) access it where possible making allowances for individual students” (MindMatters, 2015, p. 9). As a primary teacher has total care of a class, it is possible to continue following up any issues and remain vigilant with the relationships that occur in the class, particularly when covert bullying has been identified.

In order to support children, their feelings need to be acknowledged. “If feelings, such as distress, are dismissed, minimised or negated, adults may unwittingly be adding to the child’s unhappiness or distress” (Powell, 2014, p. 25). This approach is highly advised for all teachers who find themselves dealing with an incident.

With covert bullying, it is interesting to note that it is a form of indirect bullying commonly used by girls included “exclusion from the group, rumour-mongering, malicious teasing and giving nasty looks” (Dedousis-Wallace and Shute 2009, 3) (Gleason,2011, p.10). Girls can form groups and dislike someone else which can make their life at school terribly uncomfortable. The response of the teacher must be one of proactive and perceptive to changes and observations to student’s personality, confidence and performance in and out if the classroom.

Schools need robust referral policies and processes that are relatively simple to follow. (MindMatters, 2015, p.10). Schools need to know the local agencies available for support. The teacher’s response must include informing the Assistant Principal, counsellor and welfare team to report their concerns and then the executive and specialists can implement support processes and agencies to help student.

Teachers should also be made away of The Safe school hub which provides practical examples and resources for teachers, schools, parents and students. National Safe Schools Framework provides guidelines for safe and supportive school communities. This resource is invaluable and should be made available to assist the teacher’s response and understanding when dealing with bullying types.

Preventing bullying through promoting a positive whole-school culture based on values agreed to by the whole school community, intervening early in suspected or identified bullying issues and communicating clearly with all involved, responding to bullying incidents with approaches which have been shown to be effective (Bullying no way, n.d) are amongst the best ways a teacher can assist when dealing with an issue.

Teaching about bullying is ideally part of a comprehensive safe schools curriculum. Learning about feelings, social interaction, diversity, social structures, discrimination, justice, power and conflict provide opportunities to explore the issue of bullying, why it happens and how to prevent it. (Bullying No way FAQ, n.d,p.8) The school may develop an action plan for your child and any other children involved. Strategies you could use at home may also be included in this plan (Bullying No way FAQ, n.d, p.8)

Cooperation between home and school to prevent bullying is essential. Efforts to address bullying by schools are unlikely to succeed if the school and home are treated as separate settings. (Bullying No way FAQ, n.d, p.8). The school may develop an action plan for your child and any other children involved. Strategies you could use at home may also be included in this plan (Bullying No way FAQ, n.d, p. 8). Schools cannot work alone, and the family must be part of the solution process.

What skills might be important for a teacher supporting a student in this circumstance

Schools want to achieve the best outcomes for their students, but often struggle when trying to support individual students experiencing emotional or mental health difficulties. (MindMatters, 2015,p.4)

By being aware of available referral options, schools can facilitate appropriate supports for young people. (Mindmatters, p. 4). Knowing the process that the school has in place is of key importance. Teachers need to make sure to follow protocol and seek guidance in supporting a student in this situation.

The research shows that “bullying behaviours are more prevalent in the school but in new behaviours that teachers are ill equipped to manage” (Gleason, 2011, p.4). It is the role of the teachers to make the school environment safe (Gleason, 2011, p. 4). “If the bullying behaviours are not being taken as seriously as they should be by educators, students are then more vulnerable” (Gleason, 2011, p. 8). This would be the first skill for a teacher when supporting a student.

Along with making sure the students feel safe, the teachers and administration need to communicate more and trust one another to do their jobs.  trust and respect can help prove to the students that not all relationships will involve bulling characteristics. (Gleason, 2011 p. 9)

Consistency by all staff members sharing the same educational thought will help the students succeed in the classroom and may lead to a reduction of bullying behaviour (Gleason, 2011, p.13). Using information and suggestions from the counsellor and welfare team means that everyone is working towards the same goals. The repertoire of the teachers needs more work and an environment conducive to working towards the same goals by following and interpreting the rules the same way (Gleason, 2011, p. 27)

Thankfully, many schools have adopted bullying programs which are taught throughout the whole school. The teacher can use a program as a supportive resource for any student who may be bullied. This opens opportunities for teachers to offer support to anyone who may be victimised. The long-term aim is to foster a school culture based on positive values and supportive relationships which feature respect, inclusion, belonging and cooperation (Bullying No way FAQs, n.d, p. 11)

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Another important skill that teachers must exhibit, they must establish and maintain healthy boundaries. This can be assisted by “being clear with the child regarding your role, your availability and the best ways to communicate with you”. (Powell, 2014, p. 22). We must follow protocol and be open to students about our role and the need for us to gain support from other staff when dealing with an issue.

Teacher training needs to be updated and include bullying. Teachers have tended to treat covert bullying as a less serious issue and have less empathy for children who are bullied through relational means rather than through overt physical and verbal bullying (Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. 2009, p.17). Since teachers are integral to effective whole school policies, “it is crucial that new in-service and pre-service training be developed to increase their awareness of, and capacity to deal with, covert bullying” (Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. 2009, p.46)

Study of over 400 staff in Australian primary and secondary schools revealed that nearly 70 per cent of participants strongly agreed that staff in their school needed more training to address covert bullying (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2017, p. 9). Effective school responses to bullying incidents are:  solution-focused relationship-based at the school level, the class level, the student level, and based on strong links between parents and schools. (Bullying No Way FAQs, n.d, p.9) Teachers need to know and follow the correct procedures and protocols to enforce positive proactive anti bullying behaviours.

It is also an important skill for the teacher to go back and understand why children bully? “Children who don’t know what to do with emotions like frustration, fear, or isolation may turn to bullying for emotional release” (The conversation -preventing bullying with emo intelligence. With bullies, nothing must be worked out, because the bully always gets his way. (Lehman, n.d) Children who have social issues bully. He needs to learn the skills of compromise, how to sacrifice, how to share and how to deal with injustice. (Lehman, n.d). This may mean the implementation of social stories or specific programs to develop these skills in our schools.

Positive behaviour for learning (PBL), is one such program is a whole-school framework aimed at fostering positive behaviour in general, which has been shown to have a positive effect on reducing bullying (Anti bullying int, p.14). Teachers need to be upskilled and trained to implement the program.

 What specialist services or professionals might be most appropriate for referral

Effective working relationships between schools and local services and organisations are necessary to combat bullying in schools. It is worth noting that rural areas will have less available resources than big cities. (MindMatters, 2015, p. 5). Due to technology and the digital age, we are fortunate that we can utilise specialised support through skype, internet and APPS.

Research into how to address covert bullying is still in its infancy (Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. 2009, p.15) Nevertheless, emerging research indicates that covert bullying has the potential to result in more severe psychological, social, and mental health scars than overt bullying. With this in mind we must use specialists to assist with this serious outcome of bullying.

There are services and professionals that we can interact with and direct children and families to, to support them. Headspace centres can link with schools to accept referrals, provide information about available services and assist schools in helping to engage young people in attending their centres. There are now almost 100 centres around Australia (MindMatters, 2015, p.7).

SEL programs have been shown to be an effective component of comprehensive anti-bullying interventions (Frey et al. 2005; Smith & Low 2013; Vreeman & Carroll 2007). (Anti bullying interventions, p. 7)

Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between five and 25. (Mindmatters, 2015, p.9). A knowledgeable counsellor can provide details of contact details for such services.

Knowledge is power and if we implement specific programs to our students, we can access specialised services that are promoted in the programs that we have access to. I have suggested the following programs as an excellent starting point.

KidsMatter and MindMatters programs do not directly address bullying, they offer a broad framework through which schools can develop a whole- school approach to teaching social and emotional learning skills, engaging the families of students, and identifying support networks for students experiencing mental health. (Centre for Educational Statistics and Evaluation, 2017, p. 15)

Friendly schools are a whole school social and emotional wellbeing initiative for schools the program includes a whole-school framework and a bullying prevention program based on fostering social and emotional learning skills and resilience, and through schools implementing evidence-based policy and practice. (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2017, p. 15).

The Beyondblue Support Service provides information on depression, anxiety and related disorders, available treatments and referrals to relevant services (Mindmatters, p.9)

Schools need to be proactive in reducing the barriers to students and families’ access to services by promoting support services positively (Mindmatters,2015, p.15)

All Australian states have specialised mental health services for children and young people. In most states these are referred to as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), although in Queensland they are referred to as Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS). (Powell, 2014, p. 31)

There are a range of therapeutic approaches which can be described as creative therapies. These include: art therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, narrative therapy, and sand tray therapy. Play therapy (as outlined above) is also a creative therapy. (Powell, 2014, p. 37). An effective specialist can forward details of such services in the local area.

The last recommendation would be to experiment with a zero-tolerance policy where the school for a period does not allow any electronic devices and for all the staff to enforce this rule by following it. (Gleason, p. 30).

A significant body of evidence is now available to demonstrate, however, that school-based anti-bullying interventions can be successful in reducing bullying behaviours. Effective anti-bullying interventions are characterised by a whole-school approach, evidence-based educational content, support and professional development for teachers, and rigorous program implementation and evaluation. (Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2017, p.16).

To conclude, we have the research, we know the long-term effects, we are aware of the different types and we have many resources in place all about bullying. Schools have so much influential power to deal with issues. We must continuously use our resources and knowledge to engage our students in positive situations as in the end it will have a major impact on them. Isn’t that what it’s all about? From my research report I have access to support services and agencies that can be utilised in my school. Teachers do need specific programs to work from and training to allow them to have the knowledge of dealing appropriately with any bullying issue and most importantly be aware of school policy and procedures to follow. We all need support and understanding no matter who we are.


  • Bullying No Way, (n. d). Retrieved from https://bullyingnoway.gov.au/
    Bullying No Way FAQS, (n.d). Retrieved from https://bullyingnoway.gov.au/Resources/FactSheets/Pages/FAQs.aspx
  • Lehman, J. The Secret life of bullies. (n.d) https://www.empoweringparents.com/.../the-secret-life-of-bullies-why-they-do-it-and
  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE). Anti-bullying interventions in schools. (2017). Retrieved from https://antibullying.nsw.gov.au/media/.../AntiBullying-in-Schools_What-Works.pdf https:

Reach Out, 2017, Bullying and Young Australians Research Summary. Retrieved from https://about.au.reachout.com/wp-content/.../Bullying-Research-Summary_FINAL.pdf

ReachOut, What helped Students

  • Wellbeing Framework
  • Gleason, K. (2011) How Teachers deal with bullying: Best Practices for Identifying and Dealing with Bullying Behaviours among High School Students. kgleason@oswego.edu
  • Powell, M. (2014). Supporting children through difficult times: Recognising, responding and referring.
  • Centre for Children and Young People Background Briefing Series, no.10. Lismore: Centre for Children and Young People, Southern Cross University.
  • Headspace (n. d) Understanding bullying. Retrieved from www.headspace.org.au/
  • Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. 2009. Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth
  • MIndMatters: Building Support Pathways, Module 4.1 Mindmatters Spotlight Bullying Overviews


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