Bullying is a behavioural problem that affects most of us in one manner or another. It manifests itself in early childhood and lasts throughout the lifespan. We all have a notion of what bullying is, yet the behaviour often remains unchallenged.
Not only does bullying have devastating negative consequences on victims, but also on bullies, friends, family, school/work and the wider community. Decades of research has shown both short and long lasting negative effects such as depression, self-harm, low self-esteem and in the most severe cases leading to suicide.
Bullying behaviour can take many forms, from direct verbal insults to more subtle indirect forms including making up rumours to damage someone’s social status. Bullying derives from aggression but differs in definition by its intentional repetitive behaviour that is directed towards someone who cannot easily defend themselves.
The world now had its eye on Ireland this summer, as the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre co-hosted the World Anti Bullying Forum from June 4th to 6th this year. Almost 1,000 academics, practitioners and representatives from the home, schools and other communities came together to discuss and share their work on the best possible options to tackle bullying and create means to improve online safety for children and young people.
But although this forum is a milestone, it will be the centre’s continuous work that will be fundamental to tackle the issue of bullying in Ireland. We intend to roll out a national anti-bullying and online-safety programme named FUSE, offering every single post-primary school in Ireland help in tackling bullying and increasing online safety among adolescents.
FUSE will focus on a train-the-trainer approach, where our trainers will train one or two members of staff in each participating school. With the continuous support from the centre, those teachers will help empower their students to be one of the driving forces to bring the whole school community together.
Research has shown that a whole-school approach should be applied to tackle bullying most effectively. This means involving the school’s entire communities to educate and engage students, parents/guardians and all school staff such as teachers, playground supervisors, canteen staff, management and other communities working with and for the young people. This has the aim of making everyone more confident in knowing what the behaviour is and what steps can be taken to combat it.
FUSE is an initiative that is heavily based on research in terms of what aspects it will include and will also be evaluated to the highest standards with both layman and academic reposts produced.
One of the major foreseeable issues will be to bring everyone together within the school community due to already busy schedules This is where you as a reader having a chance to make a difference. If you are someone who is involved in any form with young people in post-primary school – be is as a student, family member, staff, football coach, charity etc – please contact us at the National Anti-Bullying Research Centre as we are looking for you. If the community does not come together, isolated attempts to tackle something that most of us feel is unacceptable to one extent or another will never be dealt with as effectively.
By Dr Robert Slonje – Postdoctoral Researcher, ABC