KIDS Helpline is calling for an increased focus on why kids bully rather than the technology used.
On National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence Kids Helpline chief executive officer Tracy Adams said the focus of the anti-bullying debate was often skewed to smart phones and social media instead of a better understanding of what was causing the bullying and addressing that behaviour.
Ms Adams said banning smart phones from children’s lives did not mean bullying behaviour would stop.
“While there is no doubt digital devices play a part in bullying, in reality it’s not where most bullying takes place,’’ she said.
“Seventy-three per cent of contacts to Kids Helpline about bullying in 2017 said it did not include a cyber online or texting component.
“We need to acknowledge that regardless of how the bullying is done the bullying behaviour is the same and look at ways to unpack, understand and mitigate this.’’
She said new data showed in 2017 more than 3500 children and young people called the helpline about bullying with seven out of 10 experiencing bullying directly.
“Most kids talking to us about bullying were aged 5-12 with 83 per cent of them telling us that bullying related to school.
Most bullying experienced by children and young people involved verbal abuse (26 per cent) or exclusion, isolation and/or spreading of rumours (13 per cent).
“Alarmingly, one in 20 said they endured intimidation, extortion or threats of personal harm (6 per cent) and in 5 per cent of cases physical aggression or assault.
“Twenty-two per cent faced more than one type of bullying at the same time.
“Clearly these statistics are unacceptable with some bullying having devastating effects on young lives now and into the future.’’
Ms Adams said it was important to remember that kids that bully are not bad kids but often kids facing their own challenges.
“Kids Helpline conducted an interim survey on cyberbullying in February, which found the line between bully and bullied blurred with 52 per cent of those who said they engaged in cyberbullying being cyberbullied themselves.
“Some said they bullied in retribution.
“Bullying behaviours can be due to complex and diverse reasons, including underdeveloped emotional tools and coping mechanisms, limited parent interaction and peer pressure.
“It’s also worth remembering it’s not just children and young people who bully.
“Some children can pick up on the behaviours of parents and other adults.’’
She said there was more than one solution to the issue and it was time to put energy into delving into the many reasons young people bullied and how the community could guide positive relationships and behaviours.
“A good first step is thinking of ways to effectively help children and young people resolve conflicts, recognise and manage feelings associated with being confronted and learn how to embrace differences.
Teaching kids about the positive use of digital technology and social media will ultimately be more effective than attempting the impossible task of removing digital devices completely or in school environments.’’
Kids Helpline during its 27-year history had found early intervention was the key to addressing behavioural issues before they escalated.
“Our Kids @ School program offered free to all primary schools nationally works with children from an early age to help them understand respectful relationships and behavioural boundaries both when face-to-face and online.
“We need more programs like this and discussion about the importance of mutual respect to stem the wave of bullying, which we all agree is crucial to ensuring the wellbeing and safety of children and young people across Australia.’’
Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for children and young people aged 5-25 years.
Call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or visit www.kidshelpline.com.au