In Australia, there is no nationally agreed definition of what constitutes bullying, which hampers efforts to fight the problem. The most commonly used measure of bullying behaviour is the Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire. While everyone thinks they know what bullying behaviour is, the details below will help clarify the problem.
Bullying is frequently about power, either real or perceived, being used aggressively and repeatedly to control or harm others. Repeatedly in this case can mean happening more than once, or have the potential to happen more than once. The power imbalances can be, but are not limited to, physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or even popularity variances.
Bullying includes such actions as threatening behavior, physical or verbal attacks, spreading rumors, or deliberately excluding someone from a group or activity. There is an overlap between bullying and harassment, with harassment being considered the lesser crime, but the reality is harassment is a form of bullying, if the victim feels belittled or threatened by it.
Among other studies done, recently over 20,000 students in Australian schools, aged from 8 to 14 completed surveys about bullying. The results were published in the Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). Sadly, these are just the reported statistics. Not all cases are reported, because many students feel that nothing can be done, so the true figures would be even more disturbing. Below are some of the distressing statistics that are currently available.
While there is improvement in some of these figures, it is clear that a lot remains to be done to control bullying in Australia.
Children do not only have to deal with bullying at school, but also online. The Internet has revolutionized social communication and interaction, and while much of it is benign, there are those who use the technology to cause emotional harm.
Even when children graduate from school and enter the adult world, bullying can still affect them. While the line between harassment and bullying can be narrow, or even overlap, those experiencing it still feel similar effects, be it from work superiors or peers. These adult bullies can continue to bullying people in many of the same ways as happened to children, with a higher incidence of sexual harassment than children experience.
According to this resource, 463,000 Australian children were victims of cyber-bullying in 2013, and almost three quarters of in the age group between 10 and 15 years. The resource also mentions that a vast majority of Australian schools reported dealing with at least one cyber bullying case last year, and on average, high schools dealt with 22 incidents of cyber bullying in 2013 alone, with one in three of those cases were serious enough they were referred to police.
Bullying is intentional cruelty, in a variety of forms. But regardless of the form, no person, young or old, should go through this. While some feel it is a normal right of passage to face this abuse in life, those undergoing the abuse certainly feel differently. Everything that can be done, should be done to stamp this out at the earliest opportunities, teaching people that it is better to be nice than cruel. That is a simple message, but sometimes the most effective things are simple.