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Bullying In The Crosshairs – Raising Awareness and Taking Action

✦ “Bullies are always to be found where there are cowards.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Let’s be honest, there’s not much worse than a bully, is there? We’ve all come across them, be it in school or later in life at work or in social circles, there will always be someone who chooses to attempt to dominate others via verbal or even physical intimidation. Gandhi had it right for sure - bullies are just cowards at the end of the day.

It’s why we at Brilliant Online are so eager to promote and support the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence, a leading anti-bullying prevention initiative for schools in Australia taking place on Friday, August 18. Last year, 68% of Australian schools aligned to support the initiative and, as bullying unfortunately shows little sign of dissipating, the focus will be even greater this year in an attempt to prompt yet further awareness and action.

As per Wikipedia’s definition, “Bullying is the use of force, coercion, hurtful teasing or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate. The behaviour is often repeated and habitual. Bullying is a subcategory of aggressive behaviour characterised by hostile intent, imbalance of power and repetition over a period of time.”

Bullying is a behavioural trait with a long history in humanity, the impact of which can be devastating for the victim. Typically one associates bullying with the younger generation, with the stereotypical depiction being the “schoolyard bully” who picks on much weaker classmates via physical or verbal intimidation. Unfortunately, however, the trait is something that has been prevalent within society at all levels and ages for generations – from the schoolyard to the workplace, from the sports locker room to the world of show business and the corridors of political power, it is something that rears its ugly head far too frequently.

Taking it online...

Nowadays, of course, there is another domain where bullying is common place, a breeding ground for widespread contempt and downright abuse – the internet. Cyberbullying, which includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or derogatory content about someone else in the digital space, has become a major issue globally as technology continues its ongoing evolution. While the perpetrators can easily become elusive and anonymous, a bully behind a keyboard is still a bully.

According to statistics provided by DoSomething.Org from a study conducted in the United States, “About 37% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17 have been bullied online [and] 30% have had it happen more than once.” Data from the Pew Research Center suggests that “at least half of the young U.S. population has faced bullying online in 2022.”

Another recent study shows that children using YouTube are the most likely to be cyberbullied at 79%, followed by Snapchat at 69%, TikTok at 64% and Facebook at 49%.

With up to 95% of children in the US alone having direct access to the internet via home computers, smart phones and tablets, and an increase in screen time engagement during and since the COVID-19 pandemic, this worrying trend seems likely to only go one way. And, whereas these stats are U.S. specific, it is common knowledge that proportionate numbers are being realised globally. Cloudwards states that “About 28% of children around the world have experienced cyberbullying that is racially motivated, according to their parents, with the highest rates occurring in India and the U.S.”

While children are the most vulnerable targets of cyberbullying, adults are also regularly victims, although the abuse is often referred to as online harassment or stalking instead. The Pew Research Center cites that 40% of American adults have personally experienced some form of online harassment and a report in the Sydney Morning Herald from 2017 states that cyberbullying happens to at least one in 10 Australians (the number will have increased considerably since, of course). A visit to any online forum these days can often unveil a torrent of abusive exchanges between what may appear to be juveniles, but more often than transpire, to be fully grown adults.

Detrimental impact

The impacts of any form of bullying can be devastating, not only to the victim themselves but also to families, and cyberbullying is no different. In fact, it can be worse. Cyberbullying doesn’t end when the school bell rings at the end of the day. Instead it can be carried out at any time, day or night, via emails, text messages, social media posts and video shares. It can often leave the victim feeling suffocated with no obvious or imminent sign of reprieve. The detrimental impact from a mental health perspective can be huge, with a marked increase in stress and anxiety levels, bouts of depression, clear acts of violence being demonstrated, physical degradation, evidence of self-harm, a general sense of very low self-esteem and long-term emotional scars.

Sadly, the link between bullying and suicide rates and attempts is profound. Bullying Statistics cites how “for every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts” and how over “14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.” The same site details a study by Yale University that states, “Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims” and how a “study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying.”

It is why awareness initiatives like the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence on August 18 are arguably as critical now than ever before. The theme this year is ‘growing connections’ which “supports research findings that strong school community connections and social skills are protective factors in the prevention of bullying and help enable positive, help-seeking behaviours in students.”

Aligned to such initiatives, UNICEF hints at a glint of positivity in specific regard to targeting cyberbullies: “Face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying can often happen alongside each other. But cyberbullying leaves a digital footprint – a record that can prove useful and provide evidence to help stop the abuse.” Social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter are constantly being lobbied to provide a more robust protection mechanism on their platforms and to oust any series offenders found guilty of bullying or harassment of any form, although, while there has been some progress, critics argue it is too slow and much more needs to be done.

Growing Connections to prevent bullying | Brilliant-Online

Whether you are a parent, teacher, student or member of the broader community, everyone has a role to play in preventing bullying so please get behind the August 18 initiative and efforts to help create a brighter and safer tomorrow for all.

- More information on the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence initiative can be accessed here.


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