Monday, March 16, 2009

New form of bullying?

After yesterday's TV news report on bullying in schools, I asked my eldest son whether there was much bullying in his school. Reason is I have heard nothing despite his school having a reputation as a rough and tough school (which I personally think an unfair and unsubstantiated reputation)

Anyway ... he said that there was but used an interesting term when he said that it was more "Verbal bullying" ... In a way I thought that was better than the the news I hear about other schools where there is physical violence in bullying. Reading this morning's Herald report, I now wonder whether my initial thought was correct ....

Anyway, read for yourself and decide ...

On a related note, it is rather disturbing that once again NZ (despite being such a developed country with such a small population) is again one of the "top dogs" statistically in yet another negative area.

Made me wonder what little part I can play in doing something about this, especially after a strange comment yesterday by a Kiwi I met (a relative of one of my young people who was baptized yesterday). His comment after I told him I had been here just over 2 years ..."Oh, so you are here as a missionary to New Zealand?" Hmmm....

For original link to the report, click here.

Bullying via internet and phones 'insidious'

4:00AM Sunday Mar 15, 2009
By James Ihaka

Schoolchildren are being exposed to a pervasive "debilitating, isolating and humiliating" form of bullying via mobile phones and the internet, a report says.

The findings from the report School safety: An inquiry into the safety of students at school are to be presented at a Ministry of Education summit in Wellington today, focusing on behaviour issues in schools and early childhood centres. The report revealed bullying rates at New Zealand schools were "among the world's worst" - more than 50 per cent above the international average.

Children's Commissioner Dr Cindy Kiro said while parents possibly experienced bullying as youngsters, children these days were exposed to even more "insidious" forms of bullying through technology.

Dr Kiro said while traditional forms of bullying "certainly still exist" the new forms were "very pervasive". She said cyber bullies used popular social networking websites such as Facebook or Bebo as rendezvous points to organise smear campaigns and bullying activities.

"You can have visual images posted on the internet and they can reach greater numbers of kids. Of course once it is posted [on the internet] you really don't have a lot of control over it.

"These things can potentially reach thousands of people - can you imagine if your worst secret was shared with everyone at your school or with everyone your age ?"

Dr Kiro said mobile phones were not only being used to post negative messages but to quickly gather large numbers of students to watch fights. They are also being used to film altercations so victims can potentially be victimised over and over.

The inquiry examined 103 bullying-related complaints from January 1 last year to January 31, 2009, and revealed a number of other disturbing bullying incidents.

Victims at a boys' boarding school reported being chased down, partly stripped and then sexually violated with objects. One student received a fractured eye socket and needed a brain scan.

The findings revealed inconsistencies in the ways that schools defined bullying, violence and abuse, despite many schools having written policies and procedures for responding to them. "There have been instances where serious assaults occurred at some schools and warranted police intervention yet the police were not notified."

Dr Kiro said the challenge for schools was to alter the school environment rather than focusing on the perpetrators and victims alone.

"Schools that work to improve their whole school environment, culture and ethos are the most effective."

"There are ripple effects from this approach, including improving educational outcomes, self-esteem and conflict resolution skills across the school population."

The inquiry found bullying victims were likely to have higher absenteeism and early dropout rates. It said bullies were more likely to become aggressive adults with a four times higher than average chance of incurring multiple criminal convictions.

Examples of bullying at New Zealand schools, January 1, 2008-January 31, 2009:

A student required hospital treatment after being attacked by four girls.

A student had a fractured eye socket requiring a brain scan.

A student brought a knife to school after receiving threats he would be stabbed.

Victims chased down, partly stripped and sexually violated with objects.

Boarders at a boys' school getting "dry-humped".

A 15-year-old student "stonewalled" by the entire class over a long period of time.

Some of the report's recommendations:

Implement whole school approaches and violence prevention programmes.

Develop crisis procedures for rapid response to serious incidents of violence.

Implement procedures around mobile use at school.

Establish a confidential reporting system for students.

Use police when the need arises.

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