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Bullying. No way!

The reaction of the bystanders will impact upon the bullying; doing nothing can be seen as silent approval, whereas disapproval can help prevent bullying

Today is the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence.

We live in an era when bullying can no longer be dismissed as something trivial. We've seen how the effects of bullying can be tragic. Research indicates that up to one in four Australian students have experienced some bullying.

Being a teacher of social media, I often find news stories from Australia and overseas which involve very tragic cases of cyber bullying. This is bullying that's carried out through the Internet or other communications medium. I feel for what young people have to face when bullying and the anonymity of the Internet meet. A recent high profile case of the potentially tragic effects of cyber bullying was the suicide of Australian celebrity Charlotte Dawson, who was the target of an extensive Twitter troll campaign.

Bullying, defined by the National Safe Schools Framework, is repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological behaviour that is harmful. It can be by an individual or a group, and it can be against one or more victims. It involves the misuse of power; the bullies feel that they have power over the victim, through threats. Bullying has three critical aspects – a repeated pattern, a misuse of power, and behaviour which causes harm.

There's also what's known as "covert bullying". This is bullying that is subtle and non-physical. It can involve social exclusion or intimidation, damaging the victim's social reputation, or self-esteem. However, it can still have the same harmful impacts as overt bullying; victims can feel isolated, and it can be more easily denied by the bullies and therefore dismissed.

Some strategies schools in Australia are taking to reduce bullying include promoting a positive whole school culture based on agreed upon community values. Bullies need to understand that this behaviour is not acceptable as part of our community values, and that there are better ways to resolve conflicts. There is no one single approach that is effective in ending all bullying, but we know that schools need to foster a culture that is based on positive values, respect, inclusion, belonging and cooperation.

It's also important to understand that bystanders play a role in bullying. People who bully are often trying to impress or intimidate bystanders. The reaction of the bystanders will impact upon the bullying; doing nothing can be seen as silent approval, whereas disapproval can help prevent bullying. Supportive bystander actions can diminish a bullying incident or help a bullied student recover from it.

Like many people, I was bullied in primary school by classmates, and unfortunately, looking back, I can recall sometimes as part of a group, I was probably a bully myself; or at the very least a bystander who didn't stand up to the bullies. Bullying has the potential to affect people emotionally long after their school days. Let's take a stand together against bullying.