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Bullying patterns that begin in the playground often have a nasty habit of finding their way into the workplace
Today is the sixth annual National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence. The day is an initiative of the Safe and Supportive School Communities Working Group, a steering committee that comprises all Australian education authorities.
And although the campaign is mainly targeted at school students, it's something that has relevance for all of us.
Bullying comes in many different forms, including physical, verbal and digital. Cyber bullying in particular has been garnering an increasing amount of attention over the last couple of years. Redefining bullying to include digital harassment over the internet and mobile devices has been necessary as this is a reality for an estimated 20% of Australian children.
The Safe Schools website defines bullying as "an ongoing misuse of power in relationships involving a pattern of harmful verbal, physical or social behavior".
While people in some circles (particularly academia and politics) still disagree on what does and doesn't qualify as bullying, the very fact that there's now a national conversation about it, supported by a high-profile awareness campaign, can only be a good thing. And it's definitely a huge improvement from decades past when bullying was mostly just considered to be "what kids do".
These days, we know a lot more about the emotional and psychological effects of bullying. And not just on the victim, but also how it affects bystanders. People who witness bullying are encouraged to speak out against it, instead of being passive onlookers thereby allowing the bullying to continue unchallenged. Because bullying patterns that begin in the playground often have a nasty habit of finding their way into the workplace. It's become so common in some industries and professions that it's practically a selling point – like celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay's aggressive and foul-mouthed antics, which are now considered "entertainment".
Cyber bullying isn't the only new aspect of the issue that's been facilitated by the digital age. It's not uncommon now for episodes of public bullying to be filmed by witnesses for the sole purpose of posting it onto the internet. Sometimes large brawls are organized via social media networks, which mobilize many willing participants very quickly to a particular place at a particular time, something that wasn't really possible 20 years ago.
But whether there really are more instances of bullying these days or if it just seems to be that way because of the many methods of recording it now, the fact remains – bullying is still far too prevalent for the issue to slip off the public radar. Even the fact that phrases like "slut-shaming" and "one punch attack" have become part of the vernacular shows how entrenched certain types of bullying have become. Campaigns like the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence continue to be an important part of reprograming people's attitudes towards bullying.