24-hour bullies push our kids over the edge

BULLIES are psychologically tormenting vulnerable kids 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

One of the world's leading researchers into schoolyard harassment says victims have no respite from classroom thugs thanks to social media and mobile phones.

Studies show one in four young people are bullied, while 83% of youth perpetrators attack their victims in person and via the internet.

Professor Dorothy Espelage was among a group of leading academics, police, youth workers and other frontline professionals taking part in this week' s Youth Violence: Cutting to the Core conference in Brisbane.

Hosted by Griffith University's Violence Research and Prevention Program, the gathering looked at a range of topics including gangs, delinquency and youth offending, bullying, mental health and violence in intimate relationships.

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Dr Espelage started studying the impacts of bullying on both the victims and the perpetrators about 20 years ago.

She said that in the late 1980s and 1990s, harassed students had some respite from their attackers when they went home.

However, today's technology means the torment never ends for many young people.

"Face to face bullying, which is verbal teasing that may escalate to physical violence, is still alive well and it is still the most prominent form of bullying," the University of Illinois academic said.

"But 20 years ago we did not have cell phones; email was just introduced so when a kid used to go home from school they had some respite in the evening to recover from that.

"Now it just starts up as soon as they get home through social media."

Dr Espelage said victims were at high risk of depression, anxiety and suicide while perpetrators could end up with anti-social personality disorders leading to violent outbursts.

She said it was vital for parents to make sure they knew what was going on in their child's life.

"We do know that children who are chronically victimised at school, if they have supportive home environments with open lines of communication they are less likely to be in that group that considers suicide," Dr Espelage said.

"Parents can play a critical role.

"I get calls from parents all the time who say their schools are non-responsive.

"I say to them you get a lawyer and you get back in there and hold the schools accountable."

If you or someone you know is struggling to cope, contact Lifeline on 131 114 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800. 

COUNTING THE COST

  • One in four students in grades four to nine are bullied frequently.
  • Year five and year eight students face higher risks of being bullied than their youngr and older peers.
  • 83% of students who bully others online, also attack their victims offline.
  • 84% of students who are bullied online are also bullied offline.
  • Older students are more likely to engage in cyber-bullying than younger students.

SOURCE: Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS); Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University.

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