The National Centre Against Bullying (NCAB) conference held in Melbourne recently made the following recommendations:
1. Early Intervention
There is a need to identify early (at pre-school and early primary school), those who may have peer relationship issues and implement appropriate programs. Additional focus is needed on pre-school education to prevent bullying and promote well being. There is a need to raise awareness among schools and parents of the emerging evidence that children are using social networking sites at young ages.
2. Training Teachers
There is a need for pre-service teacher education programmes to include a mandatory component which addresses awareness and skills for preventing and managing bullying situations. Teachers need to know how to respond effectively to bullying situations. This education should include information as to the possible effects of the criminal and civil law on the use of communications technology for bullying purposes.
3. An appropriate legal framework
Need to legally define the rights and responsibilities of schools in responding to bullying and cyberbullying situations and cyber defamation. Legal remedies are not a solution to bullying but are a necessary part of the solution. Need to clarify the role of the criminal and civil law in both bullying and cyberbullying.
4. Increased focus on school transition
Bullying peaks at times of transition between preschool and primary school, and primary and secondary, therefore institutions need to increase their focus on bullying including cyberbullying at these times.
5. A whole school approach
Schools need to use evidence-informed strategies and include teachers, parents and students and the wider community to enhance cybersafety and wellbeing and reduce bullying.
6. A whole community approach
Solutions need to go beyond the school gate, given that bullying in schools is often a reflection of the whole community.
7. Young people need to be part of the solution
Young people are essential to the solution and must be involved in policy development, parent education and development of multimedia material.
8. Technology needs to be part of the solution
Adults, including parents and teachers need to break down the digital divide by becoming savvy about technology. We must all recognise that the creative use of technology as a powerful teaching and socialising tool. The focus needs to be on behaviours and relationships, and it is counterproductive to ban technology.
9. Support for ongoing research
There needs to be ongoing research into cybersafety and wellbeing, including effective strategies for engaging parents, keeping up to date with changes in technology, appropriate interventions in schools.
Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.