Australian students: the most bullied in the world?

RMIT University

Friday, 24 May, 2024

Australian students: the most bullied in the world?

A new report by the Australian Council for Educational Research contains data on student bullying rates worldwide.

The data, which covers English-speaking countries, reveals that Australian children are dealing with some of the highest rates of bullying.

Bullying is considered repeated and intentional use of words or actions against someone or a group of people to cause distress and risk to their wellbeing. According to the data, one in six students reported having been made fun of by their peers.

There are four types of bullying behaviour, according to Dr Elise Waghorn, an education expert from RMIT University.

These include physical (hitting, pushing, shoving or intimidating), verbal/written (name-calling or insulting someone about an attribute, quality or personal characteristic), social (deliberately excluding someone, spreading rumours, sharing information that will have a harmful effect on the other person and/or damaging a person’s social reputation or social acceptance), and cyberbullying (any form of bullying behaviour that occurs online or via a mobile device).

“The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) released its second report on Tuesday, analysing the latest data from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test,” Waghorn said.

“Australian students felt less safe at school compared to the OECD average, with only students from Poland, New Zealand, Hong Kong and the United States feeling less safe.

“Australian students with the highest exposure to bullying scored an average of 27 points lower than their peers, equivalent to a year of learning.

“There is a strong correlation between disruptive and bullying behaviour and school performance.”

Two-fifths of students in Australia (42%) reported noise and disorder in most classes, while high levels of distraction due to digital resources like smartphones and apps were reported by 40% of students. In addition, one-third of students (33%) claimed that their classmates didn’t listen to what the teacher said.

“There are many impacts of bullying, disorder and disrespect that go beyond the classroom, which include children feeling disconnected, missing school, experiencing lack of quality of friendships, lowered self-esteem, and increased depression and anxiety,” Waghorn said.

“Parents can support children by affirming that the bullying is not their fault. When they tell you about instances of bullying, reassure them that you will not take any action without discussing it with them first.

“Do not encourage retaliation — such as violent acts. Instead, praise your child for reaching out and asking for help, remind them that they are not alone.”

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