More needs to be done to make students feel comfortable reporting bullying and make people aware of what counts as bullying, according to an Illawarra education officer.
A study by the Australian Institute of Family Studies found there was significant under-reporting of bullying by teachers and parents.
While a third of 10 to 11-year-olds said they had been bullied at school, almost four in five teachers did not report the child had been a victim of bullying and less than half of parents were aware the bullying was taking place or did not consider the unfriendly actions to be bullying.
Research fellow Dr Jodie Lodge said the findings suggested more training was needed for teachers and parents to recognise bullying and how children responded to it.
Gail Tarrant, an education officer with the Wollongong Catholic Education Office, who regularly works with schools on their anti-bullying policies, said under-reporting of bullying was concerning.
In order to deal with the problem, she said strategies needed to be in place to make children feel comfortable reporting it.
“We need specific tools and reporting mechanisms, and need to make sure everybody feels safe and supported when they do report,” she said.
“Something I’ve read is a lot of young children aren’t reporting because they feel the situation will get worse if they do. We need our response to encompass that awareness, that that’s a real perception of young children.”
Mrs Tarrant said teachers and parents also needed to be clear on what constituted bullying to ensure it was recognised.
“We have to be clear about what it is and what it isn’t. Bullying is typically repeated, there is an imbalance of power, and that can be through age, gender, disability, anything like that, and it has to be deliberate.”
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