Saturday, 16 March, 2013 - 00:00

This, of course, means there is
increased pressure on teachers and other supervisors during camps to
ensure bullying does not occur, and to watch for signs of it.

definition, bullying is aggressive behaviour by one child, or a group
of children, who use a perceived power imbalance to hurt or intimidate
others.  It’s not the same as rough’n’tumble play on the oval or in the
playground that occasionally results in more pain than was intended.
Bullying is intentional and on going. American research indicates
bullying occurs to 10 per cent of children; recent Australian research
suggests as many as one in five students aged between eight and 17 are

As South Australia’s internationally acknowledged expert on bullying, Dr Ken Rigby, writes:
long as we are thinking about malign bullying, which is, for the most
part, what concerns us as educators, we can reasonably think of ‘a
wilful conscious desire to hurt another and put him/her under stress’ as
a necessary but not sufficient condition underlying bullying.

recent writers have conceived bullying as a kind of behaviour
characterised by intentionality and hurtfulness. The leading figure in
the war against bullying, Dan Olweus (1993), defined bullying as
“negative behaviour” by which he meant behaviour intended to inflict
“injury or discomfort.” Typically, we may add, such behaviour is
repeated during successive encounters.”

As we begin the 21st century, teachers and other staff members will recognise that bullying may take many forms, including:
•  Verbal abuse, including gossiping and name calling
•  Acts designed to scare
•  Remarks of prejudice, including racist, sexist or size-related comments
•  Physical abuse, including hitting, pushing and kicking
•  Organised social rejection
•  Public humiliation

there is another form of bullying that until recently did not exist,
and until even more recently was little known among students:
cyber-bullying, which may take the form of comments emailed or texted to
mobile phones.

While some parents may try to tell themselves, or
others, that bullying is a normal part of the school years, experts say
they are wrong. Bullying is not normal; those who bully are exhibiting
an abnormal response to typical school relationships. The impact on
victims can be long; any physical impact may be quickly healed but
psychological effects can be long-lasting and in some cases only
resolved through counselling.

Parents are often the first to
notice changes in their children that are later discovered to be related
to bullying. But on camp, it is the teacher or other supervisor who is
entrusted to discern such behavioural changes. These may include a
reluctance to participate in, or withdrawal from, activities in which
the student usually participates; apparent insecurity; a change in “body
language”, so that the student appears depressed, fearful or unusually
quiet; a loss of appetite; complaints of illness that may be caused by
anxiety or may simply serve to take the student away from the group;
nightmares or sleeplessness.

As child development psychologist
and author Dr Laura E. Berk reports, victimised boys are passive when
active behaviour is expected; on the playground they hang around
chatting or wander off on their own. Biologically inherited traits such
as in introverted, anxious temperament can contribute to their tendency
to become victims, but research has also shown they may have controlling
parents whose parenting style produces a worried child who appears to
others as vulnerable.

Experts say students should be made aware
of what bullying is, why it is unacceptable, and what their individual
and group responses to bullying should be. They should learn that it is
expected they will help a child who is being bullied or excluded, rather
than allow the victimisation to occur as “none of their business”. And
they should know that when away from their parents, the teachers will
listen to them and heed their concerns.

General tips for parents who discover from their children they have been bullied, at school or in a camp situation include:
• Support your child-bullying is not the fault of the child being bullied.
• Gather information about the incident-who, what, when, where, how?
• Praise your child for the attempts they have likely made for resolving the situation.
• Talk
with the camp director about consequences for the child being bullied
and help for your child with increased support from other campers and
• Help your child understand that real friends are not mean to each other.

For parents of the child who has been determined as responsible for bullying behaviour:
• Try to get a full understanding of what happened.
• Ask yourself if there have been any recent changes or negative events in your child’s life.
• Discuss consequences of bullying with the camp director regarding specific episodes and the response from camp staff.
• Reinforce your rule that bullying must stop.
• Help your child understand how bullying affects others.
• Cooperate with camp director and staff to reinforce positive behaviors in your child.

Rigby suggests that the “matey” atmosphere that usually envelops staff
and students, particularly older students, in a camp, may put extra
pressure on staff to be less formal. But still, he says, bullying should
be dealt with according to school policy.

“One should treat
cases of bullying in part according to degrees of severity,” Dr Rigby
says. “Most bullying is not criminal behaviour, but some is, and it then
it is appropriate to apply the law, as for example in serious or fatal

“With extreme and repeated bullying, especially after
counselling has not succeeded sanctions are generally necessary. Some
bullying – indeed most of it – is relatively mild – unpleasant
name-calling, some rumour spreading, taunting, excluding for instance.
Sometimes bullying is provoked and can be mediated by a skilled

“Students engaging milder forms of bullying should
generally be spoken to, discouraged, cautioned – and encouraged to treat
others with respect – and kept a firm eye on!”

However, Dr
Rigby adds, if bullying is – or becomes – moderately serious, the
approach should be more systematic and formal, and he says several
methods have been developed for this type of response. “One involves
sharing with the bully or bullies your concern about the plight of the
victim and doing so in the company of some other (selected) children who
disapprove of bullying behaviour. Under such circumstances, given some
positive peer influence, it is often possible to elicit – without the
use of threats or blame – a sympathetic recognition of the unpleasant
situation, promises to help overcome it, and a consequent an improvement
in behaviour.

“But, of course, the situation must be carefully monitored. This is the so-called ‘social group’ or no-blame approach.”

Rigby also refers to the “Method of Shared Concern” developed by the
Swedish psychologist, Anatol Pikas, which he says may be applied in
cases of medium severity bullying in which group members are involved,
and which makes use of interviews with individual children who are
suspected of bullying someone. “Concern for the victim is shared with
each of them individually and their assistance to solve the problem is
solicited,” Dr Rigby explains. “When progress has been made, the
practitioner meets with the entire group – and later with the group plus
the ‘victim’ to ensure that the problem has been resolved.”

Rigby stresses that “no approach is perfect” – a point probably well
known to those teachers and counsellors who have attempted to solve
bullying in their schools.

“What is done must depend in part on
the school’s policy and the capacity of the person dealing with the case
to apply the method,” he urges. “With the more complex approaches some
training is very desirable.”