Young people are less likely to recognise behaviour as bullying if it is coming from someone they consider a friend, according to a new study from online mental health organisation ReachOut.
The report, Unfriendly Friendships, found young people across Australia struggled to label their experiences as bullying if the anti-social behaviour came from a friend, even if it was causing them significant emotional distress.
ReachOut believes the issue is the standard perception* a bully is a stranger or someone outside a person’s peer* group.
The organisation says this could stop victims from seeking support or acting to stop the bullying when it occurs within their friendship circles.
CEO Ashley de Silva said education on bullying needed to include the idea a person can be bullied by their friends.
“When it comes to toxic* and harmful behaviours within friendship groups, young people aren’t defining their experiences as bullying, and the strategies we offer to deal with bullying aren’t going far enough and could actually make things worse,” he said.
“A lot of good work is being done when it comes to bullying; however, we need to bolster* strategies that support young people to build the skills and confidence to navigate* friendship issues as well as equip parents and carers and educators to provide support, help young people deal with hurtful behaviours by friends and peers and cope.”
The report was based on two online surveys of 1000 people aged 14-25 each.
The first asked participants if they were bullied according to a standard definition of bullying, with 24.2 per cent, or nearly one in four, reporting they were.
In the second, young people were asked if they had experienced a series of behaviours typically associated with bullying and peer issues. Almost half of participants, or 46.3 per cent, self-reported they had experienced at least one of those behaviours in the past month.
The most common behaviours reported in the survey included being ignored, having someone talk about them behind their back and having rumours spread about them.
But the worst bullying behaviours were mostly online, with 73.8 per cent of people who reported receiving hateful or hurtful messages – or being cyberbullied – claiming it had a moderate to major impact on their mental health.
Being excluded online also had a moderate to major impact on the mental health of 73.7 per cent of those who reported it had happened to them – higher than the impact of physical bullying, which majorly affected 71.1 per cent of victims.
Mr de Silva said the coronavirus pandemic had made online bullying worse, with the eSafety Office reporting record numbers of complaints and more than 109,000 people accessing ReachOut resources to deal with friendship issues since January.
- perception: the way something is understood
- peer: a person of the same age or social group
- toxic: poisonous; harmful
- bolster: boost or make stronger
- navigate: find your way through something
- What is the main point of this story?
- What is named Unfriendly Friendships?
- How many people were surveyed and how old were they?
- Has the coronavirus pandemic made bullying better or worse?
- Where the worst bullying behaviours face-to-face or online?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Y Chart
The ReachOut website defines bullying as follows:
Bullying happens when a person or a group of people repeatedly and intentionally use words or actions to cause distress and harm to another person’s wellbeing. It isn’t the same as a ‘normal’ conflict between people (such as having an argument or a fight) or simply disliking someone. It’s more about repeated behaviour by someone who has power or control over someone else. (https://au.reachout.com/bullying/about-bullying)
Draw a Y chart and label each section with LOOKS LIKE, SOUNDS LIKE and FEELS LIKE.
What does bullying behaviour look like, sound like and feel like?
Bullying behaviour can come in many forms. Using the above definition and information from the article fill in the Y chart with examples of what bullying behaviour can look like, sound like and feel like.
For example, it might …
LOOKS LIKE – being left to sit alone at lunchtime
SOUNDS LIKE – name calling
FEELS LIKE – lonely, sad, embarrassing
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability
If you are at school …
In a small group of 3 or 4, plan and rehearse a role-play to show an example of how a ‘friend’ might exhibit bullying behaviour. In your play have the ‘victim’ display a way of coping or addressing the bullying in a positive and assertive way.
If you are learning remotely at the moment …
Write a script for a short role-play that shows an example of how a ‘friend’ might exhibit bullying behaviour. In your play have the ‘victim’ display a way of coping or addressing the bullying in a positive and assertive way.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative thinking, Personal and Social Capability
When you up-level a sentence, you do things to it to improve it: make it more interesting, or more complex.
But sometimes, when we read something it can be too complex and we don’t understand it very well. You ask someone to explain it to you, they do (in a simpler way) and you think, well why didn’t they just say that?
Go through the article and find a sentence or two that is complex, or hard to read.
Ask an adult what it means, or try and look some of the words up in the glossary.
Once you know what it means, see if you can rewrite it in a simpler way- down-level it.
Make sure you don’t change the meaning of the sentence in any way though.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Is bullying by a friend harder to see as bullying?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.