Bullies are everywhere, but international experts are working hard to crack down on schoolyard violence.
Flinders University has joined forces with one of Italy’s oldest institutions, the University of Bologna, to establish a range of new international research initiatives including the introduction of South Australia’s successful anti-bullying program known as the ‘PEACE Pack’ in Italy.
The PEACE Pack is a leading anti-bullying and violence prevention program developed by educational and child development experts at Flinders University.
The University of Bologna researchers, led by Professor Antonella Brighi, are coordinating European research projects to prevent bullying and cyberbullying.
“School bullying is a leading cause of psychological and social pressure affecting the mental and emotional wellbeing of children and young people,” she says.
Together, experts at Flinders and Bologna University will liaise under a new research laboratory agreement signed in Italy earlier this year by Flinders Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Robert Saint and University of Bologna Rector, Professor Francesco Ubertini.
Professor Saint said the joint laboratory agreement would support important research collaborations, resource sharing, staff and student exchanges including cotutelles, summer schools and more. It joins a long line of other research collaborations between Flinders and leading overseas universities.
“To work with one of Italy’s oldest and top-ranking research universities is a great way to form the first joint laboratory agreement in Humanities and Social Sciences at Flinders,” Professor Saint says.
“This initiative will help to promote student wellbeing and positive mental health outcomes in a number of ways, including by focusing on preventing violences and aggression, bullying and cyberbullying.
“By better informing teachers and educators about child wellbeing and prevention of bullying, we can work together for better outcomes and happier children and teenagers coming to higher education and their adult lives.”
Child development psychologist Professor Phillip Slee, who leads the Student Wellbeing and Prevention of Violence (SWAPv) Research Centre at Flinders with co-director Dr Grace Skrzypiec, says up to 20 per cent, or almost 500,000 Australian children and teenagers, are victims of cyberbullying alone.
“There is increasing evidence that both traditional face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying has lasing effects on children and their families, including low self-esteem, depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts,” Professor Slee says.
“Our PEACE Pack has consistently been shown to significantly reduce instances of severe bullying among schoolchildren everywhere it is used.”
The SWAPv Research Centre will initially collaborate with the University of Bologna on related research on socio-emotional learning and early intervention for better mental health outcomes.
The Flinders PEACE Pack, which is used by several SA and a range of Australian schools, is a recognised evidence-based program for reducing school bullying.
The program has been embraced by the Government of Malta, as well as a growing number of local and state school authorities in Australia, Greece, Japan, Korea and soon the US and other Italian cities and provinces by 2018-19.