A new manual focusing on cyberbullying and social networking hazards has been added to Flinders University’s internationally acclaimed PEACE Pack.
The comprehensive new 40-page booklet with accompanying video resources is based on years of research and includes an eight-lesson plan to empower students and provide teachers with evidence-based information from a leading Australian university.
Developed by the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work researchers, it provides information, supporting theory, and practical lessons aimed at both primary and secondary students.
Since 2001, the program has been used by more than 60 schools in South Australia and more than 350 schools in Greece, Italy, Malta and Japan.
The PEACE Pack is founded on the principles of Preparation (P), Education (E), Action (A), Coping (C) and Evaluation (E) and provides schools with a framework to address school bullying and violence.
The cyberbullying manual builds on the single lesson included in the initial PEACE Pack and includes information on the law, associated issues such as sexting and social media use, and tips for parents.
It was developed in response to teacher’s requests for a classroom resource they could deliver to support teaching in relation to digital citizenship.
“An expanded resource on cyberbullying was always part of the plan for the PEACE Pack but we needed to ensure it comprehensively incorporated all relevant research, and was informed by teachers’ classroom experience with this issue,” says Flinders University’s Professor Phillip Slee, who co-designed the PEACE Pack and is also a trained teacher and registered psychologist.
“The short term effects of childhood bullying are well-known and studies are increasingly improving our understanding of long-term damage as adults, including anxiety, depression and in extreme cases, suicidal ideation.
“The latest neuro-science research indicates that the impact of bullying is equivalent to exposure to domestic violence and physical abuse,” Professor Slee says.
Despite these efforts to address schoolyard bullying, current figures indicate that almost one in five students are experiencing ‘serious bullying’ once a week or more.
The cyberbullying manual is the culmination of almost a decade of Flinders research into child safety in cyberspace.
Unlike traditional bullying, cyberbullying has no physical boundaries, can be anonymous, constant, and can spread through a peer group and beyond in seconds, says co-lead author Dr Rahamathulla.
“This makes it particularly damaging to children who are targeted and particularly easy for perpetrators,” he says.
The cyberbullying lessons cover abusive texting, social media impersonation, exclusion, sexting and sexual bullying, stalking, derogatory comments and content, and more.
It is linked to the national curriculum and has a strong focus on promoting the mental health and wellbeing of students as part of their online lives.
“Young perpetrators and sufferers can engage in cyberbullying without fully understanding the nature of the internet,” Dr Rahamathulla says.
“So it’s crucial that all young people understand what happens to the information they post online, what behaviours constitute cyberbullying, and how these affect mental health and wellbeing.
“Our children and teenagers need to be prepared if it happens to them or if they witness it happening to others, and we need to build their skills to reduce the likelihood that they will become a perpetrator.”
The PEACE Pack has been picked up by South Australian public and Catholic schools. Brighton Secondary School commenced the intervention four years and has seen the bullying rate at its school reduced to 5% of all students, from an original 15- 20%.
Independent assessments have shown that the PEACE Pack has a significant impact on reducing the level of victimisation and bullying, and promoting wellbeing and school connection.
It takes a whole-of-school approach including looking at how people build relationships and deal with negative emotions, and informs anti-bullying school policies.