Student action 'can counter bullying'

Students can reduce bullying rates at their schools by stepping in when they see it, a new study has found.

But the study, based on analysing Auckland University's Youth 2007 survey of New Zealand high schools, has found that intervention by teachers alone has no effect on the bullying rate.

"Students taking action to stop bullying was by far the strongest school-level factor we found," lead researcher Dr Simon Denny said.

"Students are often reluctant to tell teachers when there is bullying going on, they don't perceive that teachers are that effective. That's not to say that they shouldn't involve adults, but we couldn't see any effect [of teacher involvement]."

The study also found that students were less likely to step in when they saw bullying in boys' schools than they were in coeducational or girls' schools. Bullying rates were also much higher in boys' schools.

These differences were found to be completely explained by gender and other demographic differences. Boys were more than twice as likely as girls to be bullies. But the bullying rate was found to be slightly higher in private schools than in state and integrated schools, even after adjusting for demographic and other factors - even though private school students were actually slightly more likely to intervene.

"It seems to be something about the culture of private schools rather than individual students. You would actually expect those results to go the other way because most kids who go to private schools are from higher socio-economic groups," Dr Denny said.

The survey, conducted anonymously on tablet computers, asked 9107 students in 96 high schools how often they had been bullied, and how often they had bullied others.

They were told: "Bullying is when another student or group of students say, write, text or message nasty and unpleasant things to another student, or the student is hit, kicked, threatened or shoved around. Bullying also means when a group of students completely ignore somebody and leave them out of things on purpose."

Five per cent of girls and 7.1 per cent of boys said they were bullied at least once a week. A further 2.9 per cent of girls and 6.8 per cent of boys admitted to bullying others at least once a week.

They were also asked, "How often have you ignored bullying of other students and not taken action?" and, "How often do other students take action when they know a student is being bullied in school?" Responses, averaged across the two questions, were "almost never" (coded 3 for the first question and 1 for the second), "now and then" (coded 2) or "almost always" (coded 1 for the first question or 3 for the second).

The results showed that students were less likely to take action in boys' schools (average 1.99) than in co-ed (2.09) or girls' schools (2.25).

- Simon Collins of the NZ Herald

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