Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Summary: ReACH Seminar on Bullying

Our Twitter followers will be happy to know the seminar on bullying, which we have been tweeting about constantly, has finally taken place! This blog post will summarise the event for those of you who were unable to attend. The seminar was organised by the Research in Adolescent and Child Health (ReACH) interest group at the University of Hertfordshire, and proved to be an interesting and discursive event.  Professor Fiona Brooks from the University of Hertfordshire opened the seminar with the following thought-provoking questions which set the mood for the rest of the afternoon;

“Where does teasing end and bullying begin?”
“What form does bullying take?”
“What is the real prevalence of bullying?”
“What actions are effective to address bullying?”

Professor John Freeman from Queen’s University, Canada was the first of our speakers. John is a member of the Canadian Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) team; and his presentation used HBSC data to compare bullying in England and Canada. In both the English and Canadian HBSC survey, young people are asked how often they had been bullied and bullied others in the last two months. John begun by comparing prevalence rates: more young people in Canada reported being bullied and bullying others than in England, but both countries saw a decrease in bullying behaviours with age. John then highlighted how different methods of measuring prevalence often result in varying levels being reported. HBSC Canada uses an additional measure of bullying to England; in which questions ask about specific behaviours i.e. “Have you been called mean names?” This measure of bullying, which does not include the word bullying, reports higher rates of prevalence than the single question. To conclude John discussed the negative health outcomes of bullying; in both England and Canada young people who experienced bullying had a significantly lower life satisfaction than those who had not been bullied.

Our second speaker was Dr Sarah Woods from the University of Sunderland. Sarah presented an evaluation of the Red Balloon Learner Centres, based on a PhD project by Dr Nicky Knights. The Red Balloon Learner Centres provide intensive full-time education for children and adolescents who have experienced severe bullying; the centres provide a personal academic, pastoral and therapeutic programme. The Red Balloon Learner Centres were evaluated based on improvements in psychosocial wellbeing and academic functioning, and compared to the interventions offered by local authority. Both the Red Balloon Learner Centres and the local authority interventions proved to have significant beneficial results on both wellbeing and academic functioning, with Sarah’s work establishing optimum results between 3 and 6 months. While Sarah found no differences between the positive effect of the Red Balloon Learner Centre’s and the interventions provided by local authority; she highlighted how the young people attending the Red Balloon Learner Centres had experienced more severe and enduring bullying. Consensus following Sarah’s presentation was that while interventions like Red Balloon Learner Centre’s are costly, the cost of doing nothing i.e. burden on NHS, and criminal justice system, is much greater in the long run.

Jessica von Kaenel-Flatt and Jennifer O’Brien from The BB Group were our final presenters of the afternoon. Jessica and Jennifer reported findings from the Virtual Violence II study by BeatBullying; a comprehensive survey of over 4000 young people in the UK designed to measure prevalence, methods, motivations and consequences of cyber bullying as well as teachers’ interpretations of the behaviour and interventions available. The survey reports that 28% of 11 – 16 year olds have been deliberately targeted, threatened or humiliated by an individual or group through the use of mobile phones of the internet; and 21% of young people aged 8 – 11 years reported experiencing cyber bullying. Certain groups of young people were identified as being more at risk of cyber bullying; girls are more likely to be victims of cyber bullying than boys and disabled young people were nearly twice as likely to be bullied as their non-disabled peers.  Jessica and Jennifer discussed preventative strategies for cyber bullying which lead to much discussion surrounding parents’ responsibilities. Should parents ensure they themselves are up-to-date with technology in order to protect their children and what about the use of parental restrictions?

The seminar closed with an insightful video of our young researchers discussing bullying; describing how the stigma attached to bullying is detrimental to the behaviour being reported. We would like to say a huge thank you to all of our presenters. The seminar proved to be a great success, and we hope that all attendees found it both interesting and useful. For more details, we provided an up-to-date account of the seminar on twitter - @HBSCEngland.

Kayleigh Chester

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