How Signage Can Help Proactively Reduce Bullying in Australian Schools
It’s hard to look at, hard to hear, and even harder to experience first-hand…
1 in 4 Australian children report being bullied repeatedly, half say they’ve experienced bullying at least once, and 1 in 5 say they’ve experienced bullying online.
When you consider the effects of peer victimisation (poor academic performance, lower levels of school attendance, low self-esteem, persistent feelings of anxiety, depression, and even suicide), it highlights the need for ongoing development of both proactive and reactive strategies for addressing school bullying, along with adequate reporting systems to assess the effectiveness of these strategies over time.
To support the execution of anti-bullying strategies in Australian schools, signage can be useful for reinforcing messages, displaying anti-bullying affirmations, and encouraging students to self-assess their behaviour before intervention is required.
Below is a series of school bullying signs and suggestions to make the most of your anti-bullying campaigns and spread messages of support, tolerance and companionship for all.
Before You Begin…
The first step in addressing bullying in schools is to define it. As Bullying. No Way! says, a clear, comprehensive and mutually understood definition is integral for schools to identify bullying and distinguish it from other types of conflict or violence, so that the appropriate strategies can be implemented.
An isolated incident of a student displaying aggression towards another student or a mutual argument where there is no power imbalance, for example, does not constitute bullying under the national definition for Australian schools.
Once a shared understanding of bullying has been reached and your classroom (or school as a whole) has decided on a definition that is meaningful to them, use school signs to display the definition as a constant reminder for students what is considered bullying, and how their behaviour and actions fit with that definition.
Click the image below to download the definition of bullying most appropriate for your students’ age.
Create a Pledge Wall
Use school noticeboards to create an anti-bullying pledge wall displaying students’ hand cutouts or speech bubbles. On the paper cutouts, students include a written pledge to help put an end to bullying, along with their name, showing commitment to their action or promise.
Example pledges include…
- I will include my classmates in lunch time games
- I will report bullying to a responsible adult
- I will not be a bystander and let other students be bullied
- I will speak only positive and encouraging words about other students
Use ‘Allen the Alien’ Anti-Bullying Resources
The Allen Adventure is a fun, interactive story offered as an educator’s resource on the Australian Government’s Bullying. No Way website. It’s an animated story about a young visitor from another planet who is learning how to get on with his new Earthling classmates and explores the social and emotional skills needed by children to make new friends, get along with other kids, and deal with difficult behaviour from others.
In addition to showing The Allen Adventure in classrooms and using the accompanying resources to guide classroom conversations, erect cutout characters of Allen around lunch and play areas to remind students of Allen’s experience, and how their actions (and inaction) can impact others.
Display Classroom Rules with Signage
Classroom rules have been strongly associated with a reduction in bullying and research shows that both teachers and students consider classroom-based anti-bullying content to be effective in reducing bullying.
Reinforce classroom rules with signs that remind students of how they should behave when it comes to interacting with peers, both verbally and physically. Encourage the class to come up with a list of behaviours and actions they deem to be bullying and guide them to arrive at any important types of bullying omitted from the list.
Promote Positive Playground Behaviour
Anti-bullying programs in schools with high levels of playground supervision have been significantly linked to reductions in bullying. To further support well-supervised play areas, install value pencils as a constant reminder of the school’s ethos with regards to respect, caring, sharing, inclusion and tolerance.
Install a Friendship Bench
The original friendship seat concept started in Britain with the intention of promoting friendship and kindness in younger students and building a stronger sense of community.
The colourfully decorated seats or benches are installed in school play areas for children to sit on when they’re feeling sad or lonely, alerting other students and teachers to potential problems.
Students are asked to keep an eye out for anybody sitting on the bench, and encouraged to invite the child to play, or join them on the bench for a chat to check that they’re feeling ok.
In Britain, friendship seats were believed to help reduce bullying behaviour due to their inclusive and caring values, and they can now be seen in schools across Australia, from Victoria and ACT, up to QLD.
Better Buddies Australia Friendship Seat Project also suggests rostering a group of the older ‘buddy’ students as supervisors of the seat during break times who play with the students sitting on the bench.
Make the most of your friendship bench by adding a sign next to it listing tips for kids to make new friends. Suggestions could include…
- Smile – it’s easier to make friends when you smile!
- Ask questions – ask someone what sport or games they like to play
- Give complements – if someone is good at something, don’t be afraid to let them know
- Be yourself – people want to know the real you, so don’t change to fit in
- Chat to your buddy – find your buddy and ask if they can introduce you to some friends
Cyber-Safety Signage for Libraries & Computer Rooms
Approximately one in five young school students report being cyber-bullied in any one year.
To spread awareness and reinforce cyber-bullying education, create a value sign for computer rooms and libraries to remind students of acceptable online behaviour. This could include tips on privacy and cyber-safety, along with guidelines for healthy social media usage, and resources for cyber-bullying support.
Refer to eSmart’s Top 10 Cyber Safety Tips when planning your cyber-safety signage for info on cyber-bullying, exposure to predators and inappropriate content.
Mobilise Bystanders & Normalise Reporting
Unfortunately, only a minority of students being bullied will actually seek help from teachers or parents for fear that reporting the bullying might make it worse.
Promoting a culture of reporting bullying, however, is considered by many researchers as an important strategy for preventing bullying in schools.
Interestingly, students who intervene in bullying to support the victim tend to be younger females who have not previously bullied their peers and have ‘pro-victim attitudes’. They also believe their parents would expect them to help the person being bullied, and so they do.
For those that need a little extra motivation to stand up for their peers and report incidents of bullying, erect anti-bullying signs at various locations around the school with reminders about what to do if they witness or experience bullying..
Mobilisation Messages for School Bullying Signs…
Here are some tips from Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Centre for students to report bullying, ideal for displaying in play areas and locker rooms.
A holistic approach to reducing bullying in schools
As researcher of the first large scale study into school bullying and academic achievement, Dr Lisa Mundy says, the most effective way to deal with bullying is to take a whole of school approach in which teachers, students, parents and the whole community are involved.
If Signpac can help support your school community with school bullying signs to reinforce your anti-bullying messages, please get in touch with our team of school signage experts on 1800 140 940 or send us a message and we’ll get back to you within 48 hours.