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July 01 2015

Helping students tackle bullying: Six tips for the classroom

Bullying remains a troubling issue in our schools. In 2013, one in three Australian children aged 10-11 reported being bullied (Lodge & Baxter, 2013). Children who are bullied at school are at a greater risk of experiencing serious psychological problems later in life. (Ronning et al 2009, Rigby 2015). Children who engage in bullying behaviour are more likely to become involved in criminal activities as adults. (Ttofi et al. 2012, Rigby, 2015). This far reaching impact is too great for us to ignore. Effective school responses to bullying incidents are essential. However, there is also a great deal that can be done in the classroom to assist students in creating a safe and supportive environment where all may thrive.

How to empower students in your school:

  1. Promote healthy relationships

Develop students’ social and emotional skills through classroom activities and special programs. Teach students to appreciate diversity, as well as encouraging them to look for what they have in common with others. Provide opportunities for students to interact with other classes/year levels. This will help them to extend their social circle.

  1. Develop students’ strengths

Assist students in recognising and reflecting on their personal strengths. Guide them in how they may use these strengths to face their challenges and to help make the school a better place.

  1. Develop common understandings across the school

Ensure the school’s definition of bullying is widely understood. Discuss other types of behaviour/conflict and provide guidance on what strategies students could use in each different case. For example, explain what students could do in the case of an argument with a friend, or how they could respond to a one-off act of meanness or spite.

  1. Assist students who bully in changing their behaviour

Encourage students to reflect on why they might be bullying. Is it because they want to entertain their friends? Is it because they have been bullied themselves? Assist students in acknowledging and taking responsibility for their actions. Some students stop bullying when they become aware of the hurt they have caused (Rigby, 2015). Develop students’ empathy and guide students in using this empathy to change their own behaviour.

  1. Provide students with strategies to use when confronted with bullying behaviour

Teach students techniques, such as ‘fogging’, to enable them to cope more effectively when students try to bully them. Fogging is where students use calm, verbal responses to distract or discourage the person bullying them. Encourage students to ask for help when they need it and to seek out supportive, rather than destructive friendships.

  1. Empower bystanders to intervene

Let students know what they can do if they witness bullying. Explain that intervening effectively means helping to resolve the situation, not make it worse through retaliation, further conflict or silent approval by doing nothing. Let students know that if they don’t feel comfortable intervening directly, there are lots of other ways they can help. For example, they can report the incident to a teacher or support the person being bullied through kindness and encouraging them to seek help.

If you’d like to learn more about the role students can play in reducing harmful behaviours in your school, call Peer Support Australia on 1300 579 963 or email

By Miranda McCallum, Education Program Consultant, Peer Support Australia

Miranda is currently working on the development of a new Peer Support Anti-bullying module and online training resource for teachers which will be available in Term 4 this year.


Lodge, J & Baxter, J (2014) ‘Under-reporting or unaware? Parent and teacher reports of children’s bullying experiences’. Paper presented at 13th Australian Institute of Family Studies Conference, Melbourne

Noble, Toni and McGrath, Helen (2012) Wellbeing and resilience in young people and the role of positive relationships, Positive relationships : evidence based practice across the world, pp. 17-34, Springer, Berlin, Germany [B1.1]

Rigby, K. (2015) Future of children who bully at school, 2015. Available from:<>[29 June 2015]

Rigby, K. (2015) Future of children bullied at school, 2015. Available from:<>[29 June 2015]

Ronning et al, J.A., Sourander, A., Kumpulainen, K., Tamminen, T., Niemela, S., Moilanen, I., Helenius, H., Piha,J. & Almqvist, F. (2009). Cross-informant agreement about bullying and victimization among eight year olds: Whose information best predicts psychiatric caseness 10-15 years later? Social Psychiatry & Psychiatric Epidemiology, 44(1), 15-22.

Ttofi, M. M., Farrington, D. P., & Lösel, F. (2012). School bullying as a predictor of violence later in life: A systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective longitudinal studies. Aggression & Violent Behavior, 17. 5, 405-418.