PROJECT ROCKIT is Australia's youth-driven movement against bullying, hate and prejudice. Our key purpose is to empower young people to challenge bullying and discrimination when they see it happen at school, online and beyond...
PROJECT ROCKIT is Australia's youth-driven movement against bullying, hate and prejudice. Our key purpose is to empower young people to challenge bullying and discrimination when they see it happen at school, online and beyond. We do this by running workshops with young people to build empathy, and equip them with the skills to challenge hate when they see it, instead of standing by watching. We have worked with over 500,000 young people, supporting them to fund their voice and take action on the issues they are about.
We have maybe the best job; going out into schools every day, having conversations with awesome young people about how they can challenge hate and bullying, and lead the positive change they want to see in the world. Naturally students often pull us aside and share their experiences of bullying and the impacts it has. We know it's unfortunately a common experience in schools, with 3 in 5 students having been bullied, 1 in 5 being bullied weekly, and 1 in 5 students admitting to bullying someone else (Mccrindle, 2018). Bullying is usually defined as repeated behaviour with the intent to cause harm, often with an imbalance of power such as physical size, popularity or social support, race, class and neurodiversity, to name a few. It can play out face-to-face and/or online, and often it's both, with 85% of students who are bullied online having also been bullied in person (BullyingNoWay.gov.au).
Even though we have these definitions and statistics, what we hear in schools is that often young people won't go seek help because sometimes it can be difficult to label something as bullying, what they're going through might not seem 'bad enough', or there are other barriers to getting help. This is why it's so important to name it for what it is - bullying - and creating supportive environments for young people to talk.
Coming back from lockdowns and online earning, teachers are observing that young people's lack of respectful interactions with their peers, whether in person or online, is a big challenge. Such common ways we hear bullying happening in schools, which hasn't changed that much since before lockdowns, are:
- Name calling and rude comments, often based on aspects of someone's identity; such as sexuality, gender, race culture, faith or disabilities and neurodiversity
- Exclusion at school with games and events, and online through social media like being left out of group messages or gaming
- Spreading rumours or private messages and photos - at school and online
- Physical - pushing, shoving, invading personal space, damaging belongings
- Anonymous online hate and trolling in games and comments
There are many different immediate impacts for young people who are targets of this behaviour. The impacts below can also be due to many other reasons, which makes it even more important to have a conversation one-on-one about what's going on for them.
- Being withdrawn from usual activities and hobbies
- Displaying symptoms of anxiety, depression including feelings of loneliness and isolation
- Lack of quality friendships, or a change in friendship groups
- Not liking school, and maybe lowered academic outcomes
- Negative changes in mood after being online, gaming or being with friends
What we hear from young people who have experienced bullying is the worst part is the feelings of isolation, and unfortunately sometimes thy haven't received the support they need which makes them reluctant to reach out again.
Here are our top tips for talking to young people about bullying
- Create a safe space to talk - We hear from young people all the time that if they reach out to an adult for support they're afraid they'll overreact, it'll get them in trouble instead, or they simply won't understand. It's important to listen to the whole story without judgement or interrupting. Young people don't always want advice or you to try to 'fix' the problem, often they just want someone to listen to them and validate their experience.
- Show an interest in their lives online - Learn about the social media they're using or games they're playing. This gives you a bit more creditability and shows them that you understand the positive parts of being online, and that you're not going to tell them to avoid the situation by getting off their phones or games. If they void being online the issue won't just go away, and they miss out on all the positive parts too, like the social connection, education, entertainment and sense of belonging that young people can find online.
- Find alternative supports - As much as we want to be the safe space for our young person to find support, we might just not be the right person at that point in time, and that's OK - it's actually awesome that they have those other supports! So ask who they'd prefer to talk to and support them to reach out. It could be one of their teachers or wellbeing supports at school, a sports coach or music teacher, a family member, or another friend at school. Or maybe, they might want to chat to someone form a support service that's relevant to them - at the end of this blog there's some great services for young people. The most important thing is that the young person find out what works for them and gets the support they need, whether it's from you or someone else.
- To hear from young people, watch this episode of PRTV on what they wish adults know when they reach out for support.
As a parent or guardian, the wellbeing of your own young person is your biggest concern, but it's likely they will witness other people going through a hard time too, with about 85% of bullying interactions occurring when a peer is present (BullyingNoWay.gov.au), and involved by actively or passively going along with it.
Here are our top tips for empowering young people to stand up - for themselves and the people around them:
- Be a role model - Promote pro-social behaviours whether that's in person or online. Maybe you see something negative happen, stand up in that moment if you can, or talk to your young person about what you wish could have been done. We have a great episode of PRTV about how to have a productive, respectful conversation with someone about their behaviour. It's similar online too; you can model respectful interactions by communicating your experiences or views online respectfully, catching yourself before a conversation gets heated, and avoiding the pull of keyboard warriors.
- Acknowledge the risks - It's really important to acknowledge the reasons why someone might not stand up t bullying, because for young people those risks do feel real. Then you can figure out how they'd feel most comfortable to challenge bullying in realistic and safe ways. Maybe standing up in the moment and saying something, or standing next to the person being targeted to show they're on their side, or even checking in on the person afterwards by sending them a message.
- Help them find their allies - You can help them identify which people at school, or online, are the ones who have their back. Maybe it's a teacher at school, or a friend to ask for support when they're being targeted, or to help them stand up for someone else. It's more likely that people who are supportive of others will also have those supports when they need it too.
We believe that every one of us has role to play in challenging bullying, hate and prejudice. By reading this blog you're already supporting our movement - and now you have the tips to empower young people to choose to stand up, whether it's happening in school or beyond.
Here are some resources we recommend in all our workshops for young people to help themselves and their friends
Heaps of information for young people aged 5-25 on many things a young person might be going through from school to home and anywhere in-between. Blogs, podcasts, info pages & stories from other young people. There's resources for parents, carers, and educators, on supporting young people. They also have 24/7 phone counselling and webchat support services.
PROJECT ROCKIT partnered with kidshelpline to create season 3 of PRTV where we 'real' talk around tough topics.
headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation nd puts young people at the centre of accessing mental health support and services. headspace can help young people with mental health, physical health (including sexual health), alcohol and other drug services, and work and study support. There's headspace centres, professional online and phone support, and resources for young people, their carers and educators.
The e-safety Commissioner is Australia's independent regulator for online safety and has heaps of information for young people (and adults) to stay safe online. You can also report online abuse or distressing content which can then be investigated.
Want to find out more about how we can work with your students?
Chat to our School Engagement Team
Head to the PROJECT ROCKIT website to speak to our School Engagement Team about choosing a workshop for your school or group of young people. Our workshops cover topics of tackling (cyber)bullying, building empathy, respectful relationships, challenging prejudice, and leadership through taking positive action.
Looking for more resources?
- Check out our PROJECT ROCKIT Action Hub to hear from other young people on what matters most to them and get skills to make the world a better place.
- Find us on YouTube where we have 3 seasons of PRTV. These are short, sharp episodes covering a range of different topics, with a discussion guide to support conversation about the topics covered in each episode.
- Follow us on Instagram @projectrockit, and find us on Facebook
By Tayla McKechnie (she/her) - Team Coordinator at PROJECT ROCKIT