Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


School Bullying: A Topic of International Importance

Peter K. Smith

In 1988, during a family holiday in Norway, I met with Dan Olweus, a professor of psychology considered the founding father of school bullying research. He told me about the recent Norwegian National Campaign against bullying in schools, which had had some considerable success. Inspired by this, I used his survey questionnaire in England, where we soon found out that bullying was a problem in English schools, probably even more than in Norway. In fact this led to a few headlines that ‘Britain is the bullying capital of Europe’, which while quite unjustified, did focus attention on the issue! Fairly soon we got some substantial funding from the Department for Education to carry out and evaluate anti-bullying interventions in Sheffield schools. This had some success in reducing bullying, and led to a nationally available pack, Don’t Suffer in Silence. This was issued in 1994 and had a lot of useful material to help schools tackle the problem. It was free on request, and after some years, most schools in England had requested a copy. A second edition was made in 2000, and revised in 2002. Eventually new developments such as cyberbullying, and changes of Government, led to this pack being discontinued, but it contributed to national awareness of the issue, and anti-bullying materials continue to be available on the Department for Education website.

From around 2006, cyberbullying became an increasingly obvious problem.

From around 2006, cyberbullying became an increasingly obvious problem. It is different from face-to-face bullying in ways that are now well discussed – such as the 24/7 nature of it, the possible anonymity of the perpetrator, and the potentially much larger audience to the victimization. From 2008 to 2012 I was Chair of the Cooperation of Science and Technology (COST) Action IS0801 on cyberbullying, (http://sites.google.com/site/costis0801/). These Actions bring together many (mainly European) countries to conduct joint research and training activities. In this Action 29 countries were involved, and the collaborations coming from this undoubtedly contributed to a rapid upsurge in research on cyberbullying, and ways of preventing it, in the last decade. I am continuing with work on cyberbullying, currently as part of a project called Blurred Lives, financed by Erasmus+ and led by Dr Noel Purdy at Stranmillis College, Belfast (www.blurredlives.eu)

Although the COST project was mainly with European and also Australian colleagues, I have also had the opportunity to carry out research with colleagues in Eastern countries, notably Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong and Mainland China. In particular I supervised doctoral theses by Tomoyuyki Kanetsuna from Japan, and Hyojin Koo and later Seung-ha Lee from South Korea, comparing bullying in these countries with the phenomenon in England. One aspect that struck me was how the words closest to bullying in some of these countries – for example ijime in Japan, or wang-ta in South Korea – differed somewhat in meaning from bullying. They seemed to emphasize more the collective nature of bullying, often involving social exclusion by most or all of a school class (or even a whole school). This contrasts with the more localised physical and verbal bullying often found in English, or western, schools. Indeed the nature of bullying does seem rather different in some eastern countries.

Interest and research in this topic continues unabated. It affects many pupils at school, and many parents and carers are concerned about it. Progress is being made in understanding and intervening against bullying, but there is much more work still to do. It has been a satisfying part of my life to contribute to this.

Read more from Peter K. Smith:

Bullying, Cyberbullying and Student Well-Being in Schools

School Bullying in Different Cultures


In honour of Anti Bullying Week 2018 we are offering free access to chapters from Bullying, Cyberbullying and Student Well-Being in Schools and School Bullying in Different Cultures for a limited time:

Bullying, Cyberbullying and Student Well-Being in Schools:

5. Cyberviolence and Cyberbullying in Europe and India


School Bullying in Different Cultures:

1. Research on bullying in schools in European countries


Visit www.cambridge.org/antibullyingweek2018 to find out more.

About The Author

Peter K. Smith

Peter K. Smith is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the Unit for School and Family Studies in the Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London....

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