A coalition of eight teacher organizations representing over 4-million teachers in North America, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia and the Caribbean has joined in an unprecedented effort to condemn bullying and cyberbullying in all its forms. The outcry by teacher organizations is sparked by the pending release of "Bully – Scholarship Edition."
The coalition spearheaded by the Canadian Teachers' Federation (CTF) includes the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ/Canada), the National Education Association (NEA) in the United States, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in the United Kingdom, the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) the Australian Education Union (AEU), the Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations (KFTA) and the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT). The teacher organizations are all members of Education International (EI), which also endorses this initiative.
"Educators around the world are deeply concerned about the impact of violence in media, especially when it is marketed as entertainment," says Fred van Leeuwen, General Secretary of Education International, the Global Union Federation representing teachers and education workers worldwide. "Clearly these violent video games undermine our efforts to create safe schools where children can grow and learn in an atmosphere of respect. As educators, it's our professional duty to speak out against this kind of bullying behaviour, whether it's in the community, the classroom or on the computer screen."
"Teachers are concerned because the video game is mean-spirited in that it trivializes and glorifies bullying in school. While teachers recognize this game is only one among thousands of violent and aggressive video games on the market, this game in particular hits closer to home for teachers and students," explains CTF President Emily Noble.
"We were disappointed when the game was first released in 2006. And we are appalled this new version is said to be more realistic, featuring new methods to torment and bully," adds Angelo Gavrielatos, AEU Federal President.
"What a distasteful example to show young people. The game undermines all our work for civility, social engagement and peaceful resolution," explains CUT President Adolph Cameron.
"At a time when media reports of bullying and cyberbullying behaviours are on the rise, the last thing we need is a video game that further fans the flames of bullying and cyberbullying behaviour in schools," says NEA President Reg Weaver. "After all, every teacher has seen at least one of their students mimic what they have seen and watched on the video screen.
Studies have shown that kids who watch television or films with violence or play violent video games have a tendency to imitate this behaviour in real-life:
- According to a UNESCO study, almost half (44%) of both boys and girls reported a strong overlap between what they perceive as reality and what they see on the screen. Many children experience both real and media environments in which violence appears to be natural and the most effective solution to life's problems.
- According to the non-profit organization Media Awareness Network (MNet) the level of violence in the gaming habits of young people is disturbingly high. In MNet's 2001 study Young Canadians In A Wired World (which found that 32 per cent of kids 9 to 17 are playing video games "every day or almost every day"), 60 per cent cited action/combat as their favourite genre.
- According to a 2003 study published in Psychological Research in the Public Interest, television and films, video games, and music that contain violence increase the likelihood of aggressive and violent behavior in both immediate and long-term contexts.
"Bullying used to be limited to school yards or to local neighborhoods, and kids used to consider their homes as a safe haven from bullying. Not anymore with the increased use of e-mails, websites, instant messaging, social networking sites, chat rooms, and text messaging. Today, bullying has morphed into cyberbullying which now extends into the homes of young people," adds NUT General Secretary, Steve Sinnott.
Research shows that some young people engage in cyberbullying activities because of the anonymous nature of the medium. "The devastating psychological effects of both verbal and social bullying become even more profound online because the victim often doesn't know who is doing the harassing, and many people can covertly witness or join in the bullying," explains SSTA President Ann Ballinger.
"The lack of non-verbal visual cues in the non-physical world of the Internet makes it difficult for perpetrators to gauge how their actions are being received by others. When people can't perceive the effect of their actions on others, it's difficult for them to feel empathy," says KFTA spokeperson Kim Dong-suk.
"The growing trend in bullying and cyberbullying behaviours has a harmful impact on our learning and teaching environments. Teachers see first-hand the negative effects of bullying on students' capability to learn and to grow. For too many people, the discrimination, harassment, victimization and violence they experience through bullying, is something they have to deal with their entire lives," explains for his part Réjean Parent, President of the CSQ.
"This is why bullying and its virtual off-shoot, cyberbullying have become key issues for teachers and their organizations. That is why we as a coalition of teachers are staunchly opposed to this type of video game which simply promotes bullying behaviour and violence. At a time when our class composition is so diverse and complex, games like this easily target students who are most vulnerable. It does nothing to promote positive relationships. We have the interests of the children of our countries in mind. We encourage retailers to refuse to sell this distasteful game. We urge parents to help us raise awareness and work together toward creating caring and inclusive school environments," concludes CTF President Emily Noble.
All of the education organizations cited here are members of Education International, which represents 30 million teachers and education workers in 171 countries and territories around the world.
Canada: Francine Filion, CTF Communications Director: (613) 232-1505 Quebec: Marjolaine Perreault, CSQ press attaché:(514) 235-5082 (cell) or Luc Allaire: (514) 356-8888 United States: Cynthia Swann, NEA: (202) 833-4000 Caribbean: Corbin Hinds, CUT public relations officer: (246) 422-4686 or (246) 436- 6139 England: Caroline Cowie, NUT media relations: 44-20-7388-6191 Scotland: Ann Bellinger , SSTA President or David Eaglesham, SSTA General Secretary : 0131 313 7300 Australia: Susan Hopgood, AEU Vice-President: 61-0-39693-1800 South Korea: Kim Dong-suk (Mr), Phone: 82-2-570-5531