Health & wellbeing for students, teachers, principals - Education Matters

Bullying – Not just a problem for schools

Over the last 20 years, awareness of the harmful effects of school bullying has been growing in Australian and overseas communities, schools have, with differing degrees of success, taken up the challenge of addressing bullying as part of their ethical responsibility to keep young people safe. We have begun to understand that bullying affects all levels of society; it is, in a very real sense, everybody’s problem, Sandra Craig, manager of The National Centre Against Bullying, reports on bullying at the challenges for Australian schools.

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7 tips for less stress and healthy teaching success

Would you or your teaching team like to keep doing the wonderful work you do but without compromising your personal health, wellbeing or life balance? Here’s a few tips from our ‘Healthy Staff Happy Schools’ staff development program to help. Mark Bunn

  1. Appreciate that YOU choose your attitude
    The ancients taught that stress is not something outside of us, it is our reaction to external events. While there are innumerable things we can get stressed about each day – students, parents, colleagues – the latest research in ‘mindbody medicine’ and ‘positive psychology’ shows that by changing our mental attitude we can significantly reduce the stress of everyday events. From today, take responsibility for how you respond to events in your work-life, and for your results.
  2. Ride your body’s peak performance cycles
    The Eastern traditions understand that specific daily cycles regulate the optimal performance of our minds and bodies. Where possible try to;
    1. Make time for lunch – skipping lunch leads to poor concentration, mood swings, binge eating in the afternoon and suboptimal energy levels.
    2. Have 1-2 pieces of fruit at afternoon tea
    3. Eat ‘light at night’ – eating earlier or lighter at night is one of the most profound ways to transform every area of your mental and physical health (including losing weight!)
    4. Start the day with some physical activity – Exercising first thing in the morning is ideal as that way you will tend to start before your brain realises what you are doing – Lol!
  3. Learn to breathe properly and meditate
    Right now, take a deep, slow breath through your nose, hold for five seconds, and then exhale slowly through your nose. Ahhhhhhhh! Learning how to breathe properly can significantly reduce stress and create clearer thinking.

    Learn to meditate. Meditation is the quickest and best way to ‘switch’ our overactive brains off, leading to greater mental clarity, better concentration, a happier disposition and an inner sense of calm and ease. Try the little meditation here –

Hope that helps, and wishing you happy, healthy teaching.

Top tips for staying safe online

AVG (AU/NZ) explains how the school community can work together – to protect one another.

Technology provides us with that ability to connect with each other seamlessly across the globe like never before, and yet, with all these advancements we still continue to face the very real dangers of escalating cyber crime, privacy breaches, and other important issues like cyber bullying and harassment.

It is important that teachers, parents and students all work together as a community to ensure they keep each other safe, and this can be achieved through open and honest communication and discussion, common sense tips and tricks, as well as implementing appropriate security technologies.

“It can sometimes be difficult to quantify the real dangers that are present, but start by asking friends if they’ve had a computer infected by malware, or if they’ve ever been the target of cyber bullying, and you might just be surprised how wide spread these things are”, says Michael McKinnon, Security Advisor at AVG (AU/NZ).

“Staying safe online is not as hard as most people think, and often relies on good old fashioned common sense, and the willingness to improve for the sake of those around us that we care for”, McKinnon added. “Taking responsibility is vital, and these are some simple guidelines to follow.”

  • Upgrade old computers, and keep them up to date. As computer operating systems mature they inherently become more secure through regular updates, but it is also necessary every few years to upgrade to the latest versions as well – for example, if you’re still using Windows XP it’s time to upgrade! It is also important to ensure that you have automatic updates enabled at all times.
  • Install Internet Security software and keep it up-to-date. Anti-Virus solutions provide good basic protection against viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware and adware. However, to keep your school and students safe online today you really need the additional layers of protection provided by an Internet Security software suite, like AVG Internet Security.
  • Teach students how to set strong passwords, and keep them private. This is especially needed on social networking web sites like Facebook. Also make sure they know how to properly set the privacy information on social networking sites so that their personal information can only be seen by those they trust and give permission to see it. A recent New York Times survey found that up to a third of teenagers will share their passwords with close friends, so it is important to address this issue as well.
  • Never use a computer with the “Administrator” account privilege. Affecting mostly people using older and insecure operating systems (like Windows XP), up to 90% of all security vulnerabilities can be mitigated against simply by setting up regular user account with a strong password for normal daily use – thus eliminating the need to have administrator rights. Access the administrator account only on those rare instances when you may need to install software or change system settings. Make sure all school computers are set up this way, and educate parents and students about this simple measure.
  • Teach everyone to stop and think before they click. Through social media and other sites, we share information at a rapid pace, and so we’re confronted with links to websites and files all the time. Be sure that you understand how to “roll over” a link to view the real destination first, and please make sure you have good web scanning software, like the free AVG LinkScanner® for Windows and Mac computers. It will do a real-time check for any malware payloads that may be lurking on the web page.
  • Don’t forget to secure mobile devices, like phones and tablets. Computing no longer happens only at desks or in the office or classroom; it happens on public transport and in busy cafes. Mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets these days are as fast as computer were 5 – 8 years ago – we are all walking around with computers in our pockets! These need to be protected, so ensure you enable PIN number locks, activate phone tracking features (like “Find my iPhone” for iPhone, or AVG Mobilation for Android) for lost or stolen devices, as well as security scanning software.

Just remember that by discussing and implementing some of these guidelines with your school community, you’ll be helping to raise awareness and combat some of the challenges facing all of us that benefit so greatly from modern technology. At AVG we’re all about protecting our community of users, and we help schools with discounts of up to 50% on our award winning protection software – backed up with expert technical support from the AVG (AU/NZ) team based in Melbourne.

Want to help your school’s students, parents and/or teachers to learn more about today’s online threats and how to stay safe online? Then have Michael McKinnon, Security Advisor for AVG (AU/NZ) come and speak at your school.

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Mental health key concern for kids

Kids Helpline statistics reveal that mental health-related issues now account for two-in-five counselling sessions.

Kids Helpline General Manager Wendy Protheroe said, according to the national counselling service’s Annual Overview into the concerns of young Australians, counselling sessions had increased by four per cent, rising to 53,111 sessions during 2009.

“Disturbingly, of those 145 counselling sessions each day, 57 are about mental health-related concerns, such as diagnosed mental illnesses, habitual or problematic drug use, continued disordered eating behaviours, self-injury and suicidal thoughts,” she said.

“That means every 10 minutes our counsellors are speaking with children and young people who are in distress and require counselling and every 25 minutes these counselling sessions relate to mental health concerns.

“Kids Helpline is now a significant provider of mental health services for children and young people across Australia and we are often the only option the young have for support, particularly after hours or in regional and remote communities.”

Mental health-related issues are also the main concern for young people who contact Kids Helpline online.

“More than 40 per cent of all online counselling sessions during 2009 had to do with mental health-related concerns, representing the top reasons for contacting counsellors online,” Protheroe said.

“Increasingly, more young people want to speak about serious and complex concerns like mental health online rather than on the phone.

“This form of counselling takes more than twice as long as phone counselling and our ability to respond is capped as we simply do not have the funding available to extend the hours.

“Web counselling is not available 24 hours a day; we open the service for 50 hours each week.”

Kids Helpline is increasingly involved with ongoing or case managed clients, usually regarding mental health issues.

“We have become a vital part of youth mental health services in this country, frequently working with the young person’s general practitioners or psychologists to have a safety plan in place. But who responds to that young person at night time, when most of the health clinics are closed? Kids Helpline does.”

Protheroe stressed that the statistics aren’t all doom and gloom.

“Hopefully what we are seeing is that this generation is willing to reach out for help and talk about their concerns,” she said.

“Being there at the end of the phone, email or web-chat session really does mean that we can save young lives.”

Kids Helpline opened as a service of BoysTown in 1991 to provide a free confidential support and counselling service to children and young people in Australia.

“Since opening, Kids Helpline has helped more than 5.5 million young people work through many different challenges,” Protheroe said.

“We recognise that while many young people have great parents, teachers and other adults who offer help and support, there are times when this is not the case.

“Kids Helpline assists young people to work on issues and empowers them to work through these with the help of their parents, teachers, friends and other support services.”

While Kids Helpline started out as a service for children and young people aged five to 18, the service now extends to young people aged five to 25 years.

Counselling is provided via the phone, web and email by tertiary qualified, paid professionals who undergo additional accredited training at Kids Helpline.

Young people like Lucy

Thirteen year-old Lucy* had been contacting Kids Helpline about ongoing family relationship conflict, friendship breakdowns, bullying and her difficulties in understanding and managing her emotions. Lucy had a very negative image of herself, experienced suicidal thoughts and was engaging in self-harming behaviour.

Through counselling sessions that would often focus on Lucy talking about her feelings and emotions in detail and the impact these have on her and her view of self, and with her counsellors validating her experiences, Lucy has been able to decrease her self-harming behaviour. Recognising that she does want to live, together they have collaboratively developed a safety plan to utilise when she is having suicidal thoughts. With her counsellors’ ongoing support, Lucy is increasingly recognising her internal strengths and resources and developing plans for an exciting future.

*Name changed for privacy

New online safety resource from Cybersmart

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has released Cybersmart Networking – a new online safety resource for students aged 12 to 14 years.

Cybersmart Networking uses a realistic online environment to teach young people how to stay safe on social networking sites, without exposing them to real risks.

Using the message ‘Private Lives in Public Spaces’, Cybersmart Networking teaches children about social networking in a protected environment.

Cybersmart Networking has been tailored to provide new social networking users, and those who will shortly be venturing onto this space, with real experience of the potential issues and how to manage them,” said Sharon Trotter, Manager of Cybersmart Programs.

Students work online and in real time to solve an internet-based problem from the safety of their school. Cybersafety experts including police, education, government and child welfare advocates, New online safety resource from Cybersmart act as guides to help students navigate through the scenario.

The activity is part of the ACMA’s suite of Interactive Shared Learning activities that are designed to educate and empower students so that they can manage cybersafety issues, discover what information is safe for them to post online, and negotiate the balance between their private and public online lives.

The 50-minute activity is provided free of charge to schools across Australia. It is accompanied by comprehensive lesson plans reinforcing the learnings from the activity itself, and instructions for students and teachers.

Thirty-thousand students nationwide have already participated in Cybersmart’s online Interactive Shared Learning activities. Cybersmart Networking has been tailored to provide new social networking users with real experience of what can go wrong and how they can stay safe. It complements Cybersmart Detectives, which addresses online grooming and protecting personal information, and Cybersmart Hero, which addresses cyberbullying.

Sign up your school to participate in Cybersmart Networking by completing the online form.

Schools wishing to participate in upcoming events can email or register your school at: