Professor Donna Cross: Head, Health Promotion and Education Research; Director, CoLab
The Friendly Schools research is as important now as it was when we began it 20 years ago – if not more so.
With the emergence and increasingly visibility of cyberbullying, schools and communities are realising that bullying is not just a normal part of childhood, but can result in significant long-term damage. New fields of research suggest that severe social stress can even affect gene expression, leading to long-term chronic physical and mental health problems.
If we can help students negotiate stressful social circumstances and prevent bullying from occurring to themselves and to others, we can have a significant positive impact on their future.
I'm also passionate about the research because there is such a need for it – I regularly receive requests for advice from worried parents and schools struggling to address bullying with limited support and resources.
A key focus of FS is to provide training and strategies to parents, students and school staff, so they can feel empowered to help children prevent and cope with social difficulties.
Finally, I feel strongly that young people have the right to contribute to research efforts that involve them, and I have found it very rewarding to work with students to co-develop strategies to prevent bullying. They understand online environments better than most adults, and frequently come up with insightful suggestions and creative ideas to help other young people, and adults.