Media releases

  • Take bullying seriously every day, Brock expert says as Pink Shirt Day nears

    EXPERT ADVISORY: February 14 2024 – R0020

    As Pink Shirt Day approaches on Wednesday, Feb. 28, Brock anti-bullying expert Tony Volk says parents, teachers and caregivers need to be mindful about their attitudes toward bullying.

    “We know that in classrooms where the message is that bullying isn’t a big deal, we find it being perpetrated more often,” says the Child and Youth Studies Professor, who has spent time researching bullying in Niagara classrooms and beyond.

    A member of Brock Research on Aggression and Victimization Experiences (BRAVE), one of Canada’s largest teams of child and youth bullying experts, Volk cautions that failing to consider bullying important actually makes it a more serious problem, and that with an abundance of research showing that the effects of bullying can last for years to come, ignoring or dismissing it as a rite of passage should never be an option.

    He draws a comparison to physical injury when considering the potential impact of bullying.

    “If you exercise your muscles, you make them sore and they become stronger, and similarly, if you experience social stress, you have to figure out conflict and navigate challenge to develop stronger social skills,” says Volk. “The problem in both cases is when you have extreme levels of stress and it causes a bone to break or causes damage to one’s mental well-being.”

    Volk notes that even once a broken bone is healed, it is never as strong as it was before — and the same is true for those who are bullied.

    “For some children, the stress of bullying is overwhelming, and it causes damage that we know impacts mental and physical health for decades,” he says. “But we don’t know ahead of time which kids are going to be resilient and overcome that stress and which kids are not.”

    Volk says that parents may assume their child is insulated from harmful effects of bullying, but that they need to consider how different factors in a child’s life can combine to increase vulnerability at any given time.

    “A child who is strong and athletic can slip and tumble in the wrong way playing a contact sport, get a concussion, and that’s the end of their sporting career,” he says. “In the same way, a child who hears that their grandmother is dying might then be called horrible names in gym class and that vulnerability causes the damage to happen.”

    Volk emphasizes that there are no group benefits when it comes to bullying.

    “Unlike in sports, where some risky play is good for child development, there’s really no positive for a group when it comes to bullying,” he says. “And because we can’t tell how any one child might be affected, there is no safe level of risk for bullying.”

    Instead, Volk says that it’s critical for adults to step in when a child is being bullied.

    “If a child is being bullied or says they’re being bullied, then we need to stop and take that seriously,” he says. “Adults need to be involved to restore the power balance. Remember, the bully has chosen this victim because they are not able to effectively fight back, so the fight is unfair. And if we trivialize it, we’re making it worse.”

    Brock University Professor of Child and Youth Studies Tony Volk is available for media interviews on the topic. A video of Volk discussing Pink Shirt Day, and ways to support a child who is experiencing bullying, is also available on YouTube for media use.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Doug Hunt, Communications and Media Relations Specialist, Brock University or 905-941-6209

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    Categories: Media releases

  • Brock game jam series puts spotlight on motherhood

    MEDIA RELEASE: February 13 2024 – R0019

    Brock University Assistant Professor Sarah Stang is on a mission to make video games accessible for everyone, especially mothers.

    A gamer, game scholar and mother herself, Stang is organizing an innovative two-day workshop aiming to break through barriers that might prevent mothers from exploring their love for — or curiosity about — video games.

    Hosted by Brock’s Department of Digital Humanities, the Mother of All Game Jams will take place Saturday, Feb. 24 and Sunday, Feb. 25 in the Rankin Family Pavilion at the University’s main campus.

    It’s not often game jams — where participants try to make video games from scratch — carry the theme of motherhood and maternal identity, as mothers are often ignored by the video game industry, Stang said.

    “Current research across Canada, the U.S. and U.K. exploring how many moms play video games shows that the average age of a gamer is 34, and that’s split 50/50 between men and women,” she said. “This surprises a lot of people.”

    To help mothers participate in the event, Stang felt strongly about offering free child care on site for both facilitators and attendees.

    “The game industry is not designed to be accessible for mothers, so offering free child care so moms can focus on their skills development is one way we are working to change the norm,” she said.

    Incorporating themes of feminism and maternal identity, Stang said the event will be facilitated in a way that is inclusive, collaborative and accessible for beginners and is open to anyone curious about how to make a game or exploring a unique theme through interactive media.

    “This game jam is all about praxis, combining theory and practice to create a supportive and fun environment where participants not only feel comfortable, but encouraged, to try new things,” Stang said.

    The game jam is presented in collaboration with Brock Library’s Makerspace, where participants can also make traditional non-digital games, such as board or card games using 3D printing and laser cutting.

    “We are very open to people coming with no experience in making any kind of game,” Stang said. “If you want to try, we will hold your hand.”

    Everyone is welcome to attend the workshops. “You don’t have to be a mother and you don’t have to be a woman. You might identify as a trans-mother or queer-mother, or even just feel connected to maternal identity through care work. Or maybe you’re just generally interested in the topic,” she said.

    The game jam will culminate in a series of showcases at the Brock Library and a public event on Mother’s Day weekend at the St. Catharines Public Library where workshop participants will be invited to share their experiences with the community.

    The game jam is drop-in friendly and will include full catering for both days and free on-site child care provided by a certified Brock Education student. To register, please visit Eventbrite.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Doug Hunt, Communications and Media Relations Specialist, Brock University or 905-941-6209

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    Categories: Media releases