We talk about bullying often because it plays a major role in every student’s safety at school. In fact, in 12 of 15 shootings occurring in the 1990’s, the shooters were victims of bullying. There is a clear link between bullying and students bringing weapons to schools, leading to active gunman situations at school, putting everyone in danger. You can read more about the link between bullying and school shootings here. So to put an end to these types of attacks on our public schools, we should address the root of the problem: bullying. Bullying causes depression, anxiety, and violence in children. Regardless of your thoughts on how shootings relate, it’s clear bullying is a problem in our society, especially with the development of cyberbullying, and needs to be stopped.
As it turns out, Finland has a good idea on how to bring an end to school bullying. Their anti-bullying program, called KiVa, which is short for “kiusaamista vastaan” (translates to anti-bullying), reduced a student’s odds of being bullied by roughly ⅓ to ½! Some data also shows the program increases the self-esteem of bullied children and reduces depression.
What’s so different about KiVa?
Clearly Finland has found a new way of approaching bullying for it to be so successful, but what makes it so different from what we’ve tried here in the United States? They have comprehensive sources for teachers, students, and parents. They have in-class lessons on bullying. It doesn’t sound all that revolutionary yet, does it?
Instead of just focusing on children who are bullied and trying to make bullies feel bad, the program focuses on encouraging bystanders to act.
And this makes all the difference.
Instead of just telling bullied students to tell a teacher or telling children not to bully others, they focus on creating a school full of supportive students who know how to handle a bullying situation and will act. Because a teacher isn’t always around, and bullying almost always occurs when there is no supervision. There are always bystanders, even if the bullying doesn’t occur in school.
So Finland is creating anti-bullying advocates who know how to stand up for bullied children.
They’ve also found a way to engage students when teaching bystander empathy. They created a computer game which simulates different bullying scenarios. They present students with different bullying situations for which they have a few different ways to react. Every response incites a reaction and allows them to see how their actions make a difference or how their lack of response affects the bullied child.
They can also learn how to interact with a new student or someone who wants to be a part of their group through the simulation game. They see how to be nice to someone and inclusive.
This anti-bullying program works because it teaches young students empathy.
This is the best weapon we have against bullying and violence in our world. And with the increase in tragedies like shootings and terrorist attacks we see regularly in the news, our children need to learn empathy more than ever.