In the past few years, bullying has been a major topic of discussion in schools, in the news, on TV shows, and public service announcements and rightfully so. Schools across the country have developed programs to raise awareness and teach students how to handle harassment. But are these measures really helping to stomp out the bad behavior? Unfortunately, they’re not.
According to recent studies, most anti-bullying programs have fallen short when it comes to making a noticeable difference in the number of incidents occurring in our schools. In some cases, bullying has actually increased. So where are these programs going wrong?
In most programs being implemented, the objective is to explain to kids why bullying is wrong, and they teach victims how to stand up to their aggressors and report to an adult for help, something that children – at any age – find hard to do. Anti-bullying advocates argue that not only is this approach ineffective, but that the programs are starting much later than necessary to make an impact.
“We need to begin in preschool and teach important traits like respect, friendship, caring, kindness, and understanding, and respecting individual differences,” notes Alexandra Penn, founder of Champions Against Bullying. “[Otherwise], we’re applying bandages after the fact that have very little adhesion.”
In addition to starting too late, few of these new programs are geared toward creating a more nurturing and accepting environment as a whole. “It’s about developing a school culture that promotes respect and caring. And kids, parents, and teachers need to work together to make it happen,” says Penn.
Effective anti-bullying programs clearly describe what kind of actions constitute bullying — whether it be verbal, physical, or social — and what peers can do to help when they see someone else being bullied. Essentially, schools are having students band together to keep their school a safe haven.
“I think peer intervention is more helpful than adult intervention because the kids and teens can relate on a more personal level,” says 14 year-old G.I.R.L.S (Girls Inspiring Real Leadership Skills) founder Ashley Berry. “Kids should help one another. I can’t even stress enough how great the feeling is to know that someone is on your side. Sometimes when you are going through a rough period in your life, all you need is someone to tell you that they have your back.”
And that’s exactly what’s necessary to finally put an end to this epidemic– for everyone to have each other’s back; students, teachers, and parents alike.