Teaching Kids to Prevent Bullying

A teenage boy glaring at himself in a mirrorIf children were taught pro-social behaviors in school, would it stop bullying? A study from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York investigated how a bullying prevention and intervention program worked when deployed in grade-school classrooms. The study found that after the program, there were less problems with bullying among students. This research provides one way that schools can help students learn to manage interpersonal situations and diffuse problems with bullying.

The study involved a 12-week program at three Illinois schools during the 2011-2012 school year. The program, in which 350 elementary and middle school students participated, was integrated into regular classroom time and taught students about concepts like loyalty, respect, and bystander intervention. Students participated in diverse activities including role playing, discussions, and physical activities like martial arts.

The effect of the intervention was measured with pre- and post-assessments. Administrators, teachers, school counselors and parents were also surveyed.

After the program, there was a significant decrease in teasing and bullying among students. The adults surveyed reported observing improvements in respect, self-esteem, awareness of bullying, pro-social communication, and more.

Bullying negatively impacts students’ academic achievement and attendance, so identifying effective interventions is critical. Jennifer Beebe, PhD, assistant professor of counseling and human services, and author of the study has expressed plans to deploy the program in other schools.

“It’s integral that bullying prevention and intervention efforts address the specific needs of the students, schools, and communities … We can increase consciousness of positive behaviors by incorporating those ideals into the educational system. Many students may not learn them otherwise,” said Beebe.

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