Bullying is a common technique to gain power or prestige, and has been for as long as humans and other animals have existed. It can take many forms. School yard tactics, like taking lunch money, have grown into Internet campaigns, such as tormenting kids on Facebook, and it has even become organized movements, like the dark-money funded group SourceWatch attacking scientists and pro-science groups for their donors.
A new review article seeks to outline roles and recommendations for peers, parents, schools and new media platforms to stop bullying.
"The fact that there are so many ways to intervene provides hope for stopping bullying and its negative effects," wrote study author Dr. Amy Bellmore. "Yet even with a mound of evidence about what may work, we still face many challenges to implementing these changes, as the most effective approaches are likely to require action on many fronts."
Building on more than 20 years of bullying research, Bellmore constructs a multi-tiered approach to stop bullying, with recommendations for four stakeholders:
Higher levels of bullying are reported in classrooms where victims are not defended by their peers than in classrooms where students intervene on the victims' behalf.
Students can defend victims by sharing their emotional reactions, offering support and helping to shape peaceful alternatives. In addition, students should be informed that adults can help stop bullying only when they see or hear about specific instances. Though students have a role in stopping bullying, the overall process must be instigated and supported by adults within school and at home.
- Children that have warm relationships with their parents are less likely to become bullies or victims, compared to children that have neglectful or abusive parents. To help reduce bullying, schools or communities could provide training in relevant parental skills to help facilitate communication about incidents of bullying occurring in schools. Such training may also be effective for parents whose children are not at risk of becoming bullies or being bullied as it could help parents encourage their children to defend their peers.
- The school-based anti-bullying programs that have been most successful at reducing bullying and victimization are those that last longer, have more intensive interventions and many components, such as school rules, discipline, playground supervision and parent informational and training meetings. When deciding on whether or not to implement anti-bullying programs, schools should view their efforts to reduce bullying as promoting a positive school climate for all students as focusing on wide-ranging benefits will help motivate schools that are concerned about limited time and resources. Schools should select bullying intervention programs that have evidence of success, implement the programs with caution and evaluate success within their specific context and among their students.
"Bullying is not a harmless rite of passage for children," continued Bellmore. "Bullying is destructive to youth who experience it directly, to the schools in which it resides, and to the broader public."
Published in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences.