Bullying has been a buzzword in schools and around family dinner tables in recent years. As more and more bullies have been "caught on tape" inflicting their damage, parents have upped the pressure on schools to create and promote anti-bullying programs intended to thwart the behavior. But are these programs just giving the bullies new ideas?
A new study has found that anti-bullying programs may actually be increasing bullying at the schools that utilize them. In the study, researcher and criminologist Dr. Seokjin Jeong from the University of Texas at Arlington looked at bullying data from 7,000 students across all 50 states. He thought that his study would yield the obvious results, that schools with active anti-bullying programs would have fewer reports of bullying than schools without such programs.
But what Jeong found shocked him. The study concluded that students at schools with anti-bullying programs are actually more likely to be bullied than students at schools that don't focus heavily on thwarting bullying. It also found that students at schools with no bullying programs were less likely to become victims.
Jeong noted in his research, which was published in the Journal of Criminology, that some of the videos and materials used during anti-bullying programs may actually teach kids new methods of bullying using texting and social media or encourage wanna-be bullies to try out new techniques. His report concludes that some anti-bullying programs may actually be causing more harm then good.
“The schools with interventions say, ‘You shouldn’t do this,’ or ‘you shouldn’t do that.’ But through the programs, the students become highly exposed to what a bully is and they know what to do or say when questioned by parents or teachers,” said Jeong in a statement released by the university.
As schools gear up for National Bullying Prevention Month this October, Jeong urges administrators to move beyond individual risk factors and focus on systemic change within the schools. His report also recommends that school officials “better identify the bully-victim dynamics in order to develop prevention strategies accordingly.”
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