Finland Found a Way to Prevent Childhood Bullying—Here’s How

Finland has taken a unique approach to bullying in schools, and the U.S. could be next.

Africa Studio/Shutterstock, Creative Photo Corner/ShutterstockOne of the biggest challenges facing today’s students isn’t multiplication charts or book reports. Believe it or not, it’s bullying.

That’s right—research shows that about one-fourth to one-third of students report being bullied in school. On top of that, bullying can also lead to depression, anxiety, and lots of school absences. Although it’s pretty clear that bullying poses one of the biggest obstacles to K-12 education, it’s never been addressed in the classroom—until now.

Introducing: KiVa, the bullying prevention program that just launched in schools across Finland. The name is an abbreviation of the Finnish phrase “kiusaamista vastaan,” which translates to “against bullying.” Finnish educators created the program to teach students about the consequences of bullying, as well as what to do when they see it (especially without teachers or administrators around).

The program consists of in-class lessons and video games that simulate a variety of possible bullying situations. After practicing how they would respond, students can receive real-time feedback and advice from the game.

According to Johanna Alanen, KiVa’s International Project Manager, the program teaches essential anti-bullying responses because students “might witness a bullying incident and they have to decide what to do: whether to defend the victim or do something else. …[They need to learn that] their choices have consequences and lead to new situations.”

And so far, it’s worked! Educators report that the prevention program has reduced instances of bullying in Finland by up to one-half. Early data also shows that the program might help reduce depression and increase self-esteem for kids who have already been bullied.

Given the program’s remarkable success, other countries are considering implementing it, as well. Officials in Italy, the Netherlands, and the U.K. are testing it in their school systems, and the U.S. is in the process of evaluating it.

“Our findings are the first to show that the most tormented children—those facing bullying several times a week—can be helped by teaching bystanders to be more supportive,” Jaana Juvonen, a professor at UCLA, said in a press release.

Until then, we can celebrate anti-bullying moments like this teacher’s brilliant strategy to stop bullying. Parents should also make sure to be on the lookout for these warning signs that your child is a bully at school.

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