Are Anti-Bullying Programs Counterproductive? ~ BABIES AND BRIEFCASES

By: Cheryl Hajjar, Nov. 2015

HajjarIn days past, bullying was somewhat of a norm, or almost even seen as a rite of adolescent passage. Most kids at some point were victims of some sort of bullying whether it be physical, emotional, or a little of both. Today, it is recognized as a serious mental health risk that can cause depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and even suicide.

In more recent times, a parade of Hollywood celebrity types published media to stop the bullying and its popularity has trickled down to mainstream life. Schools started to implement programs, and lawmakers were drafting up bills on how to address bullying.

The sad part about this is that bullying has not stopped despite of all of the efforts. In fact, the anti-bullying programs could actually be making it worse. A study at the University of Texas found that approximately 1.5 million school aged children report themselves as victims of bullying by peers. In fact, the schools that had anti-bullying programs in place had more reports of bullying! Mind-blowing isn’t it?

Lets look at the some reasons why these programs are turning up ineffective:

1. Instructing students to inform teachers when bullying happens – This is a leading cause on why the programs aren’t working. There are signs pinned up on the school walls, and the teachers are echoing the words “stop bullying” day in and day out, but it still isn’t working. Kids don’t want to tattle because they will be perceived as a “tattle tale”. They are afraid that the bully will take revenge and do something worse to them. Encouraging kids to tell a teacher when they are bullied gives other kids the message that they are not capable of handling their own situations.

2. Repercussions for a bully – In some anti-bullying programs, harsh punishment is set upon those kids who bully. We as a moral society, demand that wrong doers have punishment inflicted upon them. However, we are dealing with children who are growing and learning. Inflicting punishment at an early age may be more detrimental than it does good. Some kids when punished, will stop their bullying actions and some will want to take revenge at both the kid that reported them and even the teachers for punishing them. This could lead to an increasing number of worse incidents. Finding out why the bullies are bullying, and getting to the root of the problem should be where we start.

3. Teaching kids about the effects of bullying – This has great intention with education at its forefront. Kids will learn to talk about their experiences and tell tales of being bullied. Sounds like a good thing, right? When that child has been bullied, they internalize what has been done to them. This may in turn cause them to want to seek out revenge against their bully. When kids are on the receiving end of being bullied and are taught how horrible bullying is, they may also become even more upset than if they never really learned these lessons.

4. Teaching other students to actively participate in stopping bullying – This has great intentions. Usually when a kid is bullying another kid, other kids will stand on the side and laugh. If we teach kids to intervene the situation, the bully gets deflated in his or her action because they are not getting the response or the laughs that they are looking for by their peers. However, some kids don’t want the responsibility of policing bullying. Again it also teaches the student body which kids can stand up for themselves, and what kids are weak and can’t fight their own battles.

5. Creating a safe school environment – The US Department of Education in 2010 declared the goal of eliminating bullying from schools to provide a safe school environment. When children live in fear of being bullied, they cannot concentrate on their studies. Again, a great intention. However, psychologists will tell us that children need to experience all kinds of behaviors in order to develop resilience, social skills and relationships. Researchers have found that kids who are victims of bullying tend to have parents who are overprotective of them. If we reinforce overprotection in schools as well, our children will have no idea how to handle certain situations when they get out into the real world.

So, what’s the real solution? Teaching our children to fight back and stand up for themselves, plain and simple. If a kid is being bullied, they need to get the message across to the bully that it won’t be tolerated. We have seen it over and over again. When one kid stands up to another kid, the bullying stops. So lets stop overprotecting our children and let them fight back. Our children will develop a sense of accomplishment and develop social skills to be able to fight their own battles as they grow and become adults. Stop coddling to stop bullying.