As schools enact anti-bullying programs for National Bullying Prevention Month this October, a new study suggests that those efforts may not be as effective as intended.
Released in September by the University of Texas in Arlington, the study found that unintended consequences may result from campaigns designed to educate students about the harms of physical and emotional harassment. According to researchers' findings, bullying prevention programs in schools generally increase incidences of physical and emotional attacks among students by teaching kids about the ins and outs of bulling.
The study’s findings challenge commonly held beliefs about the benefits of bullying prevention programs.
“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,” lead study author Dr. Seokjin Jeong said in a statement released by the university.
Using data from an earlier national study that looked at the well-being of adolescents, researchers found that students in schools with anti-bullying programs are more likely to be victimized. Specifically, they found that male students were more likely to be victims of physical harassment, while girls were more likely to face emotional harassment.
"This study raises an alarm," Jeong told CBS Dallas. "Usually people expect an anti-bullying program to have some impact -- some positive impact.”
Instead, his study recommends that prevention efforts “move beyond individual risk factors and focus on systemic change within the schools.” His report also recommend that researchers “better identify the bully-victim dynamics in order to develop prevention strategies accordingly.”
According to the National Educators Association, approximately half of teens have reported being cyberbullied while one-third of students have reported being bullied in school.