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

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

Finnish child in schoolPhoto: Michal Knitl/Shutterstock

Kids Are Bullied Less in Finland—Here’s Why

One 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 Canada has the ninth highest rate of bullying in the 13-year-olds category on a scale of 35 countries.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 education, it’s rarely 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). (Here’s what parents need to know about cyberbullying.)

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.” (Here’s how to stand up to bullies at home and at work.)

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.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest