As some of you might have read, shockingly, some terrible messages and bullying continued to follow Brandy Vella on social media after her tragic death. What can be done to reduce bullying in schools and universities?
The results of “anti-bullying” campaigns have been rather disappointing, but an article written by Sue Young about her experiences in putting in place successful interventions that worked, is encouraging. Sue creates a support group that helps the kid in various small ways, without addressing the bullying itself. She recruits the students for the group, based on an interview with a bullied child, and asks them to each come up with something they personally could do for the unhappy child. Sue states: “students’ knowledge of their lives in school makes even young children skilled at knowing the small but significant actions they can take to help make another child happy. In fact, one of the best suggestions I ever heard was from a little girl who said, “I’ll watch out for him coming in through the gate in the morning and smile and say hello!”
Factors that make individual kids likelier to help others include when they’ve been specifically asked and have agreed to help, the need for help is unambiguous, they’ve been given responsibility and a specific task to do, and they know they’ll receive feedback. These factors are enhanced in a group context in which they know their suggestion has been accepted, they identify with a successful group, and commitments have been made during group discussion. In this sense, unhelpful behavior becomes unacceptable to the group because it endangers the success of the group as a whole.
Sue Young states that she has used her approach in 50 primary school cases of bullying, and that bullying ceased in 47 of these cases within six weeks of the initiation of the support group intervention.
Sue Young’s results were reviewed and published in the journal of Educational Psychology in Practice. More information can be found in her article entitled
“Bullying Reconsidered: Helping Children Help Each Other”
on the Psychotherapy Networker blog at https://psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/1087/how-to-create-an-anti-bullying-support-group.