The Anti-Bullying Business

While attending the “PrevNet” conference on Bullying down in Toronto earlier this week, I reflected on many things – one was that as I get older I find it harder and harder to concentrate and listen for a full day!  When I think that that’s sometimes what kids in trouble at school….mmmm…I kinda understand those who are diagnosed as “attention deficit. ”

Although they were trying hard and although it really was a good conference, I came away wondering if we really do know all that much about how to reduce bullying in schools.  There are examples of programs that have generated a lot of “buzz” and the conference attendees were treated to a great performance by Jasmine Richards of her song “You have the Power.”  But is there any actual, concrete evidence that those kind of activities really change behaviours? 

One presentation from the Maritimes illustrated wonderful and upbeat school activities, but when they showed their last slide with their data on self reported bullying at the school in question, even though they tried to hide it by playing games with the scales on the graphs, it actually demonstrated that reports of bullying had stayed the same or increased.  Which might actually mean the program is working because the children were reporting and identifying behaviours that they might have accepted before…. but.  And for me it was a big but.

The kinds of programs that can actually show behavioural changes aren’t always as easy to market and package.  They take time.  They cost money. You don’t change ingrained behaviours, often learned at home, with a few fun activity at school.  Kids need to learn how to manage the complex relationships in their lives through significant investments, like the 21 lesson “The Fourth R” program.  Or a clinical intervention for children with behavioural issues called Fast Track that has had excellent results but no longer is offered.

We live in a society which tolerates, even celebrates, bullys and bullying behaviours in our leaders, our politicians, our sports stars, in our workplaces.  Reducing smoking has taking years and involved required a wide variety of interventions, including enforcement, education, social marketing and more. Reducing bullying also needs a society wide approach.  We need to look at everything from enforcement, to modelling good behaviour to fun campaigns like songs and videos.  No single intervention will ever be a silver bullet.  There are so many, competing anti-bullying initiatives, perhaps we need to find a way to collectively pick out a few and really get behind them.

In September CPO will be hosting a speaker series event on bullying: I hope that we will be able to find the right balance between the “evidence” and the “buzz”.

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