Finland found a proven way to combat bullying. Here’s what it’ll take to make it work in the US

In May, a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said young people were staring down a “serious public health problem.” But it wasn’t drugs they were worried about, or alcohol. It was bullying.

Researchers have long looked for a way to prevent bullying in American schools, but the problem persists, and no one can seem to agree on a surefire way to address it.
But Finland has piloted a program that has seen widespread success in combating bullying in schools. It’s been translated and licensed to countries across Europe. But some researchers say it wouldn’t work in the US.
“The United States is a different beast,” said Dorothy Espelage, a psychology professor at the University of Florida who studies bullying and harassment.

What it is

The program is called KiVa — short for “kiusaamista vastaan,” which means “against bullying.” The Finnish government helped fund its development and it’s now being used in schools throughout the country.
It was developed by educators and researchers at the University of Turku, and multiple studies show it effectively curbs bullying by focusing on classes as a whole, instead of addressing individual bullies and their victims.
“The idea is that kids bully to gain status and power,” said Julie Hubbard, a psychology professor at the University of Delaware who’s studying KiVa’s effectiveness with American students.
According to its website, KiVa’s curriculum uses lessons and computer games to change that dynamic by focusing on bystanders who witness the bullying.
“If you can get the bystanders to focus on the victim and not the bully, then bullying isn’t a very rewarding thing to do,” Hubbard said. The hope is that this fosters a culture where bullying is socially unacceptable.
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