The bad news is that anti-bullying campaigns do not seem to have much effect and may even cause more bullying.
A new study recently published in the Journal of Criminology suggests that the anti-bullying programs that have become popular in many schools may not be as useful as previously thought. The authors examined 7000 kids at 195 different schools to try to determine child and school influences on bullying. Surprisingly, the authors found that children who attended schools with anti-bullying programs were more likely to experience bullying than children who attended schools without such programs. In fairness, the data is correlational, so it’s not possible to say that anti-bullying programs necessarily led to more bullying. One could argue that, perhaps, schools with bigger bullying problems were more likely to implement anti-bullying programs. Nonetheless, this data suggests such programs may not be terribly effective.
But the good news is that bullying is declining. Contrary to what it may seem, children are exposed to less violence in general, and statistics on teen smoking, drinking, pregnancy, and suicide are all improving — though the reasons are unclear
As someone who was a nerdy weakling in my youth and ran into my share of bullying, part of me is sympathetic. However, I’m also a parent of four who wanted my children to have happy childhoods but wanted them to become happy adults even more. Those two goals are in tension. In particular, we want our children to be able to cope with the adversity that is part of every adult life, which means being resilient. But how does one learn resilience while growing up? How much adversity is needed in our children’s lives so that they can exercise their resilience muscle? We don’t want to send our six-year-olds into the streets to fend for themselves, but do we really want them to grow up without experiencing any tough times?
And the parental balancing act continues . . .