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A recent study claims that anti-bullying measures implemented in many schools might be contributing to more bullying contrary to expectations, thus making the situation worse for bullied kids.

The study states that programs whose intention is to encourage other students to support bullied students revealed that bullying becomes more intense. Researchers initially thought that student intervention might prove more successful than interventions involving teachers. The anti-bullying programs train students to prevent bullying without necessitating intervention from teachers.

Past research showed that bullying intensity increases significantly when there are bystanders that laugh while the bullying takes place. Some even join in the bullying. Training students so that they can act as playground buddies that provide peer intervention may work, but so far, there has been little evidence to show whether the approach is effective in reducing bullying events.

Victim disempowerment

Karyn L. Healy, a researcher involved in the bullying research, believes that peer intervention might be making the situation worse by making the victim feel as if they are powerless. It may, in turn, encourage the bullies to intensify their attacks.

“Many school bullying prevention programs encourage and train peer bystanders (helpers) to get actively involved in assisting with possible instances of bullying,” stated Healy, the lead author in the study.

Healy also believes that peer intervention might also make the situation worse by ruining the victim’s reputation. She also noted that some students trained on intervention might also misuse the knowledge to gain social status in schools. For example, such students may use intervention, even where it is not necessary just so that they can get recognition and validation.

Healy believes that schools should come up with well-thought-out strategies that will not only look at the victim’s outcome but also strategies that will evaluate the bullying incidents. The researcher also believes strategies that encourage bullying victims to stand up for themselves would yield better results. This type of approach lends more power to the victim, thus making the bullies feel intimidated. Such an approach may eventually discourage the bullies, thus helping to achieve the intended goal.