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Could Finland's Successful Anti-Bullying Strategy Work Here?

An anti-bullying program that has been highly successful in Finland could be coming to your child's school. But will it improve things for bullying victims?

Bullying Prevention SpeedKingz/Shutterstock
Finland, the land of potentially lifesaving baby boxes, is on to solving another pressing problem: bullying. The country has identified a way to curb one of the biggest problems facing today's youth, and now, anti-bullying experts are debating if it could work here in the U.S.

CNN reports on the government-funded program, called KiVa, which basically means "against bullying." And the basic goal behind it is to shift the power dynamic of this all-too-common act of aggression. Instead of peers seeing the bully as having the control, they are encouraged to focus on the victim. Online games and lessons as well as classroom activities that build personal relationships reinforce this idea.

Here's a short YouTube video that explains more about how the program works, and why it's so important.

Research has shown the anti-bullying efforts behind KiVa to be highly effective in Finland, with one study finding victims of bullying have been helped, and are less depressed with higher self-esteem, according to CNN.

Despite the data, some experts say that a program like this wouldn't work in the United States. Dorothy Espelage, a psychology professor at the University of Florida, told CNN, "Finnish students are homogeneous economically, racially and culturally, whereas US schools are distinctly diverse on socioeconomic status, ethnicity and religious background." And since bullies tend to pick on kids who are different, you can see the problem.

"The KiVa method could work in the U.S., but only if the schools in the U.S. changed their approach to dealing with bullying," says Susie Raskin, MA, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor for the Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families. "The KiVa method was designed to have teachers spend a significant amount of time teaching and processing the lessons with their students. Schools in Finland do not have standardized testing, while teachers in our public schools have a great deal of pressure on them to teach and prepare students for tests. Finding the time needed to implement the principles of the KiVa program would be very challenging for even the best teachers." It's worth noting that U.S. schools might face further challenges with government funding and resources for something like this to take off like it has in Finland. 

Still, Raskin believes the program and its perspective on bullying holds promise for helping to reduce the instances of it. "The concept that KiVa teaches that encourages bystanders to get involved and support the victim is an effective way to combat bullying," she says. "Giving support and attention to the victim and taking it away from the person bullying removes the power and control from the bully.  Power and control is typically what a bully is seeking and is why bullies usually look to pick on someone smaller, weaker, or less powerful than they are."

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Since it seems bullying is increasingly impacting our kids, we should definitely find new ways to curb it. And this may be the best answer.

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger/mom. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.