Research conducted over the past two decades has established that bullying leads to violence and mental health problems—for bullies, victims, bully victims (those who are both bullies and victims), and even bystanders. Bullies are more likely to land in jail, victims experience lowered self-esteem and academic underachievement, and witnesses feel increased anxiety. Three categories of bullying have been identified: physical, verbal, and psychological, with the latter being the most difficult to identify.
Yet bullying at the school level remains a complex, often overlooked, problem. Schools that have been studied show incidences of bullying are under-reported by students and school personnel are unaware of most bullying that occurs. Studies also show that not all programs prevent bullying and others may work in some schools but not others; at worst they fail students utterly, at the least, they don’t measure up to their claimed rates of effectives. However, some programs do succeed.
Recent research on the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs has identified two factors that contribute to effective anti-bullying campaigns:
- School staff members need to acknowledge the reality of bullying.
- The entire school community must commit to and implement the anti-bullying program.
Steps to recognizing and stopping bullying include a survey on the incidence of bullying in the school; an awareness campaign aimed at students, parents, and teachers; and intervention strategies that have at their basis clear descriptions of bullying behavior. Instead of a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, researchers recommend programs that are custom-made for each school and are overseen with great care.