Tiina Mäkelä

Director of the 'KiVa' antibullying program

"Students, teachers and parents must be taught to recognize bullying"

See the full video here.

The KiVa program is a Finnish anti-bullying program based on many years of research.

There are three main characteristics of bullying. The first is that it is intentional; not an accident or a one-off event. Someone must be causing physical, psychological, social or verbal harm on purpose. Secondly, it is something that is repeated, it is something systematic. An act of aggression that occurs just once does not constitute bullying. The third characteristic is that there must be a difference in power. Some people have more power than others due to their social status, because they are physically stronger or because they are more popular within a group and can use their power to bully those who have less power within the group.

In the beginning we don't really know whether it's bullying or not, so we have to investigate before deciding. You must talk and listen to the alleged victim in order to understand their perspective. Then, you have to speak to everyone involved in the events at issue on both an individual and group basis. Finally, you should try to find some other students who might be able to support the victim. Throughout this process you must focus on the children. You must also collaborate with their families, as it is very important that families are kept well-informed. The message that you're trying to convey is that you need to find solutions together.

"If you are a victim of bullying, it is very important to seek help, and to know that you are not alone. Sometimes, it helps to think about a situation in advance and how you can react to it assertively".

Prevention is key because, unfortunately, when we take action, the bullying has already happened. The KiVa program provides lessons and activities throughout the entire year that put a lot of emphasis on developing social and emotional skills such as values and the importance of sharing responsibility. For example, if you witness a dispute, it's your responsibility to help the person who is being mistreated. These lessons help to change attitudes and group dynamics.

All children are different, so it's the parents who are more likely to know if their child is anxious or not. But normally, we could say that there is some change in behavior. For example, it may be cause for concern if your daughter usually loves going to school, but then suddenly doesn't. She may start to lose or break things, or look like she's been having accidents. This could be a sign that something's wrong, but it doesn't always mean bullying is involved. It's a warning sign that you should start to investigate.

It is very important to talk to your children. They might deny they're being bullied because they're afraid or embarrassed and don't want to talk about it. However, it's vital that parents demonstrate that they are fully, 100% on their side. You have to tell them that bullying is never their fault, because they might think they are at fault. Nothing justifies bullying. You can practice the types of situations when these types of things happen. You might do this in front of a mirror. You can also work on how to say "no" assertively.

Doctor of Education Sciences and Spain and Latin America direct of the KiVa anti-bullying program. This method, which is backed by the government of Finland, was developed at Turku University based on the recommendations of the researcher Christina Salmivalli. Today, the program is operational in the United States, Europe and South America.