Bullying prevention is not enough

Move beyond bullying prevention and work with young people to create safe, affirming and fair environments.

Many youth workers, educators, parents, social workers and others who care about young people are concerned about issues of bullying. Too many well-intentioned approaches to addressing bullying frame these issues as “youth problems” and only focus on problematic behaviors of young people. These approaches too often scapegoat and blame kids for the challenges they’re experiencing in their relationships and in their communities. Michigan State University Extension offers alternative approaches to addressing the complex issues of bullying, bias and harassment and recommends several key strategies:

  • Tap the wisdom, strengths and assets of young people to address these issues. Work together to create safe, affirming and fair settings for everyone.
  • Address issues of bullying and bias at four levels: Personal, interpersonal, institutional and cultural.
  • Avoid top-down approaches and work in partnership with young people to address these issues.
  • Don’t hold young people to higher standards than we hold adults.
  • Help youth and adults develop critical awareness about stereotypes and unhealthy messages in the media that impact their lives (more than they may know.)
  • Explore connections to human differences and help young people learn about their own identities and those different than themselves in accurate and healthy ways.
  • Help young people nurture their emotional and social intelligences. Research shows that personal and social learning improves kid’s academic outcomes and contributes to their overall health and wellbeing in positive ways.
  • Invite adults to see themselves as co-learners along with young people.
  • Look for ways to work together across community organizations to address these issues.
  • Encourage adults to “do their own work” by learning and supporting one another, digging deep and doing our own emotional work related to our values, beliefs and experiences related to issues of bullying, bias and harassment.
  • Move beyond “bullying prevention” toward positive youth development, empowerment and social activism that invites youth and adults to work together to create safe, caring and just environments for everyone.

MSU Extension integrates these key strategies in a new initiative called Be SAFE: Safe, Affirming and Fair Environments. Be SAFE includes a 224 page curriculum with more than 30 engaging activities designed for adults who work with youth ages 11 to 14. You can also download a free PDF of the entire Introduction to Be SAFE.

The authors of Be SAFE are offering a one day training in East Lansing, Mich. on August 8, 2013. The workshop focuses on addressing the complex issues of bullying, bias and harassment – and how to use the Be SAFE materials in a variety of youth settings. You can get more information and register for the workshop online.

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