Researchers At TAMU Work To Empower Bystanders To Fight Bullying In Schools
COLLEGE STATION – Identifying factors that influence bystanders to intervene on behalf of their peers in bullying situations at schools is the goal of an interdisciplinary team of researchers at Texas A&M University.
The interdisciplinary team members, who include Jamilia Blake, assistant professor of school psychology, Michael T. Stephenson, professor of communication, and Jan Hughes, professor of school psychology, hope to eventually develop an effective bullying prevention program in schools.
“There is considerable research that says to reduce bullying you have to transform passive bystanders into active defenders,” said Blake. “However, little is known about what actually influences children’s willingness to intervene in bullying situations. That is what we want to find out.”
The team is collaborating with child actors from the Brazos Valley Troupe to create videos showcasing different bullying scenarios – with both positive and negative bystander reactions. The videos will then be shown to fourth graders in Kids Klub, a recreation-based after-school program hosted by the City of College Station and College Station ISD.
“We want to get feedback from children on whether or not the situations depicted in the videos realistically capture what happens in schools related to bullying. We also want children to tell us if the strategies we present in our videos are effective or if they make things worse for children who chose to intervene,” said Blake. “The children’s reactions to the videos will help us identify the cognitive processes that influence children’s judgments as to whether or not to intervene.”
The second goal of the study is to pilot a media-based bullying prevention program to reduce bullying by changing bystanders’ behavior.
“Current anti-bullying messages have been ineffective in reducing school-age bullying,” said Blake. “We suspect this is because anti-bullying messages are often delivered by adults but are not fully endorsed by peers.”
Because kids can relate to other kids, the team will enlist the help of third- and fourth-graders enrolled in Kids Klub at Creekview Elementary in College Station ISD to create a video in which the children take a stand against bullying.
“The kids will create their own bullying situation, develop characters, film the video and take ownership, hopefully changing their perception of bullying and also increasing their confidence to intervene in bullying,” said Blake.
The final video will be shown to students in Kids Klubs programs throughout College Station schools to identify what factors influence whether or not the students intervene.
“What I hope to find is that we are able to encourage children to stand up against bullying and ultimately use the intervention for training professionals on how to intervene in bullying situations,” said Blake. “My end goal would be to implement this program in schools across the state.”
The team anticipates that watching older and “cooler” students defending victims will alter student bystanders’ perceptions to think defending victims is the appropriate and acceptable action.
The research is funded by a grant from the Society for the Study of School Psychology.
About research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represents an annual investment of more than $630 million, which ranks third nationally for universities without a medical school, and underwrites approximately 3,500 sponsored projects. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world.