For the sake of having a consistent definition of what bullying means, the committee referred to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's current definition: Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated, and bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social or educational harm.
Because cyberbullying is carried about by some of the same individuals and directed at the same targets, it is included within the broader definition rather than standing on its own. But Rivara acknowledged that more research needs to be done in order to understand cyberbullying and the most effective ways to combat it.
ven if cyberbullying isn't repetetive, which bullying often is by definition, it is still harmful because "a single perpetrating act on the Internet can be shared or viewed multiple times," according to the report.
How to prevent it
Given the proven short- and long-term "psychological consequences"
for both the bullied and bullies themselves, the report committee determined which type of evidence-based programs can help to prevent it in the future. The report also includes suggested guidelines and policies for the future.
The recommendations include arriving at a consistent and comprehensive definition for bullying, more longitudinal studies about its prevalence, evaluating antibullying policies, developing and implementing evidence-based programs, and training and partnering with social media companies on policies to identify and respond to cyberbullying.
And it's time to shift away from zero-tolerance policies in schools and switch to Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports
or PBIS, which have a proven track record in more than 20,000 schools, according to committee member Catherine Bradshaw, a developmental psychologist and youth violence prevention researcher.
"Zero-tolerance policies were developed to address a variety of behaviors around bullying, but they don't work and may actually be harmful," Rivara said. "Under zero tolerance, bullies would be expelled or suspended. This decreases their chances of getting better or completing school and ultimately getting a job. They need help. With different programs, we can end the behavior but help them at the same time."
The PBIS programs have reduced rates of bullying, improved discipline and academic performance and created a better and healthier climate in the schools utilizing them, Bradshaw said. The programs focus on social emotional learning, which helps kids and teens to learn how to regulate their emotions, build empathy and identify the difference between teasing and bullying.
This can be used in conjunction with more intensive programs that are aimed at kids who are already involved in bullying, as a target or a perpetrator.
"Children need to be taught these skills like they would math and science," Bradshaw said.
But Bradshaw also said there is more room for utilizing innovation and technology to better identify and prevent bullying.
"We see a disconnect between the rates of bullying mentioned by kids and what adults are seeing and hearing," she said.
For that reason, the committee is calling for more data collection on bullying, like increased surveys among students, even if they are anonymous. Then, teachers can have a better idea of where the bullying is occurring and what type of bullying it is, and they can increase supervision. More research also needs to be done around bullies themselves, as well as bystanders.
As part of the training recommended by the committee, Bradshaw believes that more professional development models on bullying intervention could benefit from emerging technology. Role play through video games could seem more real and convincing to kids and adults working through scenarios as the bully, target or bystander, for example.
Preventing bullying outside school
Policies and programs need to transcend schools and reach the state level and federal agencies, the committee advised. All 50 states have adopted or revised laws to address bullying over the past 15 years, and almost all include cyberbullying. But the report encouraged state attorneys general to continually work with researchers on the best and most updated guidance for amending laws or creating new ones in anti-bullying campaigns.
Families were also a focus of the report.
Start the conversation at home before bullying occurs, Bradshaw said. Parents and families can provide critical emotional support, which helps kids open up about bullying that they are experiencing or witnessing. Family members can also help them cope and figure out how to handle and diffuse any situation that might arise, according to the report.
is a one-stop shop for kids, parents and teachers to learn the signs and symptoms of bullying, as well as strategies for stopping it, Bradshaw said.
What people learn about bullying early on can make a difference later.
"The important skills we're teaching kids now, when they're in school, are the same skills they need for life," Rivara said.