Bullying in Finland

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Finland has a worldwide reputation for its education system.  Countries throughout the world are making efforts to emulate Finland’s attitude toward learning.  According to an interview with Krista Kiuru, Finland’s Education Chief, children are considered Finland’s greatest resource.  It isn’t surprising, then, that the education system in Finland is one of the best in the world. The country invests in programs to consistently improve education, and part of that investment includes ensuring kids are safe (both physically and mentally).

No matter how good the education system is in Finland, however, bullying still takes place.  Interactions between children in school are relatively predictable throughout the world.  The truth is, children are not only growing physically, they are growing emotionally.  Dealing with emotions and personal interactions is difficult, and the difficulty can lead to acting out in the form of bullying.

Bullying can happen in the classroom, on the playground, at home and, of course, online.  Bullying can be physical or verbal, face to face or through electronic means.

Cyberbullying in Finland

Cyberbullying has become a pressing concern with the increase in kids’ access to the Internet.  According to a survey by the European Commission, as reported by Researchgate, “94% of Finnish children between the ages of 6 and 17 use the Internet and 87% own their own mobile phone.”  These statistics are higher in Finland than in any other country in the European Union. With widespread access to the Internet, parents and teachers need to be aware of some cyberbullying facts.

A 2009 Adolescent Health and Lifestyle Survey questioned a sample of Finnish children ages 12, 14, 16 and 18 regarding cyberbulling.  The results of the survey showed that 56% of the Finnish kids who responded experienced cyberbullying at some point, and the highest proportion of bullying happened at age 14.

School Bullying in Finland

Bullying in school can be verbal, physical, or both.  It is one person demonstrating unwanted, aggressive behavior toward another in the school setting.  The bully can act out on the playground, in the classroom, and during after-school activities.

Sometimes there are groups of bullies that go after “weaker” individual students, and sometimes it is one student acting alone.  Whatever the type of bullying, statistics show that sixth grade is the grade most often affected by physical and emotional bullying.  Perhaps it is related to hormones or the transition into the teenage years.

Two stories concerning bullying in Finland were due to racism.  One blogger states that “many people of African, Roma, Arab and Muslim descent endure shocking manifestations of racism on a daily basis in Finland.”  In the first case of bullying due to racism, an 8-year-old boy was called “black monkey”, other children refused to play with him at recess because of the color of his skin, and he ultimately refused to go to school because he felt scared and ashamed.  The family believed that the teachers were doing what they could to stop the bullying, but the family eventually moved from Mikkeli, Finland, to Helsinki.

One writer says in Migrant Tales that he was bullied so bad as a child in Finland he often skipped school to avoid the other children.  Instead of attending class, he would spend time in a park across the street.  He couldn’t understand why he was being targeted and became depressed.  As he grew up, he realized that racism played a large role in the bullying based on what the bullies learned from their parents.

How Does Finland Address Bullying?

Because bullying can have devastating effects on children, Finland takes combating bullying seriously.  One of the primary strategies Finland uses was developed after years of research into bullying, child development, and education. Called “KiVa”, the program is a leader in anti-bullying measures.

KiVA

Finland’s most famous and widespread program to combat bullying is called KiVa.  KiVa is an evidence and research-based program that was developed at the University of Turku in Finland to prevent bullying and tackle the root causes of kids tormenting other kids head-on.

While there are many anti-bullying programs in place in schools around the world, no program has been shown to be as successful as KiVa.  It is not surprising that schools around the world, including in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Italy and Sweden, are learning how KiVa works and implementing it in school systems.

As www.kivaprogram.net explains, KiVa includes “both universal and indicated actions.”  This means that KiVa address bullying first by aiming to prevent it from happening, and then by addressing cases of bullying that are already occurring.  Made up of three primary units for ages 6 through 9, 10 through 12, and 13 to 16, KiVa includes materials to help students, parents, and teachers recognize the factors that may lead to bullying and stop instances of bullying as soon as possible.  Essentially, KiVa is so successful because it stops bullying before it starts, and makes everyone responsible for its eradication.

Finland is a country known for its wonderful education system, but that does not mean it is immune to the problems children throughout the world face, including bullies.  The important thing is to recognize the implications of bullying and establish measures to stop bullies in their tracks.

Bullying can be eradicated with education, planning, and action.  And if you are being bullied, reach out to a teacher or an adult you trust to help you with the problem.  You do not have to suffer alone.

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