Preventing Bullying Behavior in School: A Q&A with Lucie Cadova
Bullying amongst young people is an issue on the minds of many educators today. From high-profile cases that make international news to individual incidents dealt with by single teachers, school-based bullying has been called a crisis, and cultural sensitivity around the topic seems to have increased in recent years. Many strategies have been suggested to help prevent bullying behavior, especially as harassment and efforts to counter it have transitioned to the digital arena with the rise of social media.
We recently spoke with Lucie Cadova, a high schooler from the Czech Republic. Lucie is part of a group of students who, in response to bullying in their schools, teamed up to create a platform called FaceUp. FaceUp is an app and companion website that allows users to anonymously report bullying or harassing behavior that they witness, making it possible for students who do not feel comfortable speaking up in person or aren’t sure who to consult to use the program to send information which is then transmitted to the appropriate administrators at their schools.
Below, Lucie answers a couple of our questions about this initiative.
Q: What made you want to create an app to help combat bullying in schools?
Lucie: I decided to get involved in this project because, for many people, high school life has been anything but rainbows and unicorns. My peers and I were all burdened by firsthand experiences with bullying – some of us as victims, others as silent spectators who wish they had known just how to speak up. Those experiences made us realize that we would love to help fellow students overcome these things and make school an easier place for them.
As the internet often becomes an instrument for bullying and harm nowadays, we decided to turn this capability around and use anonymity for something good. FaceUp allows students to report bullying anonymously and hopefully allow people to speak up for themselves or for other people who may be facing problems of any nature, without the fear of being exposed.
Q: Why is preventing bullying important for students’ social and emotional development?
Lucie: Millions of kids get bullied daily, which is horrifying. Thousands of children are worried to come to school every day in the US alone. But many of them will never say anything to anyone for various reasons. It’s hard to solve bullying problems or to help someone if you don’t know what’s happening, which is exactly why prevention is necessary. It’s better to stop incidents from happening in the first place, rather than to only find out about them after they have happened. Prevention has the power to minimalize harm because its aim is primarily not even to give harm a chance to occur.
From the point of view of social and emotional development, I believe it is important to give youth a safe and friendly environment to grow up in, because the effects of your environment on your development will show in adulthood. During school years, teens are in a fragile state because our bodies and minds are still developing. We need to ensure that this process going smoothly, since it is essential to the formation of healthy adults.
Q: What are some practical tactics you may have observed in schools that encourage positive social climates for students?
Lucie: I believe communication is the key. It’s important not to overlook problems that may be happening and to teach kids about them and the consequences. We’ve seen programs that encourage a hate-free culture; we’ve seen teachers trying to make kids actually think about what is wrong and why. I think that instead of only saying what is right and wrong, it’s much more effective to help students find out themselves by living it.
It’s also necessary to promote empathy and helpfulness in schools, which can be done through practices as simple as team activities. There are hundreds if not thousands of ways to encourage a positive climate. I am no professional in the area, only a student who’s been through school. In the end, I believe that initiatives that encourage positive social behavior may help students think about what can we do for others. Programs like this may even be the thing that brings us to the point where we no longer want to just stand by, but instead actively help to create a positive climate for other students, too.