Finland is really good at stopping bullying. Here's how they're doing it.

Imagine you're back in middle school or high school. The bell just rang, so you're walking to your next class, minding your own business.

Then you walk around the corner and see this:


Photo from iStock.

What would you do?

Unfortunately, this is a pretty common scene.

About a fourth to a third of all students report that they've been bullied in school.

And while a single bad encounter might be easy to brush off, bullying often doesn't happen just once. For many kids, it's a long, awful campaign of continual harassment, injury, and exhaustion.

Even the most resilient kids can have trouble dealing with that. And bullying can also cause depression, anxiety, health complaints, and even dropping out of school. It's not great.

So back to that question: If you saw bullying, what would you do?

Finland has been asking folks this question for a while, and they found that the answer people give is really important.


Finland's school system is top-notch. Photo from Milla Takala/AFP/Getty Images.

Finland has one of the most successful education systems in the world, so it's not surprising that they've used this question about bullying to pioneer a brand new and super effective bullying prevention program in schools.

Finland's anti-bullying program is called KiVa, short for "kiusaamista vastaan," which means "against bullying."

KiVa includes many different resources, like tools for teachers and parents and in-classroom lessons. But one of the most interesting aspects is how the program focuses on teaching bystanders what to do if they see bullying. Teachers are not always around, so they can't always help. But other students often are.

"Our findings are the first to show that the most tormented children — those facing bullying several times a week — can be helped by teaching bystanders to be more supportive," UCLA professor Jaana Juvonen, said in a press release about a recent analysis of KiVa's efficacy.

One of the most interesting ways KiVa teaches this bystander empathy is through computer games and simulations.

Image from KiVaProgram/YouTube.

In one of the games, the kids take control of cartoon avatars that are put in a variety of bullying situations they might encounter in school.

"For instance, they might witness a bullying incident and they have to decide what to do; whether to defend the victim or do something else," Johanna Alanen, KiVa's International Project Manager, told Upworthy in an email.

"There are different options on how to defend the victim," Alanen explained. "Their choices have consequences and lead to new situations.

Basically, the programs are kind of like choose-you-own-adventure stories for bullying, allowing the kids to see what consequences might come from certain actions, all in a virtual setting.

The students are also given advice and feedback about what to say to someone who has been bullied.


Photo from iStock.

"In the game, students can practice how to be nice to someone and what kind of nice things you can say to someone who would like to be included in the group or is new in the school," said Alanen.

By asking the kids what they would do in certain situations and giving feedback and advice about it, the program can help teach the students to be more empathetic and supportive of bullying victims.

And the data shows that the program works too.

Juvonen's analysis found that KiVa reduced the odds of a given student being bullied by about one-third to one-half.

That's huge. And not only that, but early data shows that the program might also help reduce depression and increase self-esteem for kids who have already been bullied.

Photo from iStock.

Now that Finland has adopted KiVa as their national anti-bullying program, it's being tested other countries too — Italy, the Netherlands, and the U.K. — and it's being evaluated in the United States.

Bullying is a perennial, awful problem that's tough to eliminate. And there's probably never going to be a one-size-fits-all solution.

But programs like KiVa show that even at a young age, empathy is one of the best tools we have to make the world a better place.

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Highlights CEO Kent Johnson has penned a strong statement standing up for immigrant children's rights.

Highlights magazine has been a staple in American homes for more than 70 years. Millions of us grew up enjoying its picture finds and puzzles, reading its stories and riddles, creating its arts and crafts projects, and learning upstanding behavior from Goofus and Gallant.

It stands to reason that an American publication 100% dedicated to children might have some feelings about reports of children in America's custody being abused and neglected.

Highlights has released a statement by CEO Kent Johnson expressing those feelings:

As a company that helps children become their best selves—curious, creative, caring, and confident—we want kids to understand the importance of having moral courage. Moral courage means standing up for what we believe is right, honest, and ethical—even when it is hard.

Our company's core belief, stated each month in Highlights magazine, is that 'Children are the world's most important people.' This is a belief about ALL children.

With this core belief in our minds and hearts, we denounce the practice of separating immigrant children from their families and urge our government to cease this activity, which is unconscionable and causes irreparable damage to young lives.

This is not a political statement about immigration policy. This is a statement about human decency, plain and simple. This is a plea for recognition that these are not simply the children of strangers for whom others are accountable. This is an appeal to elevate the inalienable right of all children to feel safe and to have the opportunity to become their best selves.

We invite you—regardless of your political leanings—to join us in speaking out against family separation and to call for more humane treatment of immigrant children currently being held in detention facilities. Write, call, or email your government representatives.

Let our children draw strength and inspiration from our collective display of moral courage. They are watching."


There is no excuse for children being separated from their parents and held in conditions that one doctor has compared to 'torture facilities.`

Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier was called to detention facilities in McAllen, Texas last week to assess sick children. According to ABC News, the physician's medical declaration stated that children in the facility were forced to endure "extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food."

"The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities," she wrote.

Lucio Sevier was granted access to the detention center when five infants were placed into neonatal intensive care due to a flu outbreak and lawyers threatened to sue the government if a doctor was not allowed in to examine the children.

In a follow-up interview, Lucio Sevier said, "It just felt, you know, lawless. I mean, imagine your own children there. I can't imagine my child being there and not being broken." She reported that babies were not being provided age-appropriate meal options, such as pureed foods for infants over 6 months, and that many teen mothers described not being able to wash their babies' bottles.

"To deny parents the ability to wash their infant's bottles is unconscionable and could be considered intentional mental and emotional abuse," she wrote.

No matter what our beliefs about immigration, we should all agree that torturing children is a line we do not cross.

We can debate all day long about what should be done about people arriving at our borders. We can talk about illegal border crossings, we can talk about how to handle a large influx of asylum seekers, we can discuss all of the whos, whats, whys, and hows of people trying to enter the U.S.

What is not debatable is that children should not be subjected to torture in our custody. It is not debatable that tearing small children from their mother's arms and placing them in a crowded room without meeting even their most basic needs is unconscionable. It is not debatable that cruelty to children is a red line we do not allow our government to cross.

Some people want to blame the children's parents for bringing them here illegally. But first of all, seeking asylum is not illegal. Asking for asylum, even if you are in the country without documentation, is legal. The law states that you have that right, regardless of immigration status. And even if you want to make the case that some of these parents broke the law, illegal entry to the U.S. is a federal misdemeanor—in what world does a misdemeanor warrant having your children taken from you and placed in 'torture facilities'? And once children are in the custody of the U.S. government, it makes no difference how they got there. Imagine the government removing children of U.S. parents accuse of abusing their children and placing them in conditions like those described in Clint and McAllen, Texas. It would be unfathomable. It is unfathomable.

No one can defend this treatment of children at the hands of our government. This is a line we simply do not cross. Period.

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You're down on your knees pulling weeds, up on a ladder lopping off errant tree branches, and pushing a heavy lawnmower that never seems to start on the first try.

Unfortunately, because lawn work is so physically intense and not everyone can afford a gardner, the elderly and disabled sometimes have to let their lawns and backyards grow wild.

An alternative learning center in Dubuque, Iowa is helping its kids stay physically fit while helping out their community with a new program that gives them high school PE credit for doing yard work for the elderly and disabled.

The Alternative Learning Center is for high school juniors and seniors who are at risk of dropping out of school.
As part of the program, the teens visit homes of the elderly and disabled and help out by raking leaves, pulling weeds, cutting grass, and cleaning gutters.



Teacher Tim Hitzler created the program because it helps the students get involved in the community while helping those who need it most.

"The students aren't typically too excited at the beginning but once they get involved and start doing the yard work they become more motivated," Hitzler told KWWL. "What they really like is A: helping people. They really like giving back to people and meeting the person."

Nick Colsn, a 17-year-old student at the learning center, told NPR that the program allows him to meet people he wouldn't have otherwise. "I'm more of like go-to-school-go-to-work-home-repeat kind of guy," he said. "So to me, I probably would not have met any of these people."

The end-of-year program has been so successful, Hitzler hopes to expand it next year. "You know, in education, a lot of times, there's so many different gimmicks and curriculum packages you can buy and things like that," he told NPR. "And something like this all you need is a few garden tools. You know, I mean, it just makes sense. It's so simple. And it works."

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