The KiVa Method for Bullying and Harassment at School

The key to ending bullying is to raise awareness and mobilize schoolmates to take a stand. This is what the KiVa method, an effective anti-bullying program, proposes.
The KiVa Method for Bullying and Harassment at School
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 02 October, 2022

Bullying is one of the biggest social problems of our time. Children and adolescents are commonly assaulted, isolated, and humiliated inside and outside the classroom by their peers, without educational institutions being able to offer adequate solutions. The KiVa method for bullying emerged as an innovative and effective proposal to put an end to this.

According to recent reports, 9 out of 10 children who are victims of bullying end up developing serious emotional problems, such as anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem. These can last for years, as the after-effects of bullying take root in the child’s developing personality. The KiVa method aims to involve the entire educational community to prevent and act early.

What is the KiVa method?

The KiVa method is a project commissioned by the Finnish Ministry of Education and developed by a group of experts in child relations at the University of Turku. It was created in 2006 with the clear objective of putting an end to bullying among students.

Its main lines of action are based on both bullying prevention and intervention in reported cases. What sets it apart from other methods? The KiVa method doesn’t place its focus on either the victim or the bully, but instead puts the spotlight on the peer group.

If the whole educational community and especially classmates can be involved, it’s possible to change the dynamics. When students align and take a stand in defense of the victim, the aggressor no longer receives validation from the group; he or she no longer receives support or benefits and ceases his or her harmful actions.

What does the KiVa method consist of?

The KiVa method is an organized protocol that addresses all phases of the process. While the main objective is prevention, it also contemplates measures to be implemented in case bullying occurs.

Children bullying
When the bully doesn’t receive validation from his or her peer group, it’s likely that he/she decides to stop his/her behavior.

Prevention

It’s common for many students to react to the bullying of their peers by laughing. Typically, another significant percentage tends to remain silent out of fear of retaliation and peer pressure. The KiVa method aims to inform, raise awareness, and mobilize students to take a stand.

To achieve this, a structured program has been created that’s implemented in different phases. This occurs when children are between 7 and 9 years old, when they are between 10 and 12 years old, and finally when they’re between 13 and 15 years old.

The protocol consists of 20 classes taught during the school year in which children are taught about the different types of bullying, its consequences, and the influence they themselves can have to prevent or stop it. Through lectures, discussions, assignments, and role-playing games, students explore important areas such as empathy, social skills, and teamwork.

In addition, teachers are given materials to work with and instructions on how to act in cases of bullying. Likewise, families are helped to know how to identify if their children are involved in cases of bullying.

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Intervention

Some of the most important measures to apply to act on cases of bullying are the following:

  • A virtual mailbox is set up where students can anonymously report bullying situations.
  • When a case is suspected, several teachers monitor and investigate the situation and intervene by talking to both the bully and the victim.
  • When a bullying situation is detected, several peers in the victim’s environment (especially students who have a good status in the class) are encouraged to actively offer their support to their peer.

Like this article? You may also like to read: Bullying Leads to the Tragic Suicide of an 11 Year-Old Boy

What results has the KiVa method shown?

Since its creation, the KiVa method has been tested in a multitude of studies and a large national randomized trial, offering magnificent and encouraging results. The largest research was carried out in Finland, taking 234 schools in the country and including 30,000 students aged 7 to 15 years.

The results showed that bullying had disappeared in 79% of the schools. In addition, its overall incidence and the number of bullying victims had been reduced in the rest.

On the other hand, this method also seems to offer other beneficial effects. It’s been found that the implementation of this method increases the motivation of students, improves coexistence among them, and improves their emotional well-being. Additionally, the children trained in essential values are likely to become valuable members of a more just society.

KiVa method can benefit children
The KiVa method has been proven to improve children’s well-being, which enhances healthy group dynamics.

What to keep in mind

The KiVa method is the most studied anti-bullying program in the world. It’s already part of more than 90% of schools in Finland and has been exported to several countries, such as France, Belgium, Sweden, and the United States and has offered great results. Even so, this protocol still hasn’t reached all the schools on the planet.

In order to implement it in an educational center, it’s essential that the country is part of the KiVa network. In order to apply the method, it’s necessary to offer specific materials and training to teachers.

Despite the above, it’s likely that the KiVa method will continue to expand to more and more schools, regions, and countries, given that it’s already proven to be an effective and relatively simple alternative to implement. If this project teaches us anything, it’s that ending bullying is an issue that concerns us all.

Some global figures on bullying

According to the report presented by an organization dedicated to studying bullying worldwide, the International NGO Bullying Without Borders, between January 2020 and December 2021, bullying cases increased exponentially.

The figures presented by the aforementioned NGO highlight that the country with the most cases of bullying is Mexico, with 7 out of 10 children and adolescents. In the USA, the numbers are 6 out of 10, followed by China.

The United Nations Organization, for its part, states that the “unprecedented increase in screen time and the merging of the online and offline worlds” has exacerbated their vulnerability to bullying and cyberbullying (UN News, 2020).

Data from seven countries in Europe show that the proportion of children aged 11-16 years using the Internet who have experienced cyberbullying increased from 7% in 2010 to 12% in 2014 (Unicef, 2020).

In Spain, were reported in 2017, more than a thousand cases, reporting a variation of 11.65% over the previous year. In recent years, refers ANAR, the number of calls from both adults and minors related to bullying has multiplied, and from 2014 to 2016, the number of cases attended by the ANAR grew by 240%.

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