Throughout the bullying prevention world, the phrase, “I have the solution to bullying!” is all too common. As attention to bullying has grown, so have the number of products and tools claiming to reduce or eliminate bullying in schools and communities. But do they work? This question may seem simple, but there are a lot of factors to consider, including the specific situation and context. The same strategies that may see tremendous success in one school might have no effect in another. So how can you identify what will work for you?
The first thing to keep in mind is whether there is evidence that the program or strategy works. Evidence usually means that the program or strategy has been tested or evaluated and has demonstrated results, such as, the program reduces bullying. But not all evidence is equal. Typically, for a program to be considered evidence-based, and appear in an evidence based program directory, it must have been tested using rigorous, scientific methods and show consistent results, and usually the results of such tests are published in peer reviewed journals. Usually, this means that programs need to be tested measuring an outcome, such as bullying, before the program and after, and comparing a group that received a program to a similar, control group to account for other things that might be going on that may contribute to the outcome.
Many bullying prevention or anti-bullying tools have not been tested or they do not have strong enough evidence to appear in such directories. This does not mean that they don’t work or that they may be harmful, but at the same time, the opposite is also true. Without evidence we can’t say whether a program will work and it may actually have the opposite effect than intended, such as increase bullying.
What if the program you are using is not on the lists or appears on some but not others? Some of the reasons programs may not appear in a list or a directory: