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From PEKN 1P93 Winter 2014: Group 21: Life Skills

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[edit] Bullying Prevention In Schools Through the Integration of Physical Activity

[edit] Background

Bullying is aggressive behavior with intent to harm and can either be physical or relational” (Bauer et al., 266). Bullying behaviors tend to increase and contribute to a negative school environment (Bauer et al.,). Physical activity has been seen put into practice in schools as a remedy to help reduce bullying behaviors amongst school aged children. Health and education sectors are working to increase activity levels of children and youth; this effort is to assist reducing the obesity levels of children and provide bullying interventions for youth (Millen, 2004; Pepler & Craig, 1997). Researchers also indicate that income class of families and geographic locations of where children live also has to do with the likeliness of their participation in physical activity; physical activity involvement has impact on a child’s behavior. Implementing physical activity in schools as an aid to reduce bullying behaviors among children in school (Bowes, 394). These efforts and actions by many different organizations are slowly helping to nourish safer and healthier environments for children and those around them.

[edit] History

'The school bully has been around forever. The stereotypical bully - the school yard tough guy who is quick to fight, intimidate, and threaten for his own gain or to look good in front of other kids- has become so much a part of the school environment that, in some situations, school administrators consider this intrusion into the school culture as the norm' (E.F. Dragan, 2011). Bullying has always terrorized schools and is an issue that is unfortunately increasing on a global scale. Many methods have been developed over time in order to prevent bullying in schools, or at least minimize it, yet it is impossible to fully put an end to this problem. The reasons some of the ideas result in failure can be due to some of the following reasons: they focus strictly on disciplining a bully and not supporting the victim(s), they single out individual students as apposed to allowing students to work together in large groups, they do not offer a variety of intervention or prevention strategies for students of different levels of risk or age, etc. (Shaping Safer Schools, 2005).

The methods in which children/ teens are being bullied have surpassed more than simply the concept of face-to-face confrontation. Bullying in schools via social media and online connections, also called cyber bullying, has diversified the way students are harassing their peers. It is more difficult to keep track of cyber bullying as it can go unnoticed more easily than other types of bullying such as verbal and physical. In order to stray students from overusing electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, and video games, the concept of bullying prevention through the integration of physical activity has become a more popular method in North America. Due to the increase in child obesity, as well as bullying in schools, bullying prevention through physical activity is a way to reduce two issues concerning children and teens today.

On December 14, 2004, the Ontario government announced the appointment of the Safe Schools Action Team to advise on the development of a comprehensive and coordinated approach to address physical and social safety issues in all Ontario schools. Their mandate included addressing the issue of bullying (Shaping Safer Schools, 2005).

Successful organizations and programs such as Playground Activity Leaders in Schools (P.A.L.S.) have positive feedback amongst the teachers and students of schools who choose to participate.

P.A.L.S. Playground Activity Leaders in Schools first launched in 20 Peel region schools on January, 2003 as a pilot program. P.A.L.S. was developed after a review of existing playground leadership programs and consultation with other health departments. This program was created in order to increase physical activity, to decrease conflict and reduce the incidence of playground bullying, and to provide a leadership opportunity for students. P.A.L.S. encourages all children to participate in activities regardless of their gender, size, or ability. When P.A.L.S. first launched they targeted students grades 1-6 and used them to demonstrate 3 or 4 different stations/ games. The initial feedback was extremely positive and it has continually grown in popularity since its first launch. (Playground Activity Leaders in Schools - P.A.L.S., Active After School).

[edit] Target Audience

Bullying affects everyone; however, it is most prevalent among elementary school students through to high school. 49.5 percent of children from grade seven to twelve are bullied, according to a 2010 Toronto research project. It also states that such behaviors peak at a younger age for girls compared to boys, as thirty-seven percent of girls in grades six, eight and nine experience bullying compared to forty-seven percent in grade nine for boys (“Facts on Bullying and Harassment”, Canadian Red Cross).

One thing all children attending school between these ages have in common is gym class. Gym class can harvest inequality and bullying through different abilities, but it has the potential to be a safe place to practice good communication and teamwork skills as well as to teach and emphasize the importance of respect and equality. By including everyone and practicing these life skills on a daily basis as a large group, the level of bullying found in schools could drop dramatically. Therefore, the target audience is gym teachers. This way they will learn how to prevent bullying behaviors and build and strengthen positive like skills among all children.

[edit] Research

[edit] Bullying Prevention and Intervention with Students in Elementary School

A study was conducted between 62 grade 5-8 students in 11 small focus groups in order to better understand bully prevention themes and recommendations. Male and female interviewers conducted the focus groups to prevent any gender bias. The results showed that not enough is being done in school environments to stop bullying. High-risk settings such as a school yard with portables allows for concealed environments from the teachers who are on duty (Cunningham, 2010). The organization of recess activities would give young students something to do; moreover, it is when students are unoccupied that bullying mostly occurs. The organization of recess activities includes isolated students who are more vulnerable to victimization. This would also restructure peer groups. A major contributor to bullying in youth environments at school is exclusive groups, or "cliques". The age-gap between students in elementary schools has been proven to have a negative influence. However, the potential to create positive older student influences and teach proper social skills is there. Peers Running Organized Play Stations (PROPS) is an example of a program designed to address the increased bullying and physical inactivity (Cunningham, 2010). Anti-bullying presentations from senior students can be a more effective means in conveying the message. Groups strengthen relationships by teaching social skills and their rewards, oppose to telling youth simply not to bully. School initiatives make an effort to identify the types of bullying - cyber, physical, verbal, and group - but they don't explain enough about how to prevent it. This study suggested important bullying themes in a qualitative analysis, but quantitative studies are necessary to establish how widely the views discussed in the focus groups are used.

Bully prevention model implemented elementary schools extracted from
Bully prevention model implemented elementary schools extracted from

[edit] Increased Bullying and Physical Inactivity

The education sector is interested in working with the health sector in an attempt to increase activity levels of children and youth. It is known that increasing inactivity results in an increase in obesity; furthermore, this leaves more students at a young age susceptible to bully victimization. The Halton Region Health Department has identified three programs which have been implemented within Ontario elementary schools to address physical inactivity and bullying: Active Playgrounds, Playground Activity Leaders in Schools (PALS) and Peers Running Organized Play Stations (PROPS) (Bowes et al, 2008). Active Playground was implemented by the Canadian Intramural Recreation Association (CIRA) to increase physical activity in elementary schools. Similarly, PALS and PROPS were implemented to do the same, but addressed a more concerning role regarding bully prevention. The two programs involve trained peer leaders, supervisors, volunteer staff, and ongoing training sessions (Bowes et al, 2008). The limitations in these programs involve funding, and support. The programs are voluntarily run and even once implemented, are vulnerable to changing staff environments. NCES reports that in the 2008-09 school year about 28% of students aged 12-18 had been bullied at school. This is less than the previous school year, which had reports of 31.7% (Robers et al, 2013).

[edit] Physical Education Class Participation Among Bully Victims

A recent study conducted identified that a decrease in physical activity in P.E classes is linked to children who are being bullied. It evaluated 4th and 5th graders from 6 different schools and considered the effects of being bullied during physical activity over a long period of time. Overweight or obese children who had been teased during physical activity were reported to have a "lower perceived health-related quality of life" one year after (Caldwell, 2014). This also applied to students who were considered physically fit, but were still bullied during exercise. The first 3 surveys were conducted once at the beginning of the year, and again at the end of the year. The first survey included questions regarding problems with health and activity, emotional stability, social and academic abilities. The second survey regarded teasing experiences where the 3rd survey asked for specific situational experiences (Caldwell, 2014). The study showed that factors such as being made fun of during a sport or activity, not being chosen to be on a team, or being insulted during a game all negatively influenced a child's motivation to engage in physical activity as well as their self esteem (Caldwell, 2014). Through the results of this study, it can be understood that bullying directly influences middle school students' motivation to participate in physical activity and how they perceive their own abilities. Most schools participate in anti-bullying campaigns, but what this study does not bring to attention is how to stop peer victimization within physical sports/ activities. Another study was conducted of 1419 middle school students (637 boys and 782 girls). The aim was to examine health variables such as physical self-concept and physical fitness. It addressed the issues of students being teased based on their weight and how it affects them psychologically. of the 1419, 245 (17.3%) had reported of being bullied about their weight (Greenleaf, 2014). The students were evaluated and the results showed that those who were bullied for being over weight had higher scores of depression and lower scores of self-esteem. More research needs to be implemented within school programs in order to support physical literacy and the fundamental impact it has on youth developing life skills.

[edit] Critical Analysis of Anti-bullying Programs

The serious consequences of bullying are quite obvious. There are many anti-bullying intervention programs within schools on a small scale and on a larger scale. To test the effectiveness of these programs, a number of meta-analyses have been carried out. One study carried out by Ttofi and Farrington (2011), involved 44 high-quality school based programs and established that there was about a 20-23% bullying reduction, and 17-20% victimization reduction. In addition, some programs such as OBPP in Norway and KiVa in Finland have reached reductions of about 40-50% (Smith et al., 2012). OBPP was established in 1983 and aims to reduce existing bullying problems among students at school, prevent new development of bullying problems, and achieve better peer relations (Olweus & Limber, 2007). It has also been reccomended that "programs should be targeted on children aged 11 years or older rather than on younger children (Ttofi and Farrington, 2011). Ttofi and Farrington also address the different views on dealing with multi-faced issues such as the "disciplinary method", "work with peers", and the concept of "zero tolerance". In varying evaluations, it has been proven that the "zero tolerance" disciplinary policies implemented in schools don't effectively work in improving the school climate (Ttofi and Farrington, 2011). In addition, it promotes discrimination through intolerance directed at a minority group. This fails to meet childrens rights under the code of United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN 1989;Smith et al., 2011). "work with peers" promotes bystander intervention, peer mediation, and peer monitoring (Smith et al., 2011). It is the "work with peers" approach that involves play and sport mentors - increasing effectiveness in the reduction of victimization.

OBPP anti-bullying program
OBPP anti-bullying program

[edit] Existing Physical Activity Programs

There are many programs available to kids of all age groups that can help them deal with bullying in a very positive manner. All programs are aimed to help develop physical and social skills that ultimately aid in the progressive resolution of bullying.

YMCA Day Camps (ages 3-15) During the summer months kids have the opportunity to engage in activities that allow them to discover new friendships while at the same time developing skills such as problem solving, respect, and responsibility. Pre-teens and teens will be challenged in ways to develop leadership skills. [[1]]

"Kids Now" After School Program This is a curriculum based after school program that helps youth develop important social skills and make positive life decisions to resolve bullying with the help of a mentor. [[2]]

Big Brothers Big Sisters Mentoring ProgramThis program offers underprivileged youth to learn the important values of life as well as develop social and interpersonal skills to deal with everyday situations. Youth are exposed to a variety of activities that help promote a healthy and happy lifestyle. [[3]]

KiVa School KiVa school is a research based anti-bullying program that is implemented in 90% of the schools in Finland but can also be used all over the world through the use of different online manuals. [[4]]

Scouts Canada Scouts is the leading youth organization in Canada as it offers challenging programs for boys, girls and youth ages 5-26. The programs offered allow youth to have an enriched experience that will help them develop into well rounded individuals. [[5]]

Brock University Sports Camps Every summer Brock University hosts a number of sports specific summer camps. These camps help youth develop their athletic skills that are specific to their sport as well as to help them become better at communicating in a team environment and ultimately to help them grow as leaders. [[6]]

[edit] Best Practice Activity Suggestions

  • Activities must include participation from entire group at the same time
    • Making sure that all students are participating in an activity together as a group will prevent individuals from feeling isolated or singled out. Activities such as duck-duck-goose, races, red rover, and all of which from Williams' hall of inductees should be avoided for this reason. (Mandigo, 2014)

  • Include rule changes to activities to place all students at the same general skill level
    • By adding or removing rules or concepts to activities students will be at the same advantages/ disadvantages which is more fair for those who are not physically inclined. These can include using non-dominant body parts, not allowing use of specific body parts, etc.

  • Incorporate communication skills and teamwork into the activities
    • By allowing students to work together and achieve a goal as a whole group they will feel equal and can use the same communication skills and teamwork in everyday life. In particular, the human knot is an ideal activity to incorporate both physical activity and teamwork. (Human Knot, Team Building Exercises)

  • Inspire students and make physical activity seem appealing
    • By making physical activity seem appealing students will more willingly want to be active in their own way and work together. Dialed is a program in particular that demonstrates the importance of physical activity and teach bully awareness that travels to schools to perform BMX tricks and encourage students to become more active and aware of bullying. Although they are not directly being physically involved in the performance/ show, this will amaze the students and inspire them to partake in physical activities in their spare time and at school. More information can be found on their website:

  • Reward students for being involved in physical activity and being kind to their peers
    • Students, especially at a young age, should be encouraged to take part in physical activity and work together with their peers. Teachers, parents, and adults in general should understand that children respond better to being rewarded for doing something right as apposed to being punished for doing something wrong. Students need encouragement and a sense of achievement at a young age, so by giving them an opportunity to earn a treat/ snack, or free time, or some kind of reward they will feel more inspired to be active and work together.

[edit] Future Directions

The continuous development of life skills is crucial to someones overall success. It is the communication skills that allow people to interact with each other in a respectful manner. In the context of bullying, it is both the person who is doing the bullying and the person who is being bullied that need to develop certain skills in order to resolve the situation. There are a plethora of ways to try and implement skills that will aid with problem solving but it is important that governments and curriculum's world wide adopt the idea that the resolution to bullying is to ensure that all kids have the fundamental opportunity to engage in activities that will mold them into a well rounded individual. That being said, due to the fact that bullying in schools has become such a prominent issue in today's society, there are now a wide variety of programs that kids can get involved in to aid them with their issues. Although that is true, the main idea is to eliminate bullying in schools altogether. This may not be able to be completely resolved but it can definitely be reduced (Shannon, 2013).

It is the job of early childhood educators as well as people who coach youth sports to continue to install the concepts of teamwork which helps develop problem solving, responsibility, accountability, honesty, and hard work. It is also the job of parents and more importantly community members to promote the sense of community within youth so they can develop friendships as they grow up. Situations of bullying can't be predicted but they can be prevented. According to Shannon (2013) it is the job of trained administrators to have a planned intervention in the case of a bullying situation. It is suggested that, in order to minimize bullying, youth need to be involved in a setting of physical activities that maximize inclusiveness. This is because organized sports (i.e. soccer, baseball, basketball, etc.) give youth the opportunity to bully others on the field of play as there is little coach/ parent supervision on the field of play (Shannon, 2013).

[edit] External Links

Bullying statistics in Canada over the past decade -

Interesting bullying statistics in Canada -

A paper by Israel C. Kalman that adresses the unimpressive results of anti-bullying programs in schools -

A recent meta-anlysis in the Journal of Experimental Criminology about the effectiveness of anti-bullying programs -

Red Cross goes deeper into issues of bullying and offers many programs that affect people of all ethnicities and ages -,-bullying-and-abuse-prevention?gclid=CLO7w5eEqr0CFeJF7AodLxMAbA

Dan Olweus is the founder of Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and this 57 page paper discusses its implementation and evaluation over two decades -

KiVa program has a wide range of studies that have proved to reduce self and peer reported bullying and victimization. It has won the European Crime Prevention Award in 2009, Social Policy Award in 2012, and four other national awards since 2008. This link brings you to the Kiva site where 8 studies are posted proving its success rate -

Scouts Canada -

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada -

Brock University Sports Camps -

Kids Now Canada -

Dialed action sports team is a program designed to promote anti-bullying awareness. The organization uses professional BMX stunt shows as a means of promoting positive messages and teaching schools about being good role models. It is a unique anti-bullying program that has received excellent feedback from teachers, parents, students, and principals in all the institutions it has been implemented in -


[edit] Notes and References

Matt Clare's Quick Reference

Bauer et al. (2007). “The Effectiveness of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in Public Middle Schools: A Controlled Trial. Journal of Adolescent Health 40, 266-274.

Bowes, D. (2009). “Process Evaluation of a School- Based Intervention to incrase Physical Activity and Reduce Bullying”. Society for Public Health Education.

Bowes, D., Marquis, M., Young, W., Holowaty, W., Holowaty, P., & Isaac, W. (2008). Process Evaluation of a School-Based Intervention to Increase Physical Activity and Reduce Bullying. Sage Journals, 10(3), 394-401.

Caldwell, C. (2014, January 6). Brigham Young University News Page. Study: Kids teased in P.E. class exercise less a year later. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from

Cunningham, C., Cunningham, L., Ratcliffe, J., & Vaillancourt, T. (2010). A Qualitative Analysis of the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Recommendations of Students in Grades 5-8. Journal of School Violence, 9, 321-338. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from

Dragan, Edward F.. "Chapter 1." The bully action guide: how to help your child and get your school to listen. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. 1. Print.

Facts on Bullying and Harassment. (n.d.). Canadian Red Cross. Retrieved March 17, 2014, from

Greenleaf, C., Petrie, T., & Martin, S. (2014). Relationship of Weight-Based Teasing and Adolescents' Psychological Well-Being and Physical Health. Journal of School Health, 84(1), 49-55. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from

"Human Knot." Team Building Exercises. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. <>.

KiVa school - Let's make it together!. (n.d.). Evidence of effectiveness. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from

Mandigo, J. (2014, January). Physical Literacy. Lecture conducted from Brock University, St. Catharines, ON.

Millen, D. (2004). “Towards a bully free Canada (Ontario Health Promotion E-Mail Bulletin 382.1)”. Retrieved October 15, 2004, from http:///

Olweus, D., & Limber, S. (2007). The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program: Implementation and Evaluation over Two Decades. The International Handbook of School Bullying (pp. 1-57). New York: Routledge.

"Playground Activity Leaders in Schools - P.A.L.S.." Active After School. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. <>.

Pepler, D. J., Craig, W. M., Ziegler, S., & Charach, A. (1994). Bullying: A community problem. Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, 13, 95-110

Robers, S., Kemp, J., & Truman, J. (2013, June 26). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2012 - Executive Summary. Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2012 - Executive Summary. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from

Shannon, Charlene. S. (2013). Bullying in Recreation and Sport Settings: Exploring Risk Factors, Prevention Efforts, and Intervention Strategies.Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 31(1), 15-19

"Shaping Safer Schools." Ontario Ministry of Education. N.p., 1 Nov. 2005. Web. 22 Mar. 2014. <>.

Smith, P., Salmivalli, C., & Cowie, H. (2012). Effectiveness of school-based programs to reduce bullying. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 8, 433-441. Retrieved March 23, 2014, from

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