Bullying is a problem in America’s schools. This fact is not groundbreaking news, but a new issue brief by the Afterschool Alliance and MetLife Foundation provides a novel way that schools and communities can help combat bullying: by utilizing quality, effective afterschool programs. The brief entitled “Afterschool: A Strategy for Addressing and Preventing Middle School Bullying” exhibits how afterschool programs that provide access to caring adults and offer a more informal environment that is distinct from the school day allow children to feel safe from peer pressure, build confidence and learn how to deal with bullies.
The brief delves into every aspect of bullying, including cyber-bullying, and displays the potentially damaging future effects that peer intimidation can have on both the person being bullied and the bullies themselves. In particular, it highlights how dangerous the middle school years can be for children, showing that middle school students – who are undergoing physical, social and emotional transitions – are particularly vulnerable to teasing and intimidation. However, the brief counters with successful examples, showing that afterschool programs can have immense benefits on children’s social and emotional well-being by offering them a sense of community, a chance to develop leadership skills and safe place to go once the school day ends. Beneficial programs across the country are aiding in the fight against bullying and teaching children that aggressive and detrimental behaviors are not something to be taken lightly, and this new issue brief shows everyone from Members of Congress to afterschool program leaders and even the President of the United States are acutely aware of the need for intervention and aid for students that struggle with bullying.
Afterschool programs, with their unique position as a less formal and more open learning environment, can provide middle school youth with the knowledge and attitudes necessary to combat bullying both in school and online, leading to healthy youth development and a happier generation of students.