Finnish Video Game Program Helps Reduce Bullying in Schools

Video games play a starring role in our society today. Home consoles provide entertainment, custom arcade machines offer hours of fun and handheld mobile games help pass the time when you’re bored. But more and more, video games are evolving into helpful tools to make our society better as a whole.

A research-based program in Finland has developed tools to help reduce bullying in schools. The program is called KiVa, which is short for “kiusaamista vastaan,” which translates to “against bullying” in Finnish. After studying more than 7,000 students in 77 different schools in Finland, researchers found that KiVa helped reduce the odds of a student being bullied by 50 percent.

KiVa is Working

One of the main characteristics that sets KiVa apart from other anti-bullying programs is its focus on educating the bystander rather than punishing the bully. KiVa uses computer simulated role-playing to help students recognize bullying situations and how they would react. The student has to decide if they will defend the victim.

To study KiVa’s effectiveness, researchers had 39 schools implement KiVa, and 38 schools simply give students general information on how to combat bullying. The results were startling.

Nine months after implementing the program, KiVa was shown to reduce depression and improve self-esteem in the percentage of sixth graders who had reported being bullied. It showed that teaching bystanders to be more supportive and proactive against bullying changed the perception of the school atmosphere in the eyes of all the children, but especially the kids who were regularly bullied. Not only does KiVa help put a stop to bullying, it helps children who have been bullied feel comfortable and safe once again within their school community.

Out of 53 different anti-bullying programs currently in use worldwide, KiVa was shown to be the most effective. It is currently being adapted for different European countries, and could potentially be tested in the United States as well. KiVa’s use of video game-like role playing is an ingenious tactic, and is proving to be successful at improving the lives and mental health of schoolchildren – that’s a win for gaming technology.