PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center uses the term “bullying prevention” instead of “anti-bullying” to place the emphasis on a proactive approach and philosophy, framing bullying as an issue to which there is a solution. While the use of “anti” does appropriately indicate the concept of being against bullying, the focus on “prevention” recognizes that change is ultimately about shifting behavior and attitudes, which can happen through the positive approach of education, awareness, and action.
At PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, our vision is “to make every child safe and to change the culture in our society so that bullying is no longer viewed as acceptable behavior.” The language framing the goal is an important part of this change. It has the potential to influence the view of the issue and, in the best cases, direct ideas that promote positive behavior.
Using the term “bullying prevention” instead of “anti-bullying” places the focus where it should be: on understanding the actions that help prevent bullying from occurring. A term, such as “anti,” which focuses on the negative, often doesn’t allow for the opportunity to change or indicate what society can do about bullying.
Acting to change the behavior is vitally important to preventing bullying. Bullying should not be considered a childhood rite of passage. Instead, bullying behaviors should be viewed as changeable and preventable through education and awareness. Discussions with children that focus on inclusion over exclusion, and showing respect and kindness toward others need to occur frequently as children grow up. When children are brought to better awareness of these issues, they have a greater opportunity to develop empathy and an increased understanding that can ultimately disrupt or interrupt bullying dynamics.
In these ongoing conversations with children or throughout communities, to create a social environment where bullying is not accepted, include discussions on how bullying harms everyone involved — targets, witnesses, and the people who use these damaging behaviors. While “anti” does appropriately express being against bullying, the conversation must include preventative efforts. Discussing the steps necessary to resolve conflicts and promote healthy social interactions between people will lead to a culture focusing on a positive, proactive approach to preventing bullying.