The Youth Voice Project (Penn State Erie – Stan Davis and Dr. Charisse Nixon): What do youth really think about our prevention efforts? We have our ideas about what we think works, but what do 13,000 teens in 31 schools think? The results are surprising…
According to the first report, less than half of the students told an adult at school about a mistreatment event. The most used strategy was “pretended it didn’t bother me.” They felt that the strategies that helped the most were the ones that “accessed help,” and the ones that made things worse were the ones focused on changing the behavior of the perpetrators. Youth who are told to solve the problem themselves are more likely to resort to violence than those who are given options to access help to get it resolved.
The reponse of whether telling an adult “helps” varied widely from school to school. In some schools, telling an adult was more likely to make it worse, while in others, it was more likely to make it better (while more study on those schools is necessary, it appears that what we do when told as adults varies widely!). Students identified that the best adult strategies that helped them were “listened to me,” ”checked back on me,” and “gave me advice” rather than strategies viewed as less effective such as “punished the offender,” etc. Certain feedback by adults is alarming; namely, that students sometimes are blamed for the problem and told to “stop tattling,” “solve the problem yourself,” and “this wouldn’t happen if you acted differently,” among others.
Check out the one-page tip sheets for parents and educators of effective actions by mistreated youth and by school adults and a summary of effective bystander actions.
In sum, as we have often observed on this site, it is imperative that we not only hear student voices in our research, but also act on the responses. Bravo to Stan Davis and Charisse Nixon for leading the way with this excellent research!