In recent years, the conversation on how to curb bullying has been fruitful and productive. However, it remains a persistent phenomenon today, especially among children.
Bullying involves acts showing hostile intent predicated on power imbalance, which takes different forms like provocation and intimidation. A recent study from the National Center for Education Statistics found that one in five students between ages 12 and 18 have experienced bullying. The study also found that the intimidation tactics have increasingly taken the form of online or text harassment—around 15% of bullied students have reportedly experienced this.
Bully prevention strategies are crucial for schools and other supposedly safe spaces where children learn. The act of being bullied leads to stress, distress, and anxiety. Researchers from King's College London in the United Kingdom even uncovered that bullying has long-term effects on children. The study found that children who experience bullying have higher risks of mental health illnesses and hampered brain development. Indeed, Maryville University highlights that there are fundamental connections between mental health and learning abilities, and the two affect each other in more ways than we realize. Bullying has many long-term impacts, and chief among them is how it can impair a child’s capacity to learn.
Music as a prevention strategy
Bullying is a complex issue, especially with children. It encompasses the social, economic, structural, and psychological dimensions of upbringing. As a social relationship, bullying is harmful both for the victim as well as the bully. This is why prevention strategies being used are often intertwined and comprehensive.
A landmark study from the University of Minnesota in 2013 found that music therapy can be used as an effective intervention for both bullies and victims. While the longitudinal study focused on gender-based bullying, it showed how exposure to music and interaction mediated by instruments helped in easing negative dynamics among children. By exposing them to feminine-masculine types of music and instruments, the music therapy improved peer relations and self-management.
How does it work?
Music therapy is widely prescribed for many use cases. From pain management and anxiety relief to helping reduce the impacts of trauma and helping recovery, music therapy is seen as an effective alternative mediation for many conditions. As an intervention strategy, music therapy works towards multiple goals including cultivating social skills, regulating emotions, and diffusing toxic behaviors. It can also help children adjust after their non-structured summer vacation, when it’s time to go back to class again.
Music helps children develop their self-expression and socialization process. This is why it’s effective in directing and shaping social behaviors. For reducing bullying behaviors, music therapy is targeted at taking out aggressive behaviors and dis-incentivizing cliques. Psychologists from the University of Pretoria subjected students to music therapy and measured the changes in aggressive behaviors among students. The study found that music intervention, elicitations like drumming and song writing in particular—are effective in decreasing hostile behaviors.
Choosing a method
One of the key characteristics of music therapy as an intervention is its flexibility. It’s an inexpensive but efficient way to deal with multiple goals including reducing bullying behaviors. Choosing an apt method would entail extensive goal setting in reducing bully behavior at school.
When used for children, music therapy often contain elements that are familiar to the students. More passive methods like music reminiscence and stimulation can encourage relaxation and socializing. Meanwhile, more active methods are more targeted. Singalong is a highly social method as it encourages participation in a collective setting. It’s a fun way to let them create more trust towards their peers.
Song writing and learning instruments are more advanced methods. By way of teaching skills, children learn introspection and benefit from peer learning. Incorporating classmate feedback sessions can encourage openness among children.
The potential of music therapy as an effective anti-bullying intervention program hinges on its impact on children’s overall development. The culture of bullying won’t go away in a flash, but the active engagement of children against it can be done one note at a time.
Exclusively written for MewsicMoves.Com
By: Leila Alayna
John Mews, Owner, Founder and Neurologic Music Therapist at Mewsic Moves is also trained in a social and emotional skill building drum facilitation program, “Beat The Odds® ” that utilizes drumming and rhythm to help children, teens as well as adult to connect to one another, improve attention, reduce anxiety and improve social skills throughout greater Los Angeles.
In this program development, researchers at UCLA have shown that,
Beat the Odds® can significantly improve a spectrum of behavior problems in children, such as inattention, withdrawn/depression, post traumatic stress, anxiety, attention deficit/hyperactivity, oppositional defiance, and sluggish cognitive tempo (Ho, Tsao, Bloch, & Zeltzer, 2011).
For more information on Beat the Odds® go to: https://uclartsandhealing.org/services/professional-development/beat-the-odds-drumming-program/
I also want to extend a special thank you to Leila Alayna for this special guest blog article.