A third of bullied Dutch kids never tell: report

More children in primary schools in the Netherlands are being bullied than parents and teachers know of. One in three bullied kids never tell their teachers, parents or friends about it, according to study 'What works against bullying' by five universities and the Trimbos Institute, RTL Nieuws reports.

About 30 percent of Dutch kids are sometimes bullied. One in 14 children are even bullied multiple times a week. A third of these bullied kids have never told anyone about it, according to the study. 

Head researcher Bram Orobio de Castro, a professor in Utrecht, is shocked by the high percentage of children who hide being bullied. "We thought that the number of children that are bullied would be higher in practice, but that it was on this scale, that shocked us", he said to the broadcaster.

According to Orobio de Castro, there are several reasons that kids conceal being bullied. "They often fear that adults will not handle that information properly. That they will tell everyone. Or that you get the reputation of being a crybaby because you've complained to adults." He also thinks that many children mistakenly think that being bullied is their own fault. "And they are very ashamed of it. That they have to figure it out themselves. That it's part of life and that they have to carry it. Children can of course get very bad ideas about that, and nobody can correct it if they don't tell anyone."

Since 2015, schools in the Netherlands are obliged by law to monitor whether kids feel safe at school on an annual basis. Countering bullying forms part of that. To help fight bullying, schools can make use of multiple programs approved by the Education Inspectorate. 

The researchers looked at these anti-bullying programs and found that four of them really does reduce bullying. Programs that were judged positively by the researchers were the PRIMA, KiVa and Taakspel programs. These three programs are for the whole class. Program Kidzzzz, which focuses on individual children, also works "very well", according to the researchers. 

Anti-bullying programs should not be made compulsory, according to the researchers, because there are schools who do not need them. But schools that do need such programs, should also make sure that they implement them fully and properly. Many schools only implement part of the programs. "You notice that these programs are not being implemented properly in schools, simply because it is too much and teachers do not get around to it", Orobio de Castro said to RTL. "What you'd want is: much shorter programs with the things that are really essential to do. And teachers really guiding it."

Orobio de Castro thinks that questioning children about bullying should remain compulsory at Dutch schools. "If you do not ask the children who are being bullied in confidence whether they are being bullied, then you can be far wrong", he said to the broadcaster "They have to have a place where they can talk about it confidentially, and where the school will really do something with it. Without it becoming public that they are the child that is being bullied."