A recent study has pointed out that a widely used anti-bullying program reduces nasty gossip among elementary school children.
Researchers from the University of Washington reported that Seattle students who took part in the three-month 'Steps to Respect' anti-bullying program showed a 72 percent drop in malicious gossip.
Karin Frey, associate professor of educational psychology in Seattle, said that teachers tend to not view gossip as a significant form of bullying, but it can lead to physical bullying.
To conduct the study, the researchers used Palm Pilots to electronically record second-by-second observations of 610 students at six elementary schools in the Seattle area.
They recorded each child's behaviour on the playground for five minutes once a week for 10 weeks in the fall and 10 weeks in the spring.
After observers heard gossip on the playground in the fall, the anti-bullying program - which encouraged empathy, taught assertiveness and emphasized that bullying is not a social norm - was conducted in half of the 36 classrooms.
The study said children in the 'Steps to Respect' classrooms had 234 fewer instances of gossip per class of 25, or a 72 percent decrease in gossip among the students.
Bullying victims who retaliate often end up bullied even more, therefore the 'Steps to Respect' teaches students to not fight back and these children were more likely to avoid being a victim of gossip in the spring.
However, if bystanders speak up and tell the bully to 'Knock it off', the bullying stops, said Frey.
The study is published in the winter issue of School Psychology Review.