Classroom insecurity: 1 in 3 teens worldwide don’t feel safe in their own school

TURKU, Finland — Horrific gun violence in schools continues to be an ongoing problem in America, but a new study finds children around the globe are fearing for their safety as well. Researchers from Finland’s University of Turku have found that one in three adolescents say they feel unsafe in their own school.

Overall, their survey of more than 21,000 teens between 13 and 15 discovered that 31.4 percent feel unsafe at school. Importantly, these children did not come from the United States, researchers surveyed adolescents from 13 nations throughout Europe and Asia between 2011 and 2017.

Concerningly, two in three children in Japan say they feel unsafe when they go to class, with 69.8 percent of girls and 68.2 percent of boys saying this. At the opposite end of the spectrum, just 11.5 percent of girls in Finland and 7.7 percent of boys in Norway fear going to school.

Teachers can put kids at ease

Researchers believe one of the biggest components in creating a school environment that feels safe is the relationship between teachers and students. The study finds that if a student feels their teacher cares about them, they’re more likely to feel safe in school. Fair, clear, and consistent rules while in class also contributed to a student’s feeling of safety.

Meanwhile, students who experience bullying reported feeling less safe on school grounds. Researchers add that the result of feeling less safe at school can lead to mental health problems, which stay with a child throughout their life.

“The interventions should include preventive initiatives such as psychoeducation, and social-emotional learning programs to enhance positive interaction of children and reduce behavioral problems. The findings showed a clear need for strategies to provide educational environments where all students can feel protected, regardless of their background,” says researcher Yuko Mori from Turku’s Research Centre for Child Psychiatry in a university release.

“Physically, cognitively and emotionally safe school environment is essential for the development and educational success of children and young people. All children have the right to attend schools where they can feel safe and protected without fear or anxiety of any danger. In the wake of recent school shootings, we must take steps to enhance safety in educational settings and protect students from all forms of violence and abuse,” adds research leader Dr. Andre Sourander.

Percentage of adolescents feeling unsafe:

   Country        Girls      Boys

  1. Finland       11.5%     8.9%
  2. Norway      13.9%     7.7%
  3. Israel          14.6%   14.2%
  4. Greece       18.2%    24.2%
  5. India          17.8%    26.3%
  6. Iran            25.6%    34.3%
  7. Indonesia   30.3%    30.2%
  8. Lithuania   31.4%    35.4%
  9. Singapore  35.4%    34.3%
  10. China         48.8%   44.1%
  11. Russia        54.7%   45.9%
  12. Vietnam     49.6%   52.6%
  13. Japan         69.8%   68.2%

The findings appear in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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