Researchers at UW recently studied students at six elementary schools in Seattle to learn how they communicate with and about each other. Turns out they talk a lot about who may or may not be carriers of cooties. In other words, they gossip a lot. Other revelations include: Kids love cartoons, hate broccoli, and will not stop picking their noses.
As Science Daily reports today:
Researchers used Palm Pilots to electronically record second-by-second observations of 610 students in grades 3-6 at six elementary schools in the Seattle area. Researchers recorded each child's behavior on the playground for five minutes once a week for 10 weeks in the fall and 10 weeks in the spring.
First off: Palm Pilots? Those things still exist?
But anyway, the study was done with the aim of cutting down on bullying in schools (a noble cause, given the uptick in bullying-related suicides of late).
Karin Frey, the UW researcher who led the study, tells Science Daily:
"Gossip is an element of bullying, and it can lead to physical bullying. Kids will tell you that gossip is just as painful as physical bullying."
The study also showed that when teachers "encouraged empathy, teach assertiveness, and emphasize that bullying is not a social norm," gossip lessened.
It's an interesting notion. One that falls in line with the million other studies that show that when people are taught anything long enough, they begin to learn it.
Next time, can we just skip straight to the "encouraging empathy" stage and skip the reaffirming-what-we-already-know part?