Violence and safety skills education in operating environments outside the home

Under various provisions and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, every child and young person has the right to a safe growth environment.

It is the responsibility of adults to ensure that children and young people can play, learn and engage in hobbies in safe environments where they are not subjected to violence or bullying. A safe growth environment also means supporting the socio-emotional skills, safety skills and sexual development of children and young people in different operating environments.

Early childhood education and care, educational institutions and guided recreational activities

Bullying and violence between school-aged children and young people have been discussed extensively, and there is also plenty of research data on these. However, bullying occurs already in early childhood education and care.

It is important that professionals recognise bullying and intervene in it at an early stage. Systematic, specialised and evidence-based work to prevent bullying should be included in early childhood education and care plans. Early childhood education and care providers and actors also need guidance material to achieve these objectives.

Many children and young people do not report the violence they have experienced. Based on the result data from the survey, many pupils feel that they may not always have the opportunity to discuss matters that are troubling them with the school's adults. Better opportunities for discussion in school and student welfare services would also provide children and young people with an opportunity to talk about violence, bullying and harassment.

Inappropriate treatment also occurs in sports and physical activity for children and young people. Sports organisations and sports clubs are in part unprepared to address the problem. The Finnish Olympic Committee, sports federations and organisations have together launched work to address this, but much more expertise is needed. At this point, the action plan covers bullying, harassment and violence in guided physical activities, and later in the mid-term evaluation phase in 2022, the perspective may be extended to other hobbies.

Safety skills and sexual education

Children and young people have the right to receive support for strengthening socio-emotional and safety skills and to be provided age-appropriate sexual education in accordance with their development.

In particular, problems related to the socio-emotional development of young children and the harmful experiences parents have had during their childhood are still poorly identified. Parents and professionals need more competence in improving and supporting knowledge and skills as well as sexual education.

Attention should be paid to the sexual education of children and young people. It must be ensured that every child is provided information on what sexual violence and sexual abuse mean as a crime.

In sexual education, key contents include information on sexual rights: 

  • How to secure your own boundaries and bodily integrity
  • How to act in hazardous situations, i.e. safety skills.

Examples of measures put together in the theme (27 measures)

  • School and student health care professionals as well as school social workers and psychologists must engage in conversation on bullying, the threat and experiences of violence and harassment in all client contacts. 
  • Sports clubs and other parties organising guided physical activity must systematically introduce instructions for work to combat offensive treatment, bullying and harassment.
  • The knowledge and skills of personnel in early childhood education and care and pre-primary and basic education concerning age-appropriate safety skills and sexual education will be increased through continuing education. The special needs of particularly vulnerable children and young people will be taken into account.

Additional information

Kalland M, Tenhunen T, Andell M, Ylenius-Lehtonen M, Lajunen K, Karjalainen P, Cacciatore R. & Porras K. 2019. Safety skills education. Chapter 7. In: Korpilahti et al. 2019, 139–186.

Salmivalli C, Rissanen M, Kola-Torvinen P, Hietanen-Peltola M, Korpilahti U, Helenius J, Rautava M & Porras K. 2019. Violence, bullying and harassment in early childhood education, educational institutions and guided hobbies. Chapter 9. In: Korpilahti et al. 2019, 235–269.