Empowering Bystanders (Anti-bullying)

This weekend a friend posted an anti-bullying video on Facebook. The video contained stories of three victims. The first victim, a teenage girl describing, through index cards, an ongoing incident she’d suffered at the hands of classmates. Shortly after she posted the original video online, she committed suicide.

If her story was not heart-wrenching enough, it led to a second story. This victim, lured to a house by someone she considered to be her friend, was beaten. A third person in the house filmed the attack. This girl suffered severe head and eye injuries. According to the video, the assault caused permanent eye damage.

The final story described the abuse a boy with special-needs suffered at the hands of his classmates. The torment was more than he could handle. He hung himself.

These stories are tough to read, but it is reality. Feeling sorry for bullied children and their parents is not enough. We need to protect children. We have all asked a neighbor or parent at school to keep an eye out for our child. I know I’ve requested that parents let me know if they see my son go into the woods (a popular hangout for teenagers in my neighborhood). Yet, we are conflicted when our child notifies us of a bullying situation.

How many people have told their children not to get involved? Don’t be embarrassed. Most parents want to protect their child. They fear reporting an incident will cause problems in their own home. How would you feel if neighbors and friends ignored a bullying incident involving your child?

There are several ways your child can help. The most effective way is reporting the incident to an adult. I’ve included a few other options to consider:

1. Do not give the bully an audience. Show disapproval of the incident by walking away. Encourage friends to do the same. Most bullies want an audience. They believe this behavior will increase their popularity. If peers show disapproval, it may prevent the bully from repeating this inappropriate behavior. Make sure you tell an adult.

2. Never laugh at stories involving bully behavior. We must encourage our children to speak out against injustices.

3. Send an anonymous letter to the proper authorities suggesting that staff members watch a particular hallway, bus, lunchroom or student. Indicate unkind behavior or bullying that is taking place in a certain location.

4. If you are friendly with the bully, tell them to stop.

5. Reach out to isolated children. Support the victim.

6. Athletes are respected by their peers. These students can support anti-bullying by reminding classmates that the behavior is unacceptable.

Punishment does not necessary solve the problem. Often it enrages the bully. The key to ending this epidemic is teaching appropriate behavior. Sometimes the most effective lessons are taught by our peers.

Empower your children to stand up to bullies.


2 thoughts on “Empowering Bystanders (Anti-bullying)

  1. I just attended a course on identifying child abuse and a tip that stuck with me and is relevant to your comments up here is how we as parents need to equip our pre teens and teenage children on what to do if a child tells them a “secret” that is awful. It could be about abuse at home or at school. We were told that children of this age group tend to tell their friends before they share it with an adult and that often they are asked to keep it a secret.

    My nine year old daughter when I asked her what she would do if a friend told her she was being hurt immediately said to me, “I’d use my WITS.” I looked at her curiosly wondering what she meant and she explained further.
    “WITS is what we have been told to use at school. The first is thinking of the W. Can you walk away from it? If a friend tells you that they are getting hurt, then no, you can’t walk away. The second is I- Ignore. If a friend tells you this secret you can’t ignore it so think further. T- stands for tell someone. I would tell you,” she told me. “The s-stands for seek help which I would tell my friend to do,” she concluded telling me.

    What I discovered through the conversation is that she has gained some amazing skills (through school) on how to handle difficult situations. If all our children had this knowledge and support, perhaps we could make a difference in all their lives.

    • What a smart child. I love that lesson! It applies in so many different situations and teaches our children compassion. I hope someone writes about that lesson so it can be shared. I will certainly mention it during my next school meeting.

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