Archive for March, 2015

Bystander Interventions: The Power of the Peer Group in Stopping Bullying


Research suggests that peers are present during nine out of every 10 incidents of bullying but intervene on behalf of victims less than 20% of the time (Hawkins, Pepler & Craig, 2001). The same study documents that when peers do step in to stop bullying behaviors, however, the episode stops within 10 seconds, more than half of the time.  This holds true regardless of the specific words the bystander uses. In other words, it’s not how a young person intervenes so much as simply the fact that he does intervene, that brings about the desired change (Goldman, 2012).

Educating kids that their voice can make a difference is an empowering message with implications far beyond bullying prevention! What a gift for a young person to know that their words truly matter.


In 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools, I point out that in school settings, kids with high social status often make the best interveners in bullying situations because of their outsized influence on the peer group and their relative immunity from the backlash of vengeful aggressors.   Their expressed disapproval of an episode of unwanted aggression sends a strong and powerful message that bullying is not cool.  The news clip below is the perfect example of how a SIMPLE, SPONTANEOUS intervention by members of an 8th grade basketball team made a huge difference for a young person who was on the receiving end of cruel, public taunting…and how their spot-on words impacted their entire school community.





New Review of 8 Keys to End Bullying posted on PsychCentral


A school playground aide sees third-grader Riley grab hold of classmate Liza’s scarf and choke her with it. Riley is subsequently viewed as the bully. But is there more to the story?

What the aide hasn’t witnessed is the endless ridicule Riley has experienced from Liza and Liza’s best friend, Jada. Liza and Jada have learned they can provoke emotional outbursts from Riley — a girl who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome — through constant social exclusion. Riley is a “bully-victim,” a young person who can be aggressive toward others but who can also be a target for bullying. She serves as a reminder that the culture of bullying is far more pernicious than we might realize.

It’s clear that bullying’s nuances do not elude Signe Whitson, a social worker and school counselor who writes about Riley and others in 8 Keys to End Bullying: Strategies for Parents & Schools. In this comprehensive book, Whitson argues with passion and clear-eyed conviction for various methods by which we can create safer and healthier learning environments.

Refreshingly, Whitson doesn’t build her case on untested anti-bullying advice, but instead takes a sledgehammer to many long-held myths by drawing upon real research. For example, Whitson points out, children are frequently told to ignore verbal bullying, but the literature shows this to be one of the least effective methods available. And bullies are often not driven by insecurity, as is commonly portrayed in the movies, but by a drive to increase their social status, Whitson writes.

From Whitson’s realistic understanding of student dynamics comes a practical set of strategies to reduce bullying in schools.  Click here to read more about these strategies and see the full review from PsychCentral.



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