3 Simple Ways to Prevent Bullying and Cyberbullying

This is a public domain image.

Bullying and even more recently, cyberbullying, have become widespread problems in our culture, especially with the rise of the Internet and social media making it even easier for aggressors to intimidate and harass victims anonymously.

Knowing the forms of bullying is an important first step to preventing it. According to the Response Ability Project, there are three forms of bullying. The first one is “Imbalance of Power,” meaning that aggressors use their status to intimidate people they think are beneath them. The second form of bullying is the “Intent to Cause Harm,” meaning that the aggressor has a motive to hurt the victim. The third form of bullying is “Repetition” or when the same people or group of people bully the same victim.

Bullying also takes on many forms. It can be verbal, physical, social and it can be online in the form of cyber-bullying.

So, how exactly do you stop and prevent bullying from happening? I’ve compiled a list of ways.

1. Tell the person to stop

Do not stay silent. If you feel that your safety and well-being are at risk, you must speak up, step in, and speak out against bullying. Show the bully that you do not approve of his or her actions and behavior and show that others do not approve either.  Tell the victim that you are here to help them out of this situation.

2. Listen and reach out to someone 

According to the National Education Association, it is important to listen and not pre-judge. The bully could actually be the victim in disguise. A good way to prevent bullying from happening is to talk to him or her. This is an important first step because this person could engage in more high-risk behaviors including hurting themselves and others. Let the person know that you are there to help and not to judge.

3.  Be conscious of your family and friend’s [online] activity 

According to StopBullying.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is important to be aware of what your family members and friends are doing online. Asking about what your friends and family members are doing online, in texts, or even if they have witnessed cyberbullying are crucial to understanding and preventing cyberbullying. A few solutions to tracking high risk behavior includes using content monitoring filtering software or  following the person on social media. A more invasive approach is to ask for passwords to the person’s social media accounts, however, this should only be asked to a person you know and trust, and this solution should only be used in cases of emergency.

There are of course plenty of other ways to prevent bullying and cyberbullying, including educating people about it in classrooms and workshops but I feel like these are the easiest and most effective ways of preventing it.



Top 7 Ways To Become More Pro-social

The bystander effect is a social phenomenon that occurs when people see a problem and do nothing. The bystander effect has a huge impact on altruistic and prosocial behavior, and that is why in this blog post I will be addressing ways that you can become more prosocial to help you overcome the bystander effect.


What Makes A Hero? Overcoming the Bystander Effect

Take advantage of our natural tendencies toward altruism

By nature, human beings are compassionate and care-giving. Assume the best in people, not the worst. Many people have a natural desire to help people. You just have to give them the chance. However, psychological and social forces prevent us from helping and responding to people in unusual or unsuspecting circumstances, which can cause us to become confused, distracted or insecure in moments of decision-making. Everyone has the ability to help out people if given enough practice.

If you find yourself in a problematic situation, make eye contact with the crowd

Making contact with an individual within crowd when you’re in a problematic situation, will hopefully inspire the individual to feel guilt and propel them to intervene and interact with the situation. This is a suggestion that Kendra Cherry of About.com suggests.

 Model altruism

By stepping up and showing that you can be assertive in problematic situations, people will respect you more and gain important lessons from you. Studies show that more and more teens are volunteering and modeling altruism.

Help others

Donate your time, effort, or money in helping others, helping out people in emergencies, and cooperate with others and not compete with them. The best result is the “Feel good, do good philosophy.” For more information on this philosophy, see this essay from the University of Colorado.

Start up a conversation

It is not a good idea to keep your thoughts and feelings bottled up. Not getting support for these emotions can lead to more serious issues, these include substance abuse, and thoughts of suicide. If you notice that someone is acting differently, speak up about it. Arrange a meeting and have them open up about it. Half of Us gives some suggests how to help a friend in need.

Depression is typically not a topic that people are willing to talk. Kevin Breel explains why we need to talk about depression. That’s why it’s important to start up conversation in your community or school about these mental issues. By talking about this topic to a group of people, you can explore those feelings, situations to get more informed.

Educate yourself and become aware of the bystander effect

You need to understand what the bystander effect is.  The bystander effect is when people see a problem and do nothing. It can happen in any community because it’s a universal issue. Typical reasons that people don’t intervene is that they don’t understand the reality of what is happening, they are afraid, they are in disbelief, and they don’t know what to do.

Prepare and practice overcoming the bystander effect

Kidpower Founder and Executive Director, Irene Van Der Zande, suggests to practice overcoming the bystander effect if you are attacked. She suggests in order “To break through the fog of conflicting thoughts and feelings that can cause bystanders to become frozen or even join in, we have our students practice giving clear, loud information and orders to the people who are nearby. She adds “Giving specific orders to specific people is more likely to be effective than yelling for help in a general way to the world at large.”

If we all take these thoughts into consideration, we can help be better prepared to deal with problematic situations and prevent the bystander effect from happening.

Top 7 Arguments in Support of Intervening in Problematic Situations


These are two people reaching out to each other. This is a royalty-free image.

I have compiled a list of seven arguments in support of intervening in problematic situations. I have also included relevant examples and case studies that support these arguments.

 “If the situation really is a crisis, we not only have a right to intervene but we have a responsibility to intervene.”

Not valuing another person’s life simply because “I don’t know this person,” is a terrible thought to consider. All people should have a desire and will to help others. People should try to help their fellow human beings. I think this mutual responsibility comes from humans having an interest in one another. In fact, an underlying framework of crisis intervention directs us to do what is reasonable and necessary for the well-being and welfare of others.

Consider the case of photojournalist Pulitzer-prize winner Kevin Carter. Kevin Carter photographed a starving Sudanese toddler and left the scene without doing anything. He later won a Pulitzer Prize for this picture. He later went on to commit suicide. The situation he observed was a crisis. Nobody knows what happened to the toddler but it is likely she died from starvation.

 “If the potential for danger is very high and the self-resolution is very low, then you should intervene.”

There is a cost-to-benefit analysis that you may have to do here. You have to ask yourself some questions prior to intervening. They could be, “How much do I value my own personal safety?” and “What degree of danger am I willing to put myself in?” If you have found that the intervention is reasonable and you have considered the level and intensity of conflict, then you should intervene. For example, if someone’s life is at risk or their safety is at risk, then there should be an intervention.

Consider the Richmond High School incident. A girl was gang-raped by 10 people in a school gymnasium and hardly anyone did anything. Instead, they laughed and took pictures. The potential for danger was really high and the self-resolution was very low, and somebody should have intervened.

 “Why wait?”

Often times, people wait for professionals, like the police or medical practitioners to arrive. However, at that point it could be too late! A person’s life could be a risk. When you see a situation unfolding right in front of you, then it is time to take matters into your own hands. The victim would expect the same treatment if you were in that situation.

Consider this case study: the Kitty Genovese murder. Some people witnessed her attack yet didn’t call the police. By then it was too late.

“There could be a consequence for witnessing a crime and not reporting it.”

If you don’t intervene, you could be partially responsible for the result of the action taken against the victim, someone’s death in the most extreme of situations, because you failed to even try to stop the crime or aggression. You wouldn’t want to live with that guilt, now would you? Really, the only time you should NOT intervene is when the risk is greater than the reward. Although I should note, as a bystander, it is your duty to protect and defend the victim from harm at all costs with no expectation of receiving a reward. An example could be stopping a theft by an armed robber in a convenience store. Are you willing to risk your own life for an inanimate object such as money? I think most people would respond “no” to this question.  

Consider this case study: the Ilan Halimi murder. The torturer’s father knew it was happening and ended spending jail time for 8 months.

“You are just as guilty as the perpetrator because you did not intervene” or “You could be sympathizing with the aggressor by not intervening.”

This is probably the strongest argument for intervening. Some would say you are a part of the problem and you are just as guilty as the perpetrator because you did not intervene. If someone is being victimized and you are a bystander, you should offer to help the victim and not indirectly defend the aggressor. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find it OK to see someone else get beaten up. Even if you can’t do too much good, you should at least make an effort to help the victim in any way that you can. The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the person, it matters how you view yourself as a person.

Consider the case study of murders of the three civil rights workers. There was an absence of outcry from the white people in the south, either they agreed with the aggressor or they did not care about the plight of the blacks.

“You do not want to risk the chance of something that could have been prevented.”

Prevention is key. You want to step in on a problematic situation before it gets worse. Who knows what could have happened if someone had not stepped up and intervened?

An example of recent news story would be the Women Beaten to Death Over An Accidental Photobomb. In this story, a girl unintentionally photobombed some people at a party and the situation got so out of control that she lost her life. The worst part of this story is the end. The police discovered that there was cell phone footage of the attack from bystanders who did not intervene. If that doesn’t put a lump in your throat or make you feel guilty, I don’t know what will.

“There is a justice to be done and a moral obligation to intervene.”

Everyone has the capability to help. It is up to you to know your limits and help where you can. Bystanders can be the most influential people in any situation because their actions affect the people involved in the moment. However, you should use your judgment in deciding whether intervening truly contributes to the situation positively. When intervening as a bystander, you become stronger as a person and have faith that their can be justice.

Consider the parable of the Good Samaritan. We have a moral obligation to help our neighbors.

I think all of these arguments are valid and can be proven and if we just take time to consider them, we can prevent the bystander effect.

Four Styles of Intervention

The University of Arizona and the NCAA have developed a program that helps defeat the bystander effect.  It is called the Step Up! program. If you are interested in learning more about this organization, you can watch this video.

They have developed five styles of intervention, are represented by animals. However, in this blog post, I will discuss only four of these in more detail because the fifth one is rare. These animals are turtle, teddy bear, shark and fox. The Step Up! program developed and adapted these from the Janssen Sports Leadership Manual. After you are done reading this blog post, please take this PlayBuzz quiz I created to help you determine which animal you are. Also, engage with us by sharing your results by taking a poll at the end of this blog post.


1. Turtle (Low responsiveness, low assertiveness) 

A turtle is someone who may come off as being shy and serious.  Turtles typically assess a situation before they intervene in a situation. Some adjectives to describe them are stubborn, shy, serious, and sarcastic.

Typical traits include: 

  • Taking time to assess situations
  • Taking time to be neat and orderly
  • Not participating in situations
  • More goal oriented than people oriented
  • Collecting as much data as possible before intervening in order to be confident
  • Working slowly and preferring to do it alone
  • Looking for assurance and self-actualization
  • Excelling at problem solving

Are you an turtle? If you are, here are some things to consider to help you improve:

  • Question situations more
  • Keep walking
  • Talk to a friend about the situation
  • Wait a day to talk to the aggressor or bully
  • Talk to the victim
  • Join a group that will help you
  • Call for help
  • Talk to a school counselor


2. Teddy Bear (High responsiveness, low assertiveness) 

A Teddy Bear is someone who knows that a problem exists but is hesitant to act. They tend to enjoy being around people and tend to be more of a listener than a talker. People who identify with this style are open to what someone has to say, are dependable, and interact well with others.

Typical traits include:

  • Having difficulty making a decision and taking action
  • Disliking conflict between people and groups of people
  • Listening well to others and being supportive
  • Being comfortable in a group rather than alone
  • Excelling with counseling and listening skills

Are you a teddy bear? If you are, here are some things to consider to help you improve:

  • Give a questioning glance
  • Talk to others to get your ideas and perspectives
  • Keep walking
  • Talk to a friend about the situation
  • Wait a day to talk to the aggressor or bully
  • Talk to the victim
  • Join the group that is intervening
  • Offer alternative solutions
  • Interrupt and redirect
  • Talk to a school counselor


3. Shark (High responsiveness, High assertiveness)

Sharks are more task oriented than they are people oriented. People that identify with this style expect that people around them will have the same level of efficiency and effectiveness. The people who align themselves with this style tend to be more competitive, a go getter, efficient, stubborn, self-reliant and headstrong.

Typical traits include being: 

  • Decisive when taking action or making a decision
  • Likes the ability to handle others
  • Dislikes people that are slow to act
  • Not having a tolerance for other people’s feelings, attitudes or advice
  • Works diligently and well when alone
  • Seeking approval and respect from others
  • Excelling at administrative tasks

Are you a shark? If you are, here are some things to consider to help you improve and intervene:

  • Remove yourself from the problem
  • Confront the aggressor or bully
  • Express your concerns to the aggressor or bully
  • Show that you disapprove
  • Share your reaction
  • Say you are offended
  • Talk to the aggressor


4. Fox (High responsiveness, Low assertiveness)

A Fox enjoys being around people. People that identify with this style tend to be more outgoing and active in whatever is going on at the time, and tend to share their thoughts. People that align with this style tend to be passionate, at times theatrical, stubborn, outgoing, encouraging and lively.

Typical traits include being:

  • Uses spur-of-the-moment thinking when taking action or making decisions
  • Likes to participate in social situations
  • Exaggerating or generalizing
  • Energetic with work-related activities
  • Working well with others
  • Seeking respect from others
  • Excelling at persuasive skills

Are you are a fox? If you are, here are some things to consider to help you improve:

  • Report the incident
  • Call the police for assistance
  • Suggest the people in conflict to do something else
  • Show that you disapprove
  • Share your reaction
  • Say that you are offended
  • Talk to others to get their ideas and input
  • Offer to spend time with the victim and the aggressor
  • Offer alternative solutions for the victim and aggressor
  • Interrupt the aggressor and victim
  • Talk to your friends to figure out what you should do


Top 7 Strategies of Intervening in Problematic Situations


Image courtesy of UW Oshkosh UMatter and their new film: “CSOs: The Movie.”

Last week, I gave the top 7 excuses about why people don’t intervene in problematic situations. However, this week, I will provide some solutions about how you could respond in those situations which cause conflict.

1. Call the police or CSOs on campus 

The best course of action is to call the authorities, security, the police or a professional that knows how to deal with this negative situation. If you have a mobile phone available, call 911. If you can’t afford a mobile phone, your campus may have stations that can alert the police. For example, UW Oshkosh has blue light emergency phone stations. These blue light stations have a button which can be pressed by students when a problematic situations breaks out. Sometimes people don’t feel safe or secure to handle the situation themselves and they may need to turn to alternative measures and means if they are not trained or comfortable in dealing with problematic situations. The University Police department has a Safewalk program designed to help students get to locations on campus during the night hours.  On top of that, they have Security Stations. These open during the night, are operated by CSOs, and are designed to keep intruders away from the residence halls. CSOs scan a student’s Titan ID into a computer if an individual does not live in a residence hall and is a guest for the evening.

2.  Use a distraction or separation technique

If a phone or emergency system is out of reach, use a distraction or separation technique. Bluff and let the aggressor know that the police have been called and that they will escort the victim out of the aggressive altercation. This may intimidate the aggressor to stop his/her behavior.

3.  Feel a common social identity with the other present bystanders or with the victim  

If the aggressor is your friend or an acquaintance, it may be more easier to confront the person.  According to Casey et al., “individuals may be more inclined to intervene when they feel a common social identity with other present bystanders or with the victim–a dynamic which may counteract the ‘bystander effect'” (65).  It may be more easier to talk a friend out of this situation as opposed to a complete stranger.

4. Make a short and immediate statement 

Make a short, brief and immediate statement such as “that’s not cool,” “you know that’s not appropriate,” or simply a “yo dude” in response to problematic situation.  The goal of this type of strategy is to stop the behavior in the moment. You may have to repeat this phrase a few times so that the aggressor will stop.

5. Use respectful dialogue 

Use respectful dialogue and/or questions to encourage the aggressor to realize what they are doing. Use this strategy to clarify what he/she meant.

6. Capitalize on the importance of being a role-model

Tell the aggressor that they are coming off as a jerk and they may stop. Showing personal responsibility will set a good example to your peers and even the aggressor. In fact, several researchers have found that self-reported willingness to intervene with an aggressor is higher when their perceptions that their peers will do the same (65).

7. Do a cost-benefit analysis of intervening

Researchers have also found that “when the costs of taking no action supersede the potential costs of stepping forward, direct or indirect helping becomes more likely” (65). In other words, if the benefits outweigh the risks of taking action, then people are more likely to intervene. So when you see a problematic situations unravel, do a cost-benefit analysis of intervening.

All of these are great strategies that bystanders can do when a problematic situation unfolds unexpectedly. Educating yourself on all of these are important to know which one you will use when a situation arises.

Top 7 Reasons Why People Don’t Intervene in Problematic Situations

Albert Einstein

If you’re in a problematic situation, these are likely the reasons why you don’t want to intervene. Most people have been in situations with negative outcomes that could have been avoided had someone intervened.

1.  “I assumed it wasn’t a problem.”

It is a problem when a bystander cannot empathize with the victim. The individual should feel that nobody deserves to be mistreated.

2.  “I assumed someone else would do something.”

This comes from the “diffusion of responsibility theory,” which states that when people believe someone else will step in, then the individual will not step in. The problem with this excuse is that stopping bullying starts with the individual, it is not someone else’s responsibility or job to stop it.

3.  “No one else was bothered by it.”

People may feel that they don’t want to stand up and say something about it because they don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb.  People need to be courageous, and take responsibility. They should not try to convince themselves that this is not their place to defend the aggressor.

4.  “I didn’t know when to intervene.”

People may feel helpless in this situation because they do not know how to stop the aggressor. When it starts to become a problem, people need to step in and speak up.

5.  “I didn’t know how to intervene.”

The problem with this is that specific instruction to make aggressive behavior may not be available to the individual.  That’s why it is important for an individual to be educated on styles and motivations of intervening. It is possible to prevent a negative outcome had someone intervened. This is why specific instruction on how to report, what to say, and who to talk to about these situations.

6.  “It was none of my business.”

This goes back to the “diffusion of responsibility theory.” People may assume that someone that is closer to the aggressor will resolve the problem, as opposed to the individual themselves.

7.  “I felt my safety was at risk.”

Often times people will think “If I say anything, he’ll turn on me next!” This intimidation may stop someone from intervening. The problem with this excuse is that your actions will positively impact the victim and that there likely won’t be any negative personal consequences.

Reference:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/signe-whitson/six-reasons-why-bystander_b_4295181.html