Youth bullying is a major issue facing our children and the lack of action by other kids to step in and stop bullying only compounds the situation. But before you write off this inaction as a “Not my problem” mentality, take a look at the six reasons researchers discovered that are the root causes.
Six main reasons kids in particular do not step in to intervene or stop bullying of a peer or reach out for help on their behalf:
1. Assuming someone else, a parent or teacher, will intervene. Kids look up to the adults in their lives as authority figures.
For children who witness bullying, if they do not see an adult intervene, chances are they won’t either.
2. Assuming he or she will draw attention and become the next bullying target. Bullying is scary. It is only natural to worry about becoming the bully’s next victim.
3. Assuming being a friend of a bully means supporting the bully’s actions. Kids’ brains still think in black and white.
They do not naturally draw distinctions in terms of what friendship means and where it begins or ends. A child who calls a bully friend will likely assume friendship includes support, even for actions he or she doesn’t necessarily agree with.
4. Assuming that the lack of a personal friendship between the bully and the observing child means they don’t have to speak up.
In the same way, if the witnessing child does not have some kind of social connection with the bully, that can equate to a feeling of powerlessness and continued silence.
5. Assuming the child who speaks up will have to wrestle with the challenges of doing so all alone. Kids do feel fear, often at a more primal level than adults, who are brain-equipped to distinguish between grades of fear.
If a child feels unsupported to highlight a wrong being done, they likely won’t.
6. Assuming that feelings of helplessness equate to actual helplessness to make bullying stop. Without specific instruction about how to speak up, a child may assume felt helplessness and actual helplessness are one and the same.
Understanding the six main reasons why kids don’t speak out against bullying is one big key to developing effective educational resources to stop bullying and the first step in providing appropriate empowering education to address the problem.