Only kids can stop bullies, write Australian authors in the Greater Good. Teachers rarely know what’s going on. Kids do.
We can no longer conceive of bullying at school as a covert activity, engaged in guiltily when there is no one around. On the contrary, research has found that school bullies glory in the presence of an audience. It provides theater. To a remarkable extent, the watchers either enjoy the spectacle or watch in a curious but largely disengaged manner. The few who may object are in a small minority.
Yet some do object. And here is another remarkable fact. On those rare occasions when a witness does object to bullying, there is a good chance that the bullying will stop. Indeed, several researchers have reported that bystander objections effectively discourage bullying at least half the time.
If students believe their classmates disapprove of bullying, they’re more likely to intervene to stop it. Their teachers’ and parents’ opinions have little influence.
Some anti-bullying programs tell children to tell a teacher — something kids often see as socially unacceptable — and penalize those who intervene physically to protect a victim.