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BystanderEffect in Public Schools
Thebystander effect refers to a social situation where people do notoffer help to a person amidst a crisis. This is defined as a socialpsychological phenomenon. The spectators stand and observe as thevictim is being harassed and do nothing despite them having a senseof empathy to the victim. The number of spectators around the victimhas a huge impact on the bystander effect (Kobayashi & Futoshi).The probability of offering help decreases with the increase in thenumber of spectators as observers find it difficult to accept theobligation of offering assistance in the presence of a lot of people.An example where the bystander effect plays a huge role is inpromoting bullying in our public schools.
Thebystander effect has been related to different causes, orcontributing factors. However, there are two major factors which aregreatly related to the effect among people. One is the presence ofother people, which in turn is believed to create a scenario referredto as diffusion of responsibility. Due to the presence of the otherobserving group of people, individuals then feel reluctant to takeaction. This is due to the feeling that, the responsibility is sharedamong the people around. Another factor that contributes to thiseffect is the tendency for people to behave in what is defined ascorrect and socially acceptable ways. When some observers fail totake action, other individuals may take to the idea that, responsemay not be needed. This is explained by the idea that onlookers,mostly fear to participate when the situation may look ambiguous.
BystanderEffect in School Context
Bullyingis an increasing problem in public and private schools with manynegative consequences to the victims and their families persistinginto adulthood, these effects can be physical such as injuries,emotional, psychological, mental and social (Polanin et al 50). Theother negative impacts are noted on both the bully and thebystanders. Most research addresses the role of the bully and that ofthe bullied forgetting that of the bystanders. The bystandersactually hold a powerful position in relation to bullying(Drosopoulos et al). However, the bullying actions don’t not onlyinvolve the bully, and the bullied, but there are other students whoare onlookers. They can either prevent it or promote it. This paperdiscusses the bystander effect in public schools and the effect thishas in propagating bullying.
Despitethe introduction of many programs that aim at preventing bullying,the cases of bullying have increased considerably with 1 out of every3 children being bullied in the first two months (Lodge &Frydenberg 332). However, most of these cases occur in the presenceof an audience who often fail to do anything to stop thevictimization hence leading to a culture of silence on bullying.According to Lodge more than half of the students, who witnessbullying behavior, do nothing about it, but rather stand by andpassively watch (Lodge & Frydenberg 332). By passively watchingas one is being bullied, the peer bystander is actually lengtheningand encouraging the bully to continue. In so doing, the bystanderbecomes a participant in the bullying act by providing the audience.
Thereare two major reasons why bystanders do not intervene when theywitness cases of bullying. These reasons are due to social influenceand diffusion of responsibility. Social influence mainly through peerpressure leads to the conformity of thoughts that bullying isacceptable and a normal occurrence thus leading to no one taking anaction to prevent it (Lodge & Frydenberg 332). A study done by‘Lodge and Frydenberg’ questioned bystanders about theirreactions and thoughts about the bully. Most respondents had a senseof hatred and displeased with the bully. They however sympathizedwith the victim and wished to help but did not do so despite thedesire to help. They cited different reasons for their inaction oneof them being the not wanting the attention of being diverted to themfor intervening or fearing to be victims themselves. Others said thatthey had no idea on how to intervene and felt powerless over thesituation while others believed that the victim deserved it as theyhad other personal grudges with him/her (Lodge & Frydenberg 332).
Thereare many factors that affect the reactions of bystanders with themost important one being self-esteem. Bystanders with lowself-esteem, lack courage to intervene whereas those with highself-esteem support the victim who is being bullied. The ones withlow self-esteem have been found to join the bully (Polanin et al 56).It is important to raise the self-esteem of students as this promotestheir ability to intervene and prevent bullying. This can be done byteaching student’s effective problem solving methods,communication, decision making and goal setting. This raises theirself-esteem and teaches them how to handle different situations inlife such as bullying.
Diffusionof responsibility among the bystanders is another factor that leadsto inactiveness among the observers (Drosopoulos et al,). Everyspectator does not take it as his/her responsibility to stop the actand believes that another person and not they should intervene. Mostpeople see it as the responsibility of another person such as theteacher or other grownups to stop the act. They view other bystandersas the most qualified to intervene and not themselves (Polanin et al56). The presence of other people who seem to best placed tointervene, therefore, leads many of the individuals doing nothing tohelp the victim. As a result, the culture of bullying is perpetuatedin the public schools.
Thebystander can be a witness, an observer or a participant in the actof bullying. He/she has the power to either stop or sustain thebullying behavior (Drosopoulos et. al). A bystander sustains thebullying behavior by reinforcing the act through practices such aslaughing, joining the bully and being his/her associate or follower,or by defending the bully. On the other hand, the bystander can stopthe bullying by defending the victim from the bully or by seekingadult help. This has shown to reduce bullying patterns in publicschools.
Thefirst step to preventing the bystander effect is recognizing itsexistence. The reasons for its existence should be addressed as well.The second step should be raising the responsibility of thebystanders. They should believe that there is something that they cando to stop the bullying. This would discourage the diffusion ofresponsibility effect and therefore teach the bystanders to help out(Kobayashi & Futoshi). Programs aimed at reducing bullying shouldnot only focus on the bully or the one being bullied, but should alsofocus on the bystander behavior (Lodge & Frydenberg p330).Students should be taught from early stages how to stop bullyingrather than be told to report to the teacher or an adult (Drosopouloset. al). This would therefore reduce the bullying cases significantlysince most of the bullying cases have bystanders. Within the schoolcontext, the anti-bullying measure would equally help in curbing thebystander effect among the leaners or within the school. This wouldbe due to the fact that, the onlookers won’t fear the victimizationby the bullies once they intervene the situation.
Inconclusion, the bystander effect is a major influence in encouragingbullying especially. This is more so if the bystanders join the bullyin victimizing the person. Taking the initiative to speak out againstbullying is a major step in reducing the bystander effect and as aresult discourages bullying. Schools should therefore prevent thiseffect if they are to eradicate bullying. They should createawareness of what actions that they should take when they witnessbullying. This can help in creating a good example for the otherbystanders which in turn lead to a unanimous decision to stopbullying. There should be anti-bullying programs in schools and theyshould be open for all students joining since it is theresponsibility of every person to prevent bullying. Grown-ups shouldprepare students to be good bystanders by teaching them the diverseways they can make a difference. They should also support them whenthey step forward to stop bullying. Grown-ups should also give casesof how supportive observers have indicated bravery and made an impactin their own particular encounters.
"BystanderEffect | Psychology Today." Web. 30 Apr. 2015.<https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/bystander-effect>.
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Kobayashi,Futoshi. “Bullying in Japanese Schools.” EBSCOHOST,1999-09-00,Web, April 1, 2015
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