We have a tendency in our country to make things more complicated than necessary. When dealing with issues concerning our young people, for example, we tend to seek solutions in program-based responses. Often times, a much simpler solution is not only much more readily available, but also more effective. This is not to say that programs don’t work or don’t have a place in our response—it just means they may not be an appropriate first response.
In the world of bullying prevention, the “simpler solution” includes the power of bystanders. Research shows that when a peer bystander intervenes in a bullying situation, the bullying usually stops within 10 seconds. 10 SECONDS. (In our work developing resources for sexual harassment and assault, we are also finding peer intervention as the most effective strategy.) THAT is a powerful intervention worth nurturing!
Peers need to be coached in how to intervene, sure. That training may happen in the context of a program, true. But let’s be sure to keep our eyes on the importance of relationship building and social emotional skills MORE than entering the slippery slope of “criminalizing” bullying behavior (the person bullying needs our support and guidance too) and thinking the solution lies in ever more structured ways of passing on expectations and norms.