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Beating the Bystander Effect – An Open Letter to Teens

Written by Marsha Rakestraw | 2 Comments | Published on February 18, 2013 | Filed under Humane Connection
The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Humane Education website at http://humaneeducation.org/blog/2013/02/18/beating-the-bystander-effect-an-open-letter-to-teens/
Image courtesy of beboehmer/Flickr.

Matt Langdon, our friend and ally over at The Hero Construction Company, recently posted a terrific open letter to teenagers, showing them how to beat the bystander effect and to become heroes.

As Matt says,

“Bullying works. It increases coolness. It provides power. If I asked everyone in your grade level to write down the three most popular people in the grade, the people who bully would show up over and over. However, if I asked you to write down the three people you liked the most, those who regularly bully wouldn’t show up. We don’t like it, but we don’t do anything about it. And so, we give the power. You see, the power comes from the audience. Bullying never happens in isolation.

It’s that audience that people remember. If you ask an adult what they remember about bullying, it’s not the person who was tormenting them that leaves a mark, it’s the people who did nothing to help.”

Matt goes on to talk about the factors that keep us from taking action, including not noticing that action is needed, being afraid to embarrassed to act, and shifting responsibility elsewhere. He also outlines five things youth can do to help themselves become heroes, including:

1. Stand out.
2. Question the rules.
3. Find new tribes.
4. Remove the reward (for being a bully).
5. Build a team.

As Matt says,

“I’m not going to lie, this is going to be tough. You’re going to fail. It’s going to be scary. It’s going to suck.

Do it anyway. Because you will succeed. You will change the world. You will be a hero. It just takes one person to start. Make it you.”

Read the complete letter.

Matt’s open letter is directed to teenagers, but his advice is relevant for adults, too.

~ Marsha