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Fixing the Problem This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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I've noticed many anti-bullying messages go one of two ways. Sometimes, they target the bullies, demanding they stop their hurtful actions and accept others as they are. The other type of message seeks to uplift the victims, with promises that the future will be better and that they should remain strong in their identity. My problem with these trends is that they leave the power dynamic within the bully-victim relationship. Those messages rely on either the victim to be resilient or the antagonist to change. Both of those things are a serious challenge. People, especially teens, can only endure for so long, and they should not have to endure in the first place.

On the other side of things, you can tell bullies to stop, but their actions, and the opportunity to commit more actions, are still there. There are even more opportunities today via the Internet, cell phones, and any type of accessible media. Technology has created the potential for new scenarios of harassment all over the world, but a message against them is not enough. Victims should not be in this alone.

What if we change the power dynamic in the bully-victim relationship? What if two or three people who witness the harassment step in and stop it? Suddenly the dynamic changes. When bystanders stop being bystanders and start looking out for their peers, the power shifts to the victim, and against the antagonist's actions.

Peer pressure is often seen as a bad thing, but if you take its power and give it to the right people, it can be used for good. It is important to empower victims, but it is difficult if they are constantly being torn down. Empowering bystanders to act will tip the scale in the right direction much more effectively. The victim stops being a victim and becomes a friend in need, or just a classmate worth helping.

Not getting involved is easier than making a stand. I get that. This applies to all ages, not just teens. It's part of the issue with anti-bullying campaigns. Meanness isn't just a teen problem. It's in adults too, everywhere. However, that means kindness can be everywhere as well. Broaden the anti-bullying messages. Everyone should learn that it is not only okay to get involved, but that it is right and necessary to look out for others. The more people are willing to step in and stand up for others, rather than encourage them to stand alone, the stronger the push for tolerance will be.

There is strength in numbers, and there are more bystanders than bullies. Give the bystanders the power to get involved, and I believe they will make the most impactful difference on bullying anyone has seen to date. It's not enough to support the message. We have to act on it.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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