Sometimes no reaction is the best action of all. That was one message Beacon Middle School students heard Oct. 9 while participating in a YMCA-sponsored anti-bullying event.
“Bullies are really good at instigating. They are good at starting fights,” said Pam Weiss of the YMCA, who spoke to a sixth-grade class about ways to prevent bullying. “Bystanders can help stop bullying 50 percent of the time.”
There is no sign bullying is fading – either traditional bullying or cyberbullying – but, Weiss said, resisting the urge to laugh at a mean comment, or refusing to engage in mean behavior can prevent many incidents from starting.
Weiss gave students strategies to prevent a bullying situation, and some students practiced the techniques by acting out skits about avoiding bullying situations, asserting themselves or using humor to defuse a situation.
In one skit, a student sent a nasty text message to several students, highlighting a growing trend among young people.
Weiss asked the students why they think cyberbullying is so popular.
“It's easy to hide,” said sixth-grader Tyler Losiewski.
The concept of cyberbullying is not new, but the mode of operation changes quickly.
A couple of years ago, cyberbullying was a term rarely heard, said Assistant Principal Dianne Mrazeck. Facebook fights cropped up once in awhile, but no one anticipated the speed at which new social media sites would spread. Now students have a host of sites to choose from – Twitter, Instagram and ask.fm, to name a few.
The site du jour can change weekly. So fast, that even Weiss may not be aware of all the new sites; only a smattering of hands raised when she asked a sixth-grade class how many use Facebook.
As assistant principal, Mrazeck said she has had to look into a few cyberbullying cases. Parents have called to let administrators know about comments or posts on the Internet.
“When that happens, we have people bring in their phone or print out a screen shot of what was written and bring it to us,” she said.
So far, she said, complaints have been resolved within the school; they have not required police intervention.