Last night’s Dateline was a great episode for any parent, caregiver, future parents, or school staff. They took 6 or 7 teenagers, 3 of which were actors, and put them in bullying situations to see how they would react. The non-actors weren’t directly the bullies or bullied, but instead they became the bystanders as 2 of the actors proceeded to bully the third.
Watch Part 1 here, and all of the other sections are available online, too. (I can’t seem to embed it here)
The kids were groups of all boys or girls, set up in a stereotypical situation with hidden cameras so the parents can watch. The girls thought they were in some fashion competition show for NBC. They were instructed to work as a team to pick out an entire outfit from the many clothes available in the room. The boys were in a gym, and they thought they were there for some series on boys athletics. I don’t think the situations necessarily reinforce stereotypes, but instead utilizes them to provide a more common experience for the teens. With the exception if the actors, none of the kids had met before.
These bystanders can be the most critical when it comes to bullying. According to Rosalind Wiseman, many kids in this role tend to think the best thing is to not take sides. Instead, this position is actually taking sides with the bully for allowing it to keep going. “Bystanders are absolutely the most critical part in stopping bullying.” This show did a great job at showing parents that not everything is as perfect as it may seem, even if kids say so. Wiseman continued, “If we want to stop bullying, we have to actually really address the bystanders.”
I encourage everyone to watch this, but there are two especially commendable kids from the show: Lilly and Isaiah. Isaiah did his best to prevent bullying by physically inserting himself between the bully and the bullied, twice. Lilly became very vocal and stood up for an overweight girl being bullied. Also, when the adult came back into the room, she spoke up about something being wrong instead of playing it off as being ok. Their parents should be very proud.
Another very important role was the male coach supervising the boys. In one scenario, the coach gave more power to the bullies by telling the bullied kid to “man up.” This also made the bystanders feel like they had even less control in the situation once the adult figure basically allowed the behavior to continue.
These set-ups showed how easily some kids can be manipulated, but also the difficulty some kids have even being near those situations. Even a girl who frequently talked with her mom about bullying was easily sucked in.
Personally, I was crying throughout the whole episode, but for many reasons. I was incredibly proud of those kids that stood up to the bullies. I was also crying because I have been in the exact situation as those boys, as the bystander, but also as the bullied kid. They are both tough positions to be in, and I am incredibly grateful for my best friend at the time.
It should also be noted that all 3 actors playing the bullied teens have been victims on bullying in their own lives. Even though they were acting here, they could not remain completely unfazed.
Dateline has also provided extra material to go with the episode. Tips on bullying for kids and adults can be found here. Additional links and resources can be found on Dateline’s blog (many of the comments are school admin and counselors requesting a copy of the episode). I strongly support The Trevor Project (even my sister has asked me about them so she could provide support for one of her best friends).
*UPDATE* Here is an article that Kate Snow wrote about this episode on the Huffington Post: