To defeat bullying, Scouts must shift from bystander to ‘upstander’

Note from Bryan: October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Each Wednesday this month, the BSA Youth Protection team will share important reminders about what each of us can do to prevent, recognize and report bullying as we work to make Scouting a safe place for all.

  • Week 1 (Oct. 4): The BSA is a safe place for all
  • Week 2 (this post): Encouraging Scouts to move from bystander to upstander
  • Week 3 (Oct. 18): What to do when bullying becomes serious
  • Week 4 (Oct. 25): Concerns for risk of harm and suicide

This post comes from Jim Wilson, national Youth Protection chairman.

How to encourage Scouts to move from bystander to “upstander”

It was Albert Einstein who said it best.

“The world is dangerous not because of those who do harm,” he said, “but because of those who look at it without doing anything.”

For National Bullying Prevention Month and beyond, let’s encourage our Scouts to do something. Let’s encourage them to be upstanders — not bystanders.

In the book The Bullying Antidote: Superpower Your Kids for Life, authors Louise Hart and Kristen Caven share their thoughts on the differences between bystanders and upstanders.

“Bystanders make a decision to either actively or passively support the bully” through a lack of involvement. An upstander “recognizes that he or she has a choice and decides, ‘I can and will do something to help make things better.’”

As we share knowledge about bullying prevention with our youth, we must remind our Scouts and Venturers that they have a choice. They can choose to make things better.

Hopefully the lessons about “a Scout is Kind” and their understanding that the BSA is meant to be a safe place for all Scouts and Scouters will help them make a choice. They can and will play important roles in changing the bullying environment if they step up and be an “upstander.”

The BSA has introduced the term “upstander” into our Youth Protection language and focus, but the concept goes beyond our movement.

Books are being written about the concept and how to understand the relationships between bystanders and upstanders. Celebrities are reaching out to their fans with personal requests for understanding and involvement to stop bullying. Actions are taking place on the internet and through social media to help bystanders evolve into upstanders.

Hart and Caven indicate that adults can share with our youth, and other adults, that the success of upstanders comes from their power to do the following:

  • Control or stop a bullying situation
  • Support the victim and ensure their safety
  • Be assertive and step in to a difficult situation
  • Be an example of great Scouting by doing the right things
  • Ask for help from a trusted adult, when needed
  • Set boundaries that are understandable and healthy
  • Make sure that others understand how to be compassionate to the victim, while also preventing bullying

Be an upstander, and teach your youth how to be upstanders. You can make a difference!