Peer Influence to Reduce Bullying

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Adolescents listen to their peers and try to fit in. It is developmentally “their job.” Therefore, individuals can influence the group culture the moral tone of a peer group can influence individuals greatly. The group can favor respect for diversity and striving for success or dominance of one group or person over another to gain success. This dynamic pits a philosophy of “I must be better than everyone else in any way possible” against one of “I want to lend a helping hand to my neighbor so we all succeed.” Helping teens blend success striving with helping and respecting others in a highly competitive society can be challenging, as it is for many adults. Bullies are harsh and unkind and seek to dominate others by destroying another’s self-esteem. This gives the bully power. With power, he can play king of the heap. We, as adults, can share the ethos that power includes striving to be the best as well as helping others. Teachers and parents can teach that striving to be the best, does not mean that one has to step on people to accomplish success. Such teaching can be done through example and life’s little lessons. With adult support, it can become a cultural value for any group of teens. When the culture of the teen group is one of respect for everyone and lending a helping hand for someone in need, the peer culture will work against the expression of bullying behavior. But it is important that teens are very united and vocal about these beliefs, support each other, and put pressure on bullies so they know that what they are doing is wrong and not acceptable to the peer group. This is a way to reduce some of the bullying in schools. Support of teachers to build this peer culture is essential, as well.

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