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Cell Phone Camera Campaign Helps Bullying Bystanders Stop Bullies By Laurie Wink


A new initiative in the battle against bullying called Bullying Bystanders Unite (BBU) draws on the popularity of cell phones with cameras to help students stop bullies in their tracks. Those on the sidelines can use cameras to record bullying episodes and use other techniques to squelch attacks in progress.

BBU is the latest resource developed by the non-profit organization Hey U.G.L.Y. (Unique Gifted Lovable You) to empower youth and their families to counteract bullying.

Taking a cue from Oprah’s “No Phone Zone Pledge,” people can take the BBU Pledge at Individuals who take the pledge commit to safely interceding when they see students being bullied. Safety rules are listed on the website. For example, students are advised to take on bullying situations in groups rather than alone. Several techniques are suggested for distracting the bully and getting the target out of the situation. And they are encouraged to use cell phone cameras to capture proof of the bullying.

Betty Hoeffner, president and co-founder of Hey U.G.L.Y., was motivated to develop BBU when a teen member reported being thrown on the ground and repeatedly kicked in the face by a bully.

“We contacted the police and they informed us that, unless there were eyewitnesses or video footage, not much could be done other than the parents filing a report,” Hoeffner says. “It’s the same for schools. A principal can’t reprimand the bully unless there’s proof or a witness.”

According to parenting expert and author, Dr. Michele Bora, 85 percent of school kids are bystanders. “They’re the missing link, the silent majority,” Bora said on a recent edition of “Dateline NBC.”

Peer groups are the most effective force in stopping bullies but kids can be reluctant to tell on each other, Hoeffner says. “The top two reasons teens and tweens don’t report bullying is because they are scared and don’t want to be seen as snitches.”

Similar to how Hey U.G.L.Y. took the sting out the word “ugly” by converting it to Unique Gifted Lovable You, the nonprofit is intent on removing the stigma surrounding “snitch.”

“We’re letting kids know that IF SNITCHING COULD SAVE A LIFE THEN they should SNITCH!!” says Hoeffner who dedicated a chapter to this in her book, “Stop Bullying Handbook-A Guide for Students and Their Friends.”

Responding to the possibility of being seen as a snitch, 17 year-old Shayna Shelton said it’s more important to protect a victim’s safety. “And who knows, it could be you next. Would you want someone to stand up for what’s right or have someone just be a bystander?”

Another student, Vicky Petrauskaitė, has been bullied and calls the BBU website “great.”

“It helps get the word across via the Internet about how dangerous and devastating it could be if one doesn’t tell someone about a bully!” she said.

Susan Gillespie May, a parent of a child who was bullied, also appreciates the BBU website. She said, “It gives children ideas many of them wouldn’t think of on how to handle a bullying situation. I just wish that when my son went through this more people came to his aid and that someone would have stopped it from happening.”

Hoeffner hopes the Hey U.G.L.Y. pledge drive will help reduce the bullying among youth. “This is crucial because experts say bullying too often leads to violence, loss of self-esteem, depression and even suicide. Suicide is the third largest killer of teens in America,” said Hoeffner, who almost lost a teen to suicide.

Bullying and being bullied at school are connected to violence-related behaviors such as carrying weapons and being injured in fights, according to the 2007 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. Almost a third of students ages 12 to 18 who participated in the survey said they’d been bullied during the academic year. Nearly 80 percent of those students said they were bullied inside the school. Bullying experiences that were mentioned included being: made fun of or the target of rumors; pushed, shoved, tripped or spit on; threatened with harm or made to do things they didn’t want to do; and intentionally left out of activities.

As part of the 2007 survey, four percent of students said they were cyber-bullied on or off school property during the school year. Of those, two percent said the cyber-bullying consisted of hurtful information about them posted on the Internet. The other two percent said they received unwanted contact by other students, who insulted or threatened them through instant messages.

Adults who were bullied as children see the value in Hey U.G.L.Y.’s anti-bullying efforts. Idene Goldman, founder of INNER EDUCATION, LLC, said, “This redeems my childhood pain! Thanks for all your efforts.” Goldman’s organization teaches students how to get in touch with their talents, strengths, emotions, temperament, personality, and the “driver” inside.

Tim Kazurinsky, former cast member of “Saturday Night Live,” has already taken the pledge, according to Hoeffner, who hopes other celebrities will join the movement.

Schools and law enforcement agencies can implement local BBU programs by sending a request for an information packet to Also available is the “Stop Bullying Handbook” which shares teens and tweens insights into who bullies, why they bully, how to spot bullying, how to defend against bullies and the importance of having empathy for their classmates. A special web site has been created for educators interested in incorporating empathy learning programs into their curriculums at


 bullying bystanders
 laurie wink
 betty hoeffner
 hey ugly

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