Be a Friend

A Student Leadership ~ Positive Norms Approach to Reduce Bullying & Limit its Harmful Effects

Be a Friend ~ Lend a Hand is Embrace Civility in the Digital Age’s research-based student-led, positive norms program that seeks to encourage students to positively intervene when they witness bullying or other hurtful situations. This program is currently being merged into the Positive Relations @ School (& Elsewhere) program.

While most young people think bullying and other hurtful behavior is wrong, studies have shown they rarely intervene when they see this is occurring. Increasingly, the positive involvement of witnesses has been recognized as a critically important prevention and early intervention strategy.

As young people interact using digital technologies, a focus on positive interventions by witnesses becomes even more important, because often young people interact in digital environments where adults are not present. Further, studies have shown that young people often do not report negative experiences to adults, but they do tell their friends.

The Be a Friend ~ Lend a Hand program is an approach that seeks to reduce the barriers for peer intervention in situations where bullying or conflict is witnessed. Two key barriers to be addressed are perception of risk to self, primarily risk to social status, that might occur as a result of intervening and the lack of skills to intervene in a manner that will be both safe and effective.

The objectives of the Be a Friend ~ Lend a Hand program are to reduce bullying and other hurtful behavior and to increase positive intervention by witnesses in face-to-face or digital aggression situations. The strategies used include:

  • Reinforce the negative peer perspective of those who are hurtful and the positive peer perspective of those who help to reduce the social status barriers to intervention.
  • Increase students’ insight and skills to safely and effectively intervene in peer aggression situations in a variety of ways.
  • Increase the positive actions of those students who are motivated to positively intervene, but who often do not do so.

Students who witness hurtful behavior are encouraged to:

  • Reach Out.  Reach out to be kind to the person being hurt.
  • Say, “Stop.”  Tell the person being hurtful to stop.
  • Report Concerns. Tell an adult who can help.

The Program

The following resources are available for download for preview purposes – all in PDF format. The modifiable template resources will be made available in a modifiable format after purchase.

You can look at the Be a Friend ~ Lend a Hand survey here. This is not a location for your students to complete this survey.

It is not anticipated that any schools will be interested in using this program Spring 2013. However, if you are, I am willing to support the use of this program by a few schools on an experimental basis ~ with no charge.


I would like to specifically thank Gary McDaniel, Clinical School Social Worker in Morgan Country Schools, West Virginia. Gary has been an early user of my positive norms strategies in his schools. His practical guidance on what works and what does not work has been exceptional helpful. I would also like to thank  Mary C. Friesz, doctoral student, for her assistance in some of the early stages of my research. Also, my discussions with Karen Siris have been exceptionally helpful. Karen is a principal in Long Island and author of Stand Up, an incredibly excellent book for elementary students on stepping up to help if a student is being bullied.

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