How Bad is the Bystander Effect?

One Monday evening by a Long Island strip mall, Khaseen Morris died at a hospital after being stabbed to the chest. Fifty other teenagers there witnest the scene, but less than a quarter of them helped. “Kids stood there and didn’t help Khaseen,” Detective Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick of the Nassau County Police Department said in a news conference on the Tuesday after the murder, “They videoed his death instead of helping him.”

The bystander effect. The term bystander effect refers to the phenomenon in which the greater number of people present, the less likely people are to help a person in distress. According to Penn State after the murder of Khaseen Morris, “People did not take action because they all assumed that there must be someone else who already has called the police.” If more people had helped Khassen, there may have been a chance Khaseen wouldn’t have died. First, we have to understand what goes into the bystander effect.

There are two major factors that contribute to the bystander effect. Firstly, the presence of other people creates a confusion of who is responsible for helping. Because there are other observers, individuals feel as if they shouldn’t take action because there are other people who can do it. The other factor to the bystander effect is the need to behave in correct and socially acceptable ways. When other observers fail to react, individuals often take this as a signal that a response is not needed or not appropriate. If we can get people to learn that not helping someone isn’t okay, we could have many less problems when it comes to bullying, or even violence. Luckily, there are ways to help.

If we could have teachers talk about the importance of helping people in need instead of standing there to their classes, that would be amazing. We could have so many schools learning about how to get out of the bystander effect and that could lower the amount of school bullying cases around the world. It could also help stop violence because, who knows, the things you learned from school could just come in handy.

If we could set up meetings with some parents in your local town to discuss the importance of breaking out of the bystander effect, imagine how many people we could have helped learn this and how many lives are being saved. 

We all need to take action and stop video-recording people who are in danger. The bystander effect is a cruel thing. Step into the situation and help. You don’t want to have to feel the guilt one day of not helping someone in need. And who knows, you may need to help someone soon.

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