Everyone’s had experience with bullies. In fact, it doesn’t end when the final high school bell rings, despite what late ’80s teen movies often led us to believe. Many of us adults still deal with workplace and social circle versions of bullying — be it passive-aggressive body-shaming or ruthless online harassment. That’s why we are thrilled that Family Channel is once again doing Stand UP!, the network’s 12th annual Bullying Awareness Week, from November 17 to 23, 2014.
As part of the important national campaign, actresses Alexandra Beaton and Jennie Pappas from Family Channel’s beloved series The Next Step will host four rallies at schools across Canada — where they’ll meet with students in an interactive setting to help get the conversation going. It starts with dialogue. And that’s why we were delighted to have a thought-provoking discussion with Beaton about Stand UP! and how all of us can do our part to end bullying no matter how old we are or how long it’s been since we left the classroom…
Tell us a bit about yourself. What should people know?
My name is Alexandra Beaton, and I am from Toronto, Ontario. I am an actress and most people know me as Emily from Family Channel’s The Next Step. I’ve been acting for as long as I can remember, and I started dancing at 2. While acting is my main passion, I also love to read, travel, and learn. A little known fact is about me: I am in my third year of university. We just wrapped filming season 3 of The Next Step, and I’m currently gearing up for the Stand UP! anti-bullying tour.
How did you get involved with Stand UP! and what will you be doing this fall as part of the Stand UP! campaign?
Stand UP! is Family Channel’s campaign to raise awareness around bullying, and I was lucky enough to be asked to be a part of it this year. Together Jennie (Pappas) and I will be traveling across Canad,a speaking at schools about bullying and how people can help. There may be a dance party or two along the way.
How did bullying affect your life growing up, be it directly or through a loved one’s experiences?
Unfortunately, bullying is not an “if,” it’s a “when.” For me, it came in all shapes and sizes, ranging from emotional to physical. As women, it is something we deal with almost daily, from society imposing impossible physical and emotional standards on us, or from an acquaintance’s snide remarks.
Looking back, are there any moments in your past where you regret not standing up for yourself or someone else? If so, if you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
There is one specific situation in which I feel I could have handled myself better. A girl in my school was getting bullied, and I was paralyzed to do anything for fear that I would be ostracized or even become the target myself. I know now that this is called “the bystander effect.” If I could give myself one piece of advice, it would have been to reach out to the girl and take her to trusted adults to seek help.
What’s one of the most important things a person of any age can do to prevent bullying, in your opinion? How do you stand up for others even now when you feel someone is being bullied, be it a stranger or friend?
At any age, bullying is a scary thing. If I could give a piece of advice to people, it would be to keep in mind that the person doing the bullying is probably being bullied themselves, so their self-esteem and self-worth are probably much lower than what you would think. Though it may be hard, don’t engage. If it continues, reach out to friends, trusted adults, or human resources. This is called “the relationship approach,” and it has a high chance of success. Now that I am older, I have a much easier time intervening if I see something happening that does not sit well with me. Like I said, I never engage the bully. I simply reach out to the person I perceive is the victim and offer a shoulder to lean on and advice if they ask for it.
What are some of the most effective ways schools can help prevent bullying, in your opinion?
An effective way for schools to prevent bullying is to make sure there is a dialogue about it — one that is open, honest, and also protects both the person being bullied and the bully. Punishing someone who is a bully is a shot-term solution; getting to the root of the bullying is — and finding a solution to the problem it a long-term solution.
As we get older, bullying doesn’t necessarily go away. There are bullies that even make going to work an uncomfortable and sometimes painful experience for some adults. What can adults — and the companies they work for — learn from the schools and young people taking part in the Stand UP! campaign?
In my opinion, companies first need to address the fact that there are bullies in the workplace. Only from there can the real work begin. Open dialogue is, of course, very important, but one also has to recognize that it may be harder for adults to admit to being bullied or even realize that they are. Workshops about bullying, what it is, how to recognize it, and what to do if it is happening to you or a colleague (reporting, intervening) is a good place to start.
What some of the anti-bullying strategies you apply to everyday life today? Do you have a mantra you follow or an internal anti-bullying code of ethics?
Personally, I live by the mantra “treat others the way you want to be treated.” That way you can respect yourself while respecting others. It is something we all learn in kindergarten that is still important today.