In many past blog articles, I’ve addressed the Bystander issue. Stories like “The Pink Shirt Gang” show the power that a witness or bystander to bullying has to help defuse the situation and change outcomes for the one being bullied and the bully.
Many of the bullying support programs out there focus solely on the victim and bully. We know that the victim feels powerless and the bully feels powerful. We know that most bullying also happens when adults are not watching. Studies also show that bullies like an audience. Assuming that’s true, then the audience or bystander really have the power to stop the bullying incident.
So, why don’t bystanders actually get involved. It’s mainly because they are afraid and confused about what to say or do to stop the situation. One thing adults and school administration can do is help teach the bystander non-confrontational, yet effective strategies to stand up to a bully. Most bystanders want to do something to stop a bully. One research study shows that a bystander who stands up to a bully can stop the bullying incident 50% of the time.
So what can a bystander do? Here’s some tips:
- Distract the bully—a bystander can talk or intervene, giving the victim a chance to escape
- Sit with a target at lunch or in class (especially after an incident)
- Stand next to the victim and walk away, together
- Call the victim at home and offer support
- Verbally say to the bully to “back off—this isn’t cool or funny” or other ways to convince the bully they are in the wrong.
- Let the child know that many of their peers also think bullying is wrong and want to stand up—they just may not know how
- Talk to your child and have them come up with ideas about what they could say or do to help a victim
- Have your child role-play specific situations and responses. Give them encouragement
- Listen to your child’s fears and concerns about the risks of standing up and encourage them to find their own solutions. See if they can get friends to support this with them as well
- Encourage your child to confidentially tell a trusted adult (ideally you and someone at school)
- Share with them the “Pink Shirt Gang Story” that can be found on this site. It should inspire them to find solutions with peers
You can also share the article on this website about the emotional issues that bystanders who witness bullying deal with. Hopefully, as we continue to educate the next generation about bullying issues, they will learn that they do have the power to stop a bully.