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The Role of the Bystander

Bullying also involves children who may not be directly involved in the bullying or who are not being directly bullied, who are referred to as ‘bystanders’. A bystander is someone who sees the bullying or knows that it is happening to someone else.

Bystanders could face disciplinary action if they become involved in the wrong way.

Some bystander behaviours can make bullying worse:

  • starting the bullying by prodding the bully to begin
  • giving 'silent approval' by not becoming involved
  • assisting by joining in
  • reinforcing by encouraging, cheering and laughing, even if not actively participating.
  • providing an audience

As a bystander you might feel too scared to confront a bully because...

  • you are afraid you will be targeted next
  • you don't want to get involved - it's none of my business
  • you feel powerless to stop the bully
  • you don't like the victim or think they "deserve it"
  • you think telling an adult won't help or will make it worse
  • you don't know what to do

You can be a helpful bystander:

  • discourage the bully
  • walk away
  • try to stop the bullying behaviour by defending the person being bullied
  • report the behaviour - get help
  • support victim after the attack. Help them with the "SAFE" steps