Bullying usually happens in front of an audience. This might mean a huge crowd gathered in the schoolyard or just two other friends in a group chat. These onlookers – or ‘bystanders’ – can have a massive impact on how things pan out for the person being bullied.
As a bystander, you can choose to take on a few different personas:
A) the Sidekick, who joins in on the bullying behaviour and makes it worse
B) the Reinforcer, who eggs on the bullying by watching it or laughing at it
C) the Outsider, who ignores the bullying, but doesn’t do anything to stop it
D) the Upstander, who tries to help or support the person being bullied.
Here’s why you should go with option D, every time.
1) Standing up to bullying can be a real game-changer
So, why is it important to be an upstander? Research shows that when someone steps in and stands up to bullying behaviour, it’s likely to stop right away. Most people also agree that bullying is wrong, so it’s likely that your mates feel just as uncomfortable about the bullying as you do.
If you’re worried about being the first one to step in, you could talk to a trusted mate and check whether you have their support. By taking the lead, you’ll make it heaps easier for everyone else to be an Upstander, too.
2) Bullying has more serious effects than you might think
For the person being bullied, the effects can include feelings of confusion, rejection, stress, fear, shame or embarrassment. Bullying can even cause anxiety, depression or physical illness. To get a better idea of the serious effects of bullying, check out this story from a young person who's experienced it.
3) If you’re scared, imagine how the person being bullied feels!
It’s normal to feel scared about stepping in. No one wants to get stuck in the crossfire and become the next target for bullying. But try to imagine what it’s like to be the person who’s being bullied. They’re probably feeling really crap. If you’re not comfortable stepping in when the bullying is happening, you could contact the person being bullied later and let them know you’ve got their back.
4) You’d do it for your BFF
Sometimes, when we’ve got a tough job on our hands, we start making excuses. But, no matter which way we try to spin it, bullying is always wrong and never fair. If you find yourself making excuses for the bullying, try to imagine how you’d feel if your best mate was being treated that way. Remember: no one deserves to be bullied, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to try to stop bullying from happening.
5) Stepping in will help keep your squad up to scratch
A solid squad will always have each others’ backs. That means being an Upstander when one of your mates is being bullied, but it also means pulling your mates up if they’re bullying someone else. This can be pretty tricky, but just because someone is your friend, it doesn’t excuse them bullying others.
It’s also normal to be concerned about a friend who is bullying someone else. Their behaviour could be a sign that they’re not in a good place. If you’re not comfortable speaking to them about it face-to-face, send a message to let them know you’re worried about them.
What can I do now?
- If a friend or someone you know is being bullied, try some of the suggested ways to be an upstander e.g. send them a text or a DM to let them know you’ve got their back.
- Chat to other young people on the ReachOut forums about their experiences as bystanders.
- Check out our tips for how to be an Upstander.