I recently read an article in the Boston Globe that said that though bullying is being fought constantly, usually only two parties are addressed: the bully and his or her victim. But there is in fact a third party that merits more attention: the bystander.
Kids in school—regardless of their age—see bullying everyday. It may be as serious as a kid being beat up in the parking lot, or it could just be someone being laughed at briefly for an answer they gave in class, but it is seen at least once a day by every person in the school. I know because I just graduated high school last May and I can’t think of a single day that I spent in that building where I didn’t see it occur. Sometimes I was the victim, sometimes I was even the bully, but more often than not I was just a spectator.
The truth is the spectators are crucial to the bully’s plan of attack. Have you ever had someone who teased you every single day? I have. But they only teased me when other people were around. I would pass that person in the hallway when it was just the two of us and they wouldn’t say a word. Bullying is a show and the performers always rely on the energy of the audience.
So don’t give it to them.
Don’t laugh at what the bully is saying. I understand that you probably think that if you laugh the bully won’t pick on you. This might be true, but I know that what worked for me is that saying something back to the bully stopped them from picking on me.
If you see one of your friends being picked on tell the bully to stop. It’s as simple as saying, “Hey, be quiet!” and taking your friend and walking away. And if you’re the one being picked on don’t be afraid to defend yourself. The best defense is a good offense. The bully is probably picking on you because they see you as an easy target, they don’t expect you to say something back to them. Surprise them and do it. You’ll get them to think twice and you’ll earn the respect of the bystanders and, importantly, the respect of yourself. At least in my state, bullying in schools and on buses is now illegal. That means teachers and school staff have to report any incidents. There’s no reason to keep quiet about bullies anymore.
Studies show one-third of children have either been a bully or a victim, and nearly all have been bystanders.