PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Bullies: Innocent Bystanders

In a bullying situation, there are usually bystanders, but they aren't exactly "innocent".

Bullying usually happens with other kids around, right? Having an "audience" is very important to a bully. She wants people to see what she's doing, and that she has power over the person she's bullying. It's usually because a bully wants a reputation for being tough or strong, or because she thinks it'll make her more popular.

So what about the people watching the bullying? Why are they letting it happen? Here are some possible reasons:

  • The bully is someone other people look up to and want to hang out with.
  • They want to "side" with the bully because to do that makes them feel strong. Siding with the bully's victim, on the other hand, would make them feel weak.
  • They're entertained by the bullying.
  • They don't think speaking up will help.
  • They're afraid that if they say something, the bully will turn on them.
  • Watching the bullying is a way to bully "vicariously." This means that they feel like they're getting their frustrations out by hurting someone even though they're not doing the hurting, just watching the hurting.

Did you know that if one person watching a bullying situation says "Stop it!", half the time the bullying will stop? This can be hard to do, but it's important to try. When you stand by and do nothing, that's saying that bullying is okay with you. It makes you no better than the bully himself.

Here are some things you can do if you see someone getting bullied:

  • Tell the bully to stop. Examples: "Cut it out!", "That's not funny!", "How'd you like it if someone did that to you?" Let the bully know that what he or she is doing is stupid and mean.
  • If you feel like you can't speak up, walk away from the situation and tell the nearest adult. Get them to come help. This is not tattling!

If you see someone being bullied over and over again -- whether that person is a friend, sibling, or classmate -- you can make a big difference in helping to stop it:

  • If your school has a bullying reporting program, like a hotline or "bully box", use it.
  • Make sure the kid who's being bullied tells his parents, or a teacher. Offer to go with him if it will help.
  • If she doesn't want to talk to anybody, offer to talk to someone on her behalf.
  • Involve as many people as possible, including other friends or classmates, parents, teachers, school counselors, and even the principal.

Do NOT use violence against bullies or try to get revenge on your own. It's possible that by speaking up or helping someone, you've made the bully want to come after you. Be prepared for this, and hold your ground. You already have adult support on your side.

Try to remember the Golden Rule:

Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Stand up for someone when he or she needs it, and when you need it, someone will stand up for you.

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