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Becoming an Upstander to Bullying Just Got Easier!

Oct 24, 2018|By: Maureen Perkins, Public Health Analyst with the Health Resources and Services Administration and StopBullying.gov Ed Board member
Posted In: Prevention Response

Don’t be a bystander when it comes to bullying. Be an Upstander!

StopBullying.gov has new resources to help you safely upstand to bullying. For example, our new Bystander Fact Sheet details the different roles bystanders play in stopping or enabling the bullying behavior. We have also released the new Become an Upstander to Bullying video online to view and share – they are available on the StopBullying.gov YouTube channel in English and Spanish.

When bullying occurs, there are often bystanders present. A bystander is anyone who witnesses bullying, either in person or online. Peers, teachers, school staff, parents, coaches, and other youth-serving adults can be bystanders. Bystanders can choose to become an Upstander and make a positive difference in a bullying situation. Choosing to become an upstander can help to stop the bullying, can help to support the person being bullied and can also limit the traumatic effect that witnessing bullying can have. 

Youth who are bullied often feel alone and ashamed especially when there are others around who witness the event. There are many reasons why a bystander may not interject, even if they believe that bullying is wrong. They may be afraid of retaliation or of becoming the target of bullying themselves. They might fear that getting involved could have negative social consequences. But one person’s support can make a world of difference for someone who is being bullied. Research shows that bullied youth who are defended and supported by their peers are less anxious and depressed than those who are not.

According to A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Bullying Prevention Programs’ Effects on Bystander Intervention Behavior, when bystanders defend the target of bullying and intervene, the bullying stops within 10 seconds more than half the time!

There are many things that witnesses to bullying can do to become upstanders:

  • Question the bullying behavior. Simple things like changing the subject or questioning the behavior can shift the focus.
  • Use humor to say something funny and redirect the conversation.
  • There is strength in numbers too! Bystanders can intervene as a group to show there are several people who don’t agree with the bullying.
  • Walk with the person who is the target of bullying to help diffuse potential bullying interactions.
  • Reach out to check in with the person who was bullied to let them know you do not agree with it and that you care. It makes a difference.
  • Watch CDC’s Be Someone’s Hero video for an example of how to be an upstander (also available in Spanish).
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