Think about what can happen as a result of being bullied:
That is a lonely place to be.
Now imagine how that could be different. Think about how powerful it would be for someone who feels all alone to have another person reach out to them, especially someone their own age who understands what they might be feeling and shows that they care. That person can be YOU.
Have you ever thought, “It’s none of my business—I should just ignore it and walk away.”
Put yourself in the other person’s place. If you were being pushed around, laughed at, gossiped about, made fun of, or ignored on purpose, wouldn’t you want someone to be there for you?
Know that when someone is hurting, especially emotionally, your support as a peer is incredibly meaningful!
Students who experience bullying often don’t tell anyone. They tend to keep it all inside, without sharing the pain they’re experiencing. Maybe they are nervous, afraid, or embarrassed. Maybe it’s because they feel they don’t have anyone they can talk to. If you know someone being bullied, let them know you care by encouraging them to talk about their experiences. Your goal doesn’t need to be fixing the problem; instead, focus on letting them express their story and their emotions. You might be the first person they tell.
Here are some ways to connect:
Recognizing what to do when you witness someone being bullied is complicated. There is not always a clear answer and a response that works well for one person may not be right for someone else. Know that when peers look out for each other, it has a tremendously positive impact on the student being bullied. Bullying tears people down. You can build them back up with encouraging words and actions.
Individuals often think the only way they can help is by confronting those doing the bullying. The reality is that in a bullying situation, confrontation is usually not safe to do. The one thing almost anyone can do to help is show support for the person being bullied. There are so many ways to do this; pay attention to what is happening, think about what you can do, and then act on it.
Here are some ways to be intentional with your support:
Research shows that peers can be very effective at intervening in a bullying situation. A creative and sometimes challenging solution is to change the direction of the situation to a more positive course. It might take some preparation, practice, planning, and extra thought—it’s not easy to speak up against a wave of negativity—but research also shows that when one person speaks up, others will follow.
Understand that this is not about getting in the middle of a fight or confronting those who are bullying. In fact, confrontation can be counterproductive and unsafe. The focus should be on supporting the person who is being bullied.
What does it look like to redirect a situation?
During class your teacher announces the winner of the science fair: a quiet, intelligent girl who doesn’t have many friends. Immediately, a bunch of your classmates start mocking her, joking about how she’ll never get a date to prom unless she makes one in the lab herself. You can see that their words are really upsetting the girl. You feel awful—she should be able to celebrate her big win.
What can you do? The whole class is starting to turn on this girl. You’re not sure that you’re okay with telling them directly to stop making fun of her, but maybe there’s a way for you to divert the situation. You take another look at her project on display in the front of the room and realize that it’s a pretty cool cell-phone-controlled robot. You start talking loudly to one of your friends about how cool it is and ask the inventor if you can try it out. Pretty soon the rest of the class shifts their attention to watching the robot zoom around the classroom. Now everyone is focused on this girl’s amazing invention, rather than tearing her down. You can then go to her after class, congratulate her on her well-deserved award, and ask if she would like you to help her talk with the teacher about what happened
When you witness bullying, whether you see it in person or online, it can be upsetting and difficult to respond to. Some situations are clear cut, like physical fights, and you know that telling an adult will keep everyone safe.
Many bullying situations can be much more complicated. When the bullying happens through gossip, name calling, intimidation, or trying to damage someone’s reputation, it can involve private, confidential details that another person doesn’t want shared. Maybe your friend is doing the bullying and you don’t want them to get in trouble.
In situations where you’re not sure what to do, seeking advice from an adult you trust can be helpful. An adult, such as your parents or a favorite teacher, can help you think through different ways to respond, while ensuring everyone stays safe.
Here are some ideas for talking with an adult.
Have you ever heard the old saying, “There is power in numbers”? In the world of bullying prevention, this is especially true. While it is absolutely important that each person does what they can, individual actions are magnified when we join forces. When a group of individuals works together for a common cause, that is when real change happens.
Try getting others involved by:
Do your best to help, but also know that each bullying situation is different. It’s not up to you to solve it, but recognize that your support can make a difference.