Fight Against Bullying

Fight Against Bullying: Teaching Students to be Active Bystanders

Bullying can be defined as teasing, harassment, cyber bullying, physical violence, name-calling, intimidation, threats, exclusion or mean looks. The reasons individuals engage in such behaviour vary from bullies thinking it’s fun/cool to lacking confidence and trying to fit in with a group. In adolescence particularly, peer relationships are increasingly important in how young people treat each other, and unfortunately individuals are either less likely to report bullying or bullying happens out of sight of teachers that it can take time for the bullying to be identified. The Australian Covert Prevalence Bullying Study conducted by Edith Cowan University in May 2009 identified that:

  • 1 in 4 Year 4 to 9 students reports being bullied every few weeks or more in Australia
  • It is estimated that 25% of students are affected by bullying to the degree that it affects their mental health and wellbeing.
  • Research shows that peers are present in 85% of bullying incidents at school.

Bethany is committed to creating a caring and nurturing school community. One way to achieve this is to combat bullying by teaching students how to be active bystanders. Bystanders are those who witness or know bullying is occurring. When bystanders defend or support the student who is being targeted, often the bullying stops quickly. The Australian Covert Prevalence Bullying Study (May, 2009) found that bullying has been shown to stop within 10 seconds when bystanders take positive action.

How to teach your child to be an active bystander

Express Empathy. Encourage your child to show empathy to their peers by reaching out to those that are being victimised, for example, whisking a student away from the bullying or telling a bully to stop or by talking to the victim and offering help.

Role-playing different situations is a fun way to teach skills and it also reduces the child’s need to improvise during periods of heightened distress. Remember to emphasize that kids should only step in when they feel safe.

Discuss when it’s appropriate to speak up in a conflict and when it’s safer to ask for the help of an adult. Make it clear that you expect kids to take action if they see someone being hurt, or if they are hurt themselves.

Assertiveness. Teach children to stand up for themselves/others using appropriate language in a calm but firm voice. Encourage your child to avoid name-calling or mirroring the bullies’ aggressive behaviour.

Avoid physical confrontation and walk away. Bullies enjoy having an audience, which will promote their bullying behaviour. Teach children to walk away with their head and posture held high and avoid certain body language that may show vulnerability to bullies. Have your children encourage others to leave, too.

Lead by example. If you see someone being bullied or hurt, help them.

Build empathy in your kids. If you see examples of people being bullied or hurt in movies, television, or books, talk with your children about how these people must feel. Ask your children how they would feel in that situation and what they would do to make it better.

Develop positive social skills. Encourage your children to be friends with many different people. Have them spend time with people of different ages, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, religions, and mental and physical abilities.

Cyber awareness. If your child sees a classmate being targeted online, encourage her to save the message and report the cyberbullying to an adult. Many social media sites have avenues for reporting abuse, so help her become familiar with how to report harassment on social media.

Talk about it. If your child knows the bullies, encourage them to talk to them privately (ask what is going on). If they do not feel comfortable enough to talk to the bullies, they can always talk to the teachers, school administrators and counsellors, and their parents. Never remain silent when someone is bullied.

Let’s all work together to combat bullying!


Katerina Stratilas

College Counsellor