Teach Your Teen to Be an Upstander, Not a Bystander

Show your teens that even when they witness bullying (and aren&t directly involved), they can still help prevent it from happening again.

Aug 11, 2014




Aug 11, 2014

Bullying—repeated, unwanted aggressive behavior—can take many forms. There’s physical bullying, emotional bullying, and verbal bullying. It can happen just about anywhere, such as in the classroom, in the hallways, in the cafeteria, on the school bus, on the athletic field, or online. Unfortunately, it’s all too common.

Teens who witness bullying are put into a difficult situation. They may want to help, but they aren’t always sure how, and certainly don’t want to become future targets of bullying. Teach your teen the following key strategies to help him or her be an upstander who helps address bullying without being in harm’s way, rather than be a bystander or a witness who does not get involved.

Don’t Be an Audience. If your teen sees bullying taking place—whether it’s name-calling, inappropriate or hurtful posts online, or a classmate being shoved into a locker by another classmate—it’s important that he or she doesn’t encourage the person who is bullying by staring or laughing, or become a participant by replying to or forwarding a post or message. In the moment, it can be challenging to confront the person doing the bullying and it can often make the situation worse. Stress the importance of your teen removing himself or herself from the situation and asking a trusted adult to intervene. If the person doing the bullying is a friend and if it’s safe, your teen can ask him or her to stop and get him or her to move on to something else. Another tactic is to encourage your teen to help the person being bullied get away from the situation by offering the student a seat at the lunch table, suggesting they walk away together, or helping remove him or her from the situation without a confrontation.

Support the Target. Once the bullying incident is over, encourage your teen to approach the target of the bullying and offer support. He or she could say, for example, “You didn’t deserve that. What can I do to help?” The idea is to let targets of bullying know that they’re not alone. It takes a lot of courage to say something like this face-to-face, so if your teen is too nervous, even a caring email, phone call, text, or Facebook or Twitter message hours later can make a big difference in supporting the teen being bullied. Sometimes, your teen might be able take it a step further. For instance, if your teen notices that the target of the bullying is usually mocked while walking alone to class, your teen could offer to walk with him or her.

Report the Incident at School. Talk to your teen, school administration, or your PTA to find out what the bullying policy is at school. Ask: “Should incidents be reported to a particular person?” If there is no policy or if the policy doesn’t answer that question, encourage your teen to tell any trusted adult at school, such as a teacher, guidance counselor, nurse, administrator, or principal. Remind your teen that all he or she needs to do is simply explain what happened—the adults can then help find a solution.   

Report the Incident at Home. Urge your teen to speak openly about bullying at home, such as around the dinner table, to get a sense of what kind of bullying is happening at school and what your teen is doing to help prevent it. Ask questions like, “Do you ever see kids being bullied by other kids at school? How does it make you feel?” and “What do you usually do when you see bullying going on?” Follow up by reminding your teen that he or she can help by being nice to the student who was bullied and offering to go with him or her to tell a trusted adult at school.

Check out scholastic.com/banishbullying/parents for additional free resources.


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