A teenage girl looking into the distance.

A bystander is someone who 'stands by' and watches something happen - like bullying - without doing anything to stop it.

If you’ve ever seen or heard someone being bullied, you know that it can be a very upsetting situation to be in.


You want to help but you feel that if you do, there’s a chance you might become a target for the bullies as well.


This is a very understandable feeling but it means that bullying can go on and those in the middle of it will continue to suffer.

Understanding bullying

Bullying can happen to anyone at any age. It can happen in a variety of places, in school, on the way to and from school, in your neighbourhood or even at home on your phone or other connected device.


Within any bullying situation there is the bully, the victim and the bystander, i.e. the person who looks on but doesn’t step in to help.

Some bystanders
encourage the bullying by laughing, cheering or making comments that further stimulate the bully.  

The power of the bystander

Most bystanders accept bullying by watching and doing nothing. These passive bystanders provide the audience a bully craves and the silent acceptance that allows bullies to continue their hurtful behaviour. 


However, bystanders have the power to play a key role in preventing or stopping bullying.

They can do this by directly intervening in a bullying situation, by discouraging the bully, defending the victim or redirecting the situation away from bullying.


Other bystanders get help by rallying support from peers to stand up against bullying or by reporting the bullying to a trusted adult. All these options are very positive and will help to bring it to a stop.


But why doesn’t this happen more? Here are a few reasons:


The most important thing is that you know that putting a stop to the bullying is the right thing to do. It’s not telling tales. It’s being responsible and helping to make someone’s life better.

If you’d like to read more about topics like this, check out the following articles: 

How to deal with peer pressure among your friends

5 signs you’re a people pleaser

Do you struggle to make friends? Here are a few things that might help

How to know when you’re in a toxic friendship group

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