How Adults Can Help
Helping Bystanders

Who are Bystanders

A bystander is someone who is present when bullying happens. Bystanders have the responsibility to help when they see someone being bullied.



How can adults help bystanders?


Adults can influence bystanders to take a stand and be a support to them by:

  • Teaching students / children to have compassion for others and encourage children to take the following steps if they witness bullying;
    • Inform an adult of the incident
    • Do not stand, watch and laugh
    • Ask the bully to stop
    • Run and find the nearest adult to report the incident to
    • Be the victims’ friend
  • Emphasize the difference between telling tales and reporting. Allow them to understand that there is nothing wrong with reporting a bullying incident. Remember that “telling tales is when you are trying to get someone into trouble but reporting is when you are getting someone out of trouble” (Fried & Fried 2003).
  • Educate children about the harm of silence. “Not to acknowledge bullying for what it is or to simply dismiss it is to still be a complicit bystander” (Coloroso, 2003). By not doing anything it is like saying that it is okay for the bullying to take place.


When a report of bullying is made by a bystander, adults can help in the following ways:

  • Reassure the child of confidentiality
    • Most bystanders do not report bullying incidents as they are afraid of retaliation, hence it is very important for adults to maintain the confidentiality of witnesses who report bullying incidents as this will not only encourage more witnesses to come forward but in turn could help more victims and bullies. When a report is made it is an opportunity for both victims and bullies to get help.
  • Praise the child for taking the right step by reporting the bullying incident.
  • Take the report of the bullying incident seriously. Do not ignore or minimize the incident.
  • Make sure to follow up on the report. Another reason students do not report bullying, is because they see it as an unnecessary risk because very often adults do not follow up on the report.



How can you follow up?


For Parents

If you are a Parent


  • Encourage your child to report the incident to a teacher whom he or she trusts.
  • If your child is scared or reluctant to make the report, find out more about the fears and help your child work through them.
  • You could also provide encouragement and support to your child by accompanying him or her to report the bullying incident to a teacher.
  • If your child is a bystander, you could help to inform the parents of the victim. This approach should only be carried out if you are on close terms with the victims’ parents.


For Teachers

If you are a Teacher


  • Investigate the incident reported and take the necessary steps to help the bully and to support the victim.


For counselor

If you are a counselor


  • Work with the teachers to investigate the incident reported. Take the necessary steps to help the bully and to support the victim.