Mobilising bystanders

A number of factors determine whether bystanders will and can act in bullying situations or not.

Research suggests that students who intervene tend to be younger, female, have not previously bullied their peers, have ‘pro-victim attitudes', believe their parents would expect them to help the target, and have a fairly high degree of self-efficacy. Teacher expectation that students would intervene had little or no effect.

Secondary school students are less prepared to intervene, partly due to the danger they perceive to themselves and also fear the bullying may turn on them. School cultures in secondary schools also tend to be less supportive and connected, another factor possibly affecting rates of intervention.

If your school decides to mobilise bystanders to stand up against bullying, certain conditions are important, including:

  1. Create an expectation that support should be shown toward a person who is being bullied
  2. Ensure cybersafety policies include behavioural expectations about respectful and self-protective behaviour online, such as not to harass, tease or spread gossip about others, including on social networking sites like Facebook and never forward on or respond to messages or photos that may be offensive or upsetting
  3. Ensure students know only to intervene if it is safe for them to do so. Make sure that they know it's OK not to intervene directly but that they have a responsibility to report to someone in authority or someone you trust e.g. at school to a teacher, or a school counsellor; at work to a manager; if the bullying is serious, report it to the police; if the bullying occurs on Facebook, report it to Facebook.
  4. Think about intervention scripts so that students will know what to say if they witness a bullying incident
  5. Make posters with suggestions like "Never stand by and watch or encourage bullying behaviour"
  6. Ensure school policies support the action of students who report bullying or who intervene directly
  7. e.g. go with them to a place they can get help
  8. provide them with information about where to go for help)
  9. Check on them later to make sure they are OK.

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