Bystanders Impact Bullying Behavior

what to do if you or your child is bullied

By Kristi Cooper, Family Life Specialist, Iowa State University Extension & Outreach
Printed in City Revealed magazine

Bullying is best understood as a group phenomenon in which children may play a variety of roles. Those roles include the target of bullying, the child who bullies, and children who are bystanders. Bystanders may be passive observers, active observers, or defenders. Passive observers may want to stop the bullying and defend the bullied student, but may not have the knowledge, skills or confidence to act. Active observers are those individuals whose behavior encourages the bullying. They may show active support for the bullying by laughing or joining in, or they may gossip about the incident. Defenders are students who take action to try to stop the bullying.
Bystanders play an important role in bullying prevention and intervention. Children should be taught about the role of bystanders in bullying, and should discuss and role play helpful responses. Bystander behaviors can range from low risk/low courage actions including:
• don’t support the bully
• don’t repeat gossip
• support the target in private to higher risk/higher courage behaviors such as
• alert an adult
• talk to the bully privately
• support the target in front of the bully
• confront the bully
What strategies do kids find most helpful? Children who witness or experience bullying often do not know how to respond. They may have received mixed messages about bullying from adults or they may be worried about how their response will affect their relationship with other students. Often times adults will suggest that children use a predictable strategy or set of strategies when faced with bullying (e.g., ignore it, walk away, tell the person to stop, etc.). In order to determine the effectiveness of these common strategies a study asked over 12,000 students, including over 1,600 bullied students, what strategies they have used in bullying situations and which of those strategies were most or least effective in making the situation better. The strategies bullied children identified as most helpful and least helpful are:
MOST HELPFUL strategies:
• Told an adult at home
• Told a friend
• Made a joke about it
• Told an adult at school
• Reminded myself that it was not my fault
LEAST HELPFUL strategies:
• Hit or fought back
• Made a plan to get back at them
• Told the person to stop
• Did nothing (ignored it)
• Told them how I felt
These results suggest that accessing support from others is much more helpful to bullied students than other common strategies. In addition, most bullied children do not benefit from being told to ignore the bullying or make assertive statements. This research underscores the importance of training adults and bystanders to respond effectively to students’ reports of bullying.
For more information on bullying behavior use the tool kit at
Parents and care providers may attend classes available from the Linn County Parenting Education Consortium.
Below are a list of some of the upcoming classes offered in our area.  For a complete list visit the Linn County Parent Education Consortium website.

Fall 2012 Parent Education Classes
Classes are offered FREE of charge to ALL families. Sessions include a family meal, light Refreshments, program materials and/or on-site child care. Please inquire at 319-377-9839.
Parenting Young Children (0-5yrs)
Grant Early Childhood Center
254 Outlook Dr SW, Cedar Rapids,  IA 52404
Tuesday Evenings
September 18 - October 23, 2012- 5:30-7:45 PM
Jane Boyd Community House
943 14th Ave SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403
Thursday Evenings
October 4 - November 18, 2012- 5:30-7:45 PM
The Playschool
Hope United Church of Christ
Hiawatha, IA 52233
Tuesday Evenings
October 2 - November 6, 2012- 5:30-7:45 PM
Hiawatha Elementary
603 Emmons St, Hiawatha, IA 52233
Tuesday Evenings
October 4 - November 8, 2012- 5:30-7:45 PM
Promise Land Preschool
6600 C Ave NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404
Tuesday Mornings
October 2 - November 20, 2012- 11:30 AM- 1:00 PM
Parents are asked to call ahead to register for programs. For class updates or for more information, call Kathy Wimer, Parent Education Consortium of Linn County, at 319-377-9839.

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