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Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Children and bullying:bystanders and UP-standers

Children and bullying:
Bystanders and UP-standers

Bullying impacts a large number of school aged children every year, with 27% of Year 4 to Year 9 students reportedly being bullied during the previous school term (Cross et al., 2009). We know these rates will only have increased with the ongoing rise in usage of social media and unfortunately cyber-bullying. When discussing the problem of bullying, the majority of the focus has historically been placed on the bully themselves and discouraging or altering bully-centric actions (i.e., teasing, pushing, excluding).
Although placing attention on bullies and bully-centric actions can be worthwhile, recent efforts to curb bullying behaviour have focused on the role of bystander (see Padgett & Notar, 2013).
A bystander is someone who witnesses an act of bullying (either in the school yard, or in digital contexts in the case of Cyberbullying) but does not intervene in the bullying taking place (Padgett & Notar, 2013). In some cases, bystanders might even encourage displays of bullying. Bystanders constitute the third point in the Bullying Triangle, shown below:

The Bullying Triangle. Source:

By encouraging bystanders to become “UP-standers”, they can help break down instances of bullying. UP-standers are people who offer support to targets of bullying.

But how exactly does an UP-stander provide support to victims of bullying, and how does an UP-stander influence a bully’s actions? What can you tell some of the children you are working with in order to encourage them to be UP-standers? Below are some examples of some strategies you can share that can effectively supporting targets of bullying:

  • Offer to include the victim within your social group
  • Offer to include the victim in your activities
  • Leading a victim away from the bully
  • Tell an adult about any bullying incidents (including teachers and parents)

You can also discourage children to engage in some of the behaviours below, so that they don’t encourage the actions of a bully. Some advice you can give is:
  • Don’t laugh when a bully does something to their target
  • Don’t encourage any actions or behaviours
  • Don’t become an audience for the bully
  • Tell the bully that their behaviours or actions make you feel uncomfortable
  • Encourage the bully to do something else with their time (i.e., participate in a lunchtime sport, participate in a study group, etc.)
Bullying impacts many school aged children every year. While focusing attention on bullies and their actions can be effective, it’s important to not forget about the role that bystanders play in the Bullying Triangle. By encouraging bystanders to become UP-standers, you can help to effectively reduce the problem of bullying, and improve circumstances for victims of bullying.
For more information about bullying, visit our Bullying resource sections on the TGN and ACATLGN websites:

Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hearn, L., Epstein, M., Monks, H., Lester, L., & Thomas, L. (2009). Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (ACBPS). Western Australia: Report prepared for the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR).
Padgett, S. & Notar, C. (2013). Bystanders are the Key to Stopping Bullying. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 1 , 33 - 41. doi: 10.13189/ujer.2013.010201
Roberts, M. (2012). Talking to your children about bullying – The three B’s: bullying, being bullied and being a bystander. Retrieved 28 February 2016,


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