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  • Bullying and the Power of the Passive Bystander

    The onlooker becomes a bully, too, when he does nothing to help the situation.
    by Chinky Carandang .
  • bystanderBullying is one of the biggest concerns of parents when their kids start going to school. Most times, the focus is on the victim or the victimizer, but Dr. Stuart Twemlow, an expert on individual and community violence, found that bystanders have a big role to play in bullying situations.


    Bystanders usually find themselves in the position where they can help the victim but remain passive for fear of being the next target, peer pressure, or not wanting to be ostracized from the group. In school, the bystanders are the students who are witnesses to bullying. Bullies flourish because of the power they have over other people, and bystanders unintentionally encourage bullying by not doing anything, laughing at the bully’s jokes, or agreeing with what the bully is saying or doing.

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    Schools need to take a stand against bullying so that their students would feel empowered, and know that they can make a difference. Here are some tips on how schools can empower the bystander:

    1. Talk openly about bullying. Let the students express their ideas and feelings about it. Get their suggestions on how to stop bullying in school.

    2. Stress the role of the bystander. Make the students realize that not doing anything supports the bully, and that laughing at the jokes of the bully makes them a bully, too.


    3. Encourage students to help their bullied classmates by accompanying them to a person of authority who can help. Show empathy by validating the feelings of the bullied.  

    4. Hold team-building activities in class that encourage unity, cooperation and respect.  

    5. There is power in numbers - teach students to walk away instead of watching. Just as bullies thrive in having an audience, losing that audience will also lessen his power.

    6. Emphasize the difference between a tattletale (sumbungero) from telling an adult a schoolmate needs help. Often, students do not want to say anything so as not to be branded as a tattletale.  Explain to the students that tattling is about wanting somebody to get into trouble while telling an adult somebody is in trouble is helping and keeping somebody safe from harm.

    7. Validate anti-bullying efforts.  This will encourage the students to do the right thing.  

    8. Turn the school into an anti-bullying zone. Reiterate the school’s policies on bullying by having students make posters, write-ups, and school articles.


    9. Educate faculty, staff and parents on bullying. A community that cares is a community where students will most likely feel safe and secure. It will be easier to open up when trouble occurs because they do not feel alone.

    10. Be a role model for positive behavior in all their interactions with the students and with each other. This will promote a positive environment for learning.


    Photo from cyfernet.org

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