How You Can Help Stop Bullying

How You Can Help Stop Bullying

Bystanders can play a key role in stopping bullying, both in school and online. Learn how you can help your kids learn what it means to stand up for someone who is being bullied.

Sadly, bullying among kids and teens is still very common in the U.S. Almost one in four students, ages 12-18, reported being bullied at school. leaving site icon

Bullying can have serious effects on a young person’s mental and physical health. Victims of bullying are more likely to:

  • Have trouble with their school work
  • Experience depression and anxiety
  • Have suicidal thoughts
  • Attempt suicide

Victims are not the only ones who suffer because of bullying. Kids and teens who just witness bullying (also known as bystanders) are also more likely to experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feelings of helplessness

But, bystanders are not as helpless as they may think.

Keys to Stopping Bullying

Bystanders play an important role in putting an end to bullying, according to Charles F. Hollender, a Chicago Police Department detective and an expert in bullying prevention.

“Most kids that are being bullied won’t tell anyone, but if a bystander sees it, they can go to a teacher or the parents or some other trusted adult, and that brings it more to the forefront,” he explains.

Rather than putting themselves in the path of the bully where they could become the next target, Hollender recommends that witnesses stand up to bullying by:

  • Reporting the incident to a trusted adult
  • Supporting the victim

“I want them to be there for that person being bullied. Maybe you just walk past them and say ‘hi.’ Sit with them at lunch when maybe nobody else will. Or compliment the way they look,” he says.

What Parents Can Do

Parents play a vital role in teaching young people how they can stand up to bullying, not just stand by. Here are some ways parents can help their kids become helpful bystanders:

  1. Talk openly with your kids
    Talk with your kids about the importance of treating their classmates with kindness and respect. If you are struggling with ways to bring up the topic of bullying, try watching a show or movie that features bullying with your kids and ask if they see any similar situations at school or online . Ask them how it makes them feel and listen closely to what they have to say.
  2. Explain that reporting bullying is not the same as tattling
    Teach them that if they report an act of bullying or cyber-bullying they are not tattling, but actually standing up and doing the right thing. Kids can always report anonymously if they feel uncomfortable. And let them know that if their report is not taken seriously that they should talk to other adults until something is done.
  3. Teach your kids how to safely support a bullying victim
    Show your kids that standing up to bullying doesn’t mean getting into a physical confrontation with the bully. They can help by being there for the victim, whether that is soothing them after an attack or just sitting with them at lunch if they are alone.

Putting an end to bullying can start with you and your kids. Talk to your kids about the importance of being a kind, respectful person. And make sure you lead by example by being nice and considerate to those around you.

Sources: Fast Facts: Bullying, leaving site icon National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, 2019; The Effects of Bullying, leaving site icon, 2020

Originally published October 13, 2015: Revised 2020