Everyone in a school must work together to stop bullying, and that includes students who are neither bullies nor victims. Bullying is everybody's concern.
In fact, the amount of bullying occurring in a school can actually be lessened depending on how students deal with it. You may be wondering who these other students are if they are not bullies or victims. They are the witnesses to bullying behavior, and may also be called "the caring majority," "bystanders," "helpers," or "onlookers."
Strategies to Prevent Bullying
Here are some specific strategies that you can use if you are a witness to any kind of bullying. Together, these strategies spell out the word "SAVE." This makes sense because a witness could think of themselves as a lifesaver to victims who are being bullied. Just like a lifesaver or life preserver can save someone who is in danger of drowning, a witness can help a victim who is in danger of "drowning" in the mean words and actions from a bully.
S- Speak up
Unless you feel the bullying situation is very unsafe, speak up to the bully. You could tell them "Cut it out," "That's not nice," "We don't do that in our school," etc.
If you don't feel comfortable standing up to the bully, direct your energy to the victim to make him or her feel better. (See "E" below)
When speaking up, never bully the bully back. It will only make the situation worse and the bully may hurt you as well.
You could also speak up to other bystanders if they are laughing and encouraging the bully. They also have a responsibility in stopping the bullying.
A- Adult Help
Report the bullying to an adult, and do so immediately if the situation is very serious. Remember that unreported bullying will keep on happening.
Trusted adults you could go to include a teacher, supervisory aide, principal, guidance counselor, bus driver, family member, coach, neighbor, etc.
V- Volunteer Solutions
Ask the victim to go to another lunch table with you, away from the bully, or to move to another part of the playground away from the bully.
Ask the victim to play with you and your friends.
Ask the victim to sit with you on the bus.
Ask the victim if they would like you to go talk to an adult with them in order to report the bullying.
E- End the Victim's Sadness
Show empathy to the victim and tell him you understand how he or she feels.
Listen to them if they want to talk about what happened or to share their feelings.
Tell them, "I'm sorry that he/she did that to you."
If it is true, tell them that bullying has also happened to you.
Cheer up the victim in any way you can.
What We Can Learn From Research
Surprisingly, 75-85% of the students in schools are considered witnesses. Research shows that student witnesses must speak up; bullies are more likely to listen to their peers than to listen to adults. Therefore, kids actually have the most power to combat bullying. One study shows that a school's population is made up of approximately 10% bullies, 15% victims, and 75% students who don't want to get involved in the situations.
You can see that bullies are the smallest number of students in a school, yet they have so much power because others give them this power. Instead, the victims and bystanders must stick together and speak up; they make up about 90% of a school and they could greatly outnumber the bullies.
A psychologist in Norway named Dan Olweus is considered a pioneer in the studying of bullying behavior. His research strongly supports the idea that the answer to stopping bullying is in the witnesses. He began a school program that teaches witnesses to speak up about bullying, and his program has been put into place in other schools worldwide.
Most bullying does happen in front of others, so there are witnesses, but these witnesses cannot be considered the "caring majority" unless they do something to show that they care. They can show they care by either standing up to the bully or supporting the victim.
Another study found that an average bullying incident lasts about 38 seconds, but when bystanders get involved, it stops approximately 10 seconds later in half the cases. However, if the number of onlookers who do nothing to help stop the bullying increases, the bullying situation lasts longer. This is because the bully feels more powerful with an "audience" there watching the bullying, and after all, what the bully really wants is a sense of power.
If you are an onlooker who observes bullying taking place, the first step to take is to think in your head if it is your responsibility to help out. Put yourself in the victim's shoes and have empathy for them, thinking about how you would feel if you were the one being bullied. If you think about these things, then you would know that you should assist the victim, regardless if you are a good friend of theirs or not. By doing so, you are helping to create a safer school for everyone.
In conclusion, each and every student in a school has a part in preventing and dealing with bullying. Everyone has a responsibility to each other and to the whole school. Remember that witnesses make up the largest percentage of students in a school and have the greatest power to stop bullying. If you aren't part of the solution to bullying, you are part of the problem.