FamilyKids & Teens

  • Author Susan Fitzell
  • Published January 8, 2012
  • Word count 594

With high profile incidents of cyberbullying on the rise, school districts across the country are scrambling to find effective ways of dealing with a problem that often occurs after the school bell rings and extends well past school hours.

However, while the victims and perpetrators of cyberbullying are often the focus of such plans to stop cyberbullying educating the bystanders, or witnesses, of cyberbullying may be the most effective approach for dealing with the issue.

In fact, according to the results of a 2007 study published in the Journal of Adolescent health, while students were able to suggest ways to deal with a cyberbully if they were the victim (such as blocking the sender or simplying ignoring their attack), they were less likely to be aware of how to act as helpful bystanders when witnessing cyberbullying attacks on others.

12 Ways Students Can Be Better Bystanders

1.   Tell the cyberbully to stop- this is the simplest way to be a helpful bystander if a student witnesses or hears about an attack on another student.

2.   Do not avoid the target of a cyberbulling attack - Often times, after a cyberbullying attack, students are afraid to be seen with the victim because they fear this will cause them to be targeted too. This, however, will only cause more pain for the victim.

3.   Tell an adult - Tell a teacher that can help you or, if you feel more comfortable, tell a parent.  A parent may be able to help take care of the problem themselves, or may involve school officials if necessary. 

4.   Refuse to help the cyberbully - do not involve yourself in their attacks against another person.

5.   Do not laugh or joke with the cyberbully about what they have done - Many cyberbullies are trying to be funny or are seeking approval from others.  If they do not receive the response they expect or want, they may stop their attacks on others.

6.   Do not ignore the problem or pretend that you do not know what is going on - this may not only cause the cyberbully to think they are doing nothing wrong, it may even cause the bully to continue attacking others until they get attention.

7.   Do not suggest that the cyberbully attack the person again, or attack someone else in a similar manner - never encourage someone to cause pain to others!

8.   Discourage the cyberbully before an attack occurs - If you are with a friend or peer when they are planning a cyberbullying attack, tell them to stop before it even occurs. 

9.   Practice safe and kind online habits yourself - Do not attack other students online, as you will not only hurt them, but will be adding to the problem of cyberbullying in general (the more commonplace cyberbullying becomes, the less mean and hurtful it appears to other students). 

  1. Discourage other students from teasing the target of a cyberbully after an attack to minimize further pain - the victim of an attack has already experienced enough hurt, further teasing will only worsen this.

  2. Let the cyberbully know that you believe what they have done is wrong - do not let him/her think that they are funny or cool, as this is often their motivation for attacking another student in the first place.

  3. Tell a cyberbully that what they are doing is no different than what a traditional bully is doing when they push, shove, or tease someone at school - many cyberbullies feel disconnected from their victim when online and telling them this may help them realize how much pain they could be causing.

Susan Fitzell is a nationally recognized speaker and author of several educational resource books. She has over two decades of experience with differentiated instruction, teaching youth with special needs, students with behavioral and anger management issues, and students who experience bullying. Susan’s company, AIMHI Educational Programs, focuses on building caring school communities.

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