When it comes to bullying, there is no such thing as an “innocent” bystander. Having an audience is very important to bullies as they want others to see that they have power over the person being bullied in the hope that this will earn them a reputation for being tough or strong or popular. Other children are present about 85% of the time when there is a bully episode in the playground or classroom and while most bystanders feel uncomfortable witnessing bullying, very few actually intervene.
Here are some of the possible reasons that people let the bullying happen without doing anything about it:
- The bully is someone people look up to and want to be friends with;
- Siding with the bully makes them feel strong too;
- Peer pressure – people like to do what their friends are doing;
- They find it entertaining;
- They can bully vicariously by watching;
- They don’t think speaking up will help;
- They fear the bully will attack them if they speak up.
If just one person watching a bullying situation steps in and says “Stop it”, the bullying will cease in half the cases within 10 seconds. Standing by and doing nothing effectively means that you condone the bullying, and are choosing by this tolerance to be just as much of the problem as the bully is. Passive bystanders also risk suffering from anxiety brought on by the shame and guilt often felt for not being able or willing to defend a victim.
Read about how bystanders can help someone who is being bullied.