What exactly is an upstander?
An upstander is a person that sees something that is wrong and takes action to make it right. Upstanders are key to diffusing bad situations and helping people who can’t help themselves. Standing up for what is right, protecting someone from harm or supporting an individual whether in person or online shows social responsibility.
50% of all bullying events stop when an upstander decides to intervene. This shows how important a bystander can be in a challenging situation or even someone’s life.
Perhaps you have seen someone in person or online that is being abused or bullied and you wanted to help but weren’t sure how to proceed. Here are some important ideas that you can use to help make a difference.
- Take action. As mentioned above being a bystander increases the chance of the behavior continuing. There isn’t a need to be aggressive but don’t be quiet. Speak up. If in person use phrases like “This is not right” or “This is completely wrong” or “This needs to stop right now.”Add disapproving comments to the posts, images or videos and do not share the posts with others. Use comments that disapprove and encourage others as well like “I’m unfollowing this thread because it’s hurtful. Others should do the same.”
- Do not encourage or join in the bullying. You might think by just watching or standing by that you have not joined in but bullies like an audience. If you are standing around watching or even chuckling that makes you part of the bullying event. Stand up or move on.
- Encourage your friends to stand up for them as well. Every voice adds weight to the discussion and is important. Have them post encouraging comments supporting the victim or encourage them to report the abuser.
- Do something. If you feel uncomfortable involving yourself in the situation directly you can still be an upstander by reporting the event to a parent, teacher or other trusted adult who can help. Online you can report the posts using the tools provided by most social platforms.
- Talk to the individual. Let them know they don’t deserve the way they have been treated and that it’s not their fault. They probably understand that deep down but it’s easy to begin to doubt yourself so having an outside source reinforcing it is helpful.
- Be a friend. Maybe you don’t even know the person being bullied but you recognize the seriousness of the situation. Often times the victim could use a friend so reach out to them online or in person if you see them at school. Let the person know you understand what they are going through. Let them know you are a good listener if they want to talk. If you see them in real life and they are sitting alone invite them over. People in groups are less likely to be singled out.
- Encourage the victim to get help. Being the victim of cyberbullying can be very isolating and make the victim feel like it’s them against the world. Have them talk with a trusted adult such as a parent, teacher or school counselor. If they don’t feel comfortable talking to someone they know there are hotlines and online groups that can help provide support.
- Report the abuse. We have mentioned it a few times but it’s an important point to stress. Even if you report it on the social platforms where the abuse takes place it’s a good idea to make others aware like parents or school administrators. If you are uncomfortable doing so directly you can always report the situation with an anonymous note. If the abuse continues you should even encourage the victim to report the abuse to local law enforcement.
Being an upstander is not always an easy thing to do but as you have seen it can be key to ending the abuse. If you want, you can even start campaigns to educate your peers and create an environment of intolerance for bullies. Stand up for friends and strangers in your community and online to end the abuse.