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The Power of Bystander Intervention in Bullying

Born This Way Foundation Team / August 16, 2016

How you react to a bullying situation can make a big difference, whether you’re directly involved, or you’ve just observed someone being bullied. Bystanders are those who watch bullying happen or hear about it and don’t take action. Actually, over 80% of students have been a bystander to bullying at school (Masters, 2016). As a bystander, you have the power to address the situation before it escalates.

Below are some tips on how to positively intervene when you see someone getting bullied:

  • Ask a trusted adult for help
  • Asking the bully to stop
  • Don’t give bullying an audience
  • Do not respond aggressively
  • Follow up with the person who was targeted

Recently published research shows that although comprehensive, school-wide programs including bystander components are effective in reducing bullying (Bradshaw, 2015; Polanin et al., 2012), many schools do not have the resources to implement time-intensive, multi-component programs (Midget, Doumas, Sears, Lundquist, Hausheer 2015). Here are some resources for students, parents, and educators on the topics of bullying and bystander intervention. It is important to consider the community of positive support that students and other adults can build to help prevent bullying. Currently, all 50 states in the US have laws governing bullying that require school personnel (administrators, teachers, and staff) to take action to intervene and protect students (, 2015). That is why we encourage you to reach out to a trusted adult and ask for help.

It takes courage for someone to take action and intervene when they see or hear another person being bullied, but no matter how difficult it may be, research has found that schools and classrooms with greater rates of bystanders defending victims have lower rates of bullying (Jones, Mitchell, Turner 2015). So remember to be kind, brave, and empower your peers to make a positive influence in your schools and communities.

If you’d like to share your story about bullying intervention and the positive outcomes you’ve seen at your school we invite you to write to us here.

Eyes on Bullying. (n.d.). Retrieved July 28, 2016, from

Jones, L. M., Mitchell, K. J., & Turner, H. A. (2015, August 28). Victim Reports of Bystander Reactions to In-Person and Online Peer Harassment: A National Survey of Adolescents. Retrieved from

Masters, Lyndsay, “Should I Stand By or Stand Up? Differences in Bullying Bystander Decision Making” (2016). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. Paper 3657.

Midget, A., Doumas, D., Sears, D., Lundquist, A., & Hausheer, R. (2015). A Bystander Bullying Psychoeducation Program With Middle School Students: A Preliminary Report. The Professional Counselor, 5(4), 486-500. Retrieved from (n.d.). Retrieved August 09, 2016, from

Should I Stand By or Stand Up? Differences in Bullying Bystander Decision Making. (n.d.). Retrieved August 01, 2016, from