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Helping Kids Stand Up to Cyber-Bullies

By Susan Fitzell, M.Ed. [Guest Article]

While the victims and perpetrators of cyber-bullying are often the focus of plans to stop cyber-bullying, educating the bystanders, or witnesses, of cyber-bullying 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 cyber-bully if they were the victim (such as blocking the sender or simply ignoring their attack), they were less likely to be aware of how to act as helpful bystanders when witnessing cyber-bullying attacks on others.

12 Ways Students Can Be Better Bystanders

1. Tell the cyber-bully to stop.

With high profile incidents of cyber-bullying 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.

2. Do not avoid the victim of a cyber-bullying attack.

Often times, after a cyber-bullying 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 cyber-bully. 

Do not involve yourself in their attacks against another person.

5. Do not laugh or joke with the cyber-bully about what they have done. 

Many cyber bullies 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 cyber-bully 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 cyber-bully attack the person again, or attack someone else in a similar manner.

Never encourage someone to cause pain to others!

8. Discourage the cyber-bully before an attack occurs.

 If you are with a friend or peer when they are planning a cyber-bullying 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 cyber-bullying in general (the more commonplace cyber-bullying becomes, the less mean and hurtful it appears to other students). 

10.  Discourage other students from teasing the target of a cyber-bully after an attack to minimize further pain.

The victim of an attack has already experienced enough hurt, further teasing will only worsen this.

11.  Let the cyber-bully 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.

12.   Tell a cyber-bully 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 cyber bullies feel disconnected from their victim when online and telling them this may help them realize how much pain they could be causing. This is the simplest way to be a helpful bystander if a student witnesses or hears about an attack on another student.


Posted on December 27, 2011 by Susan Fitzell, M.Ed. [Guest Article]

Susan is a speaker and author of 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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