The Active Bystander – By Elizabeth Barnes, MSW
Most children understand that a bystander is someone who stands by someone else who is being harmed by another. However, children are unclear of the responsibility that a person has when they are a bystander. Children need to be taught that there are two types of bystanders: a silent bystander and an active bystander. A silent bystander chooses to be silent and do nothing when someone is being harassed or bullied. An active bystander chooses to act and help the person who is being harassed or bullied. According to a research, most students are silent bystanders during bully situations. Children who are silent bystanders feel ashamed of being silent, afraid of retaliation if not silent, helpless and alone. In addition, children believe that silence is expected of them. Most children want to be active bystanders however they need help and support in demonstrating responsibility and courage. How can adults help children learn to become active bystanders? First, there needs to be an open dialogue about courage. Adults can explain to children that courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger or pain with firmness and without fear. Adults can also explain that it takes courage to be an active bystander. Secondly, adults can help children practice courage by using the Active-Bystander Techniques through role-playing in a safe environment. The Active-Bystander Techniques are as follows: Say “Stop-It”! Loudly to someone who is bullying another. This often surprises the bully and gets the attention of others who may help stop the bullying; Remove The Target from the bully(s). This will help keep the victim safe; Get Help from a trusted adult. Children can get help from a teacher, counselor, parent or an adult friend. When children understand that courage is needed to be an active bystander and they learn to use the Active-Bystander Techniques then they feel more empowered to help someone else in a bully situation.