If You See Bullying Happening
Most teens agree that they are against bullying, but many do not know what to do about it. Here we will show you what to do and what not to do when you see relational bullying happening.
Bystanders play a special role in relational bullying. Relational bullying is a group process. The bully relies on the girls within the group to help her bully the victim. So, this type of bullying can only happen when bystanders help it happen.
Some examples of how bystanders support relational bullying:
- Playing messenger between victim and bully.
- Doing nothing to stop the bullying.
- Encouraging the bully.
- Spreading rumors they heard.
- Going along with what the bully wants to do.
You might be supporting bullying by:
- Doing nothing
- Laughing or giggling
- Spreading rumors, slam books, or notes
- Making “mean” faces towards the victim
- Going along with the bully when she suggests:
- Rolling eyes
- Talking to the victim in a mean or hostile tone of voice
- Joining in on a three-way call meant to manipulate the victim
- Playing messenger between victim and bully
- Talking about the victim behind their back
Some teens might think that standing up to relational bullying will make others mad at them or make them less popular, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Research has shown that those who stand up to bullying are actually more liked by their peers.
Below are specific actions you can take when you see relational bullying.
Not all of these ideas may work best for you. Choose actions you are most comfortable doing.
What to do when you see relational bullying:
Do not jump on the bandwagon.
It is easy ignore someone or talk about her behind her back when your friends are doing it. But one small thing you can do to help stop relational bullying is choosing not to join in.
- If your friends are ignoring someone don’t ignore her.
- If your friends are talking about someone behind their back, don’t talk about her.
- If you hear a rumor going around don’t repeat it.
- Make up an excuse to leave the situation, but do not participate.
Don’t play messenger.
You are a messenger when you communicate for the victim or the bully. Although you might have good intentions, words can easily get mixed up and this can make the situation worse.
- If there are problems between friends, encourage the girls to talk on their own.
- If they do not want to talk right away, give them time to cool off and then try again.
Stand up for the victim.
- Disagree with what the group is saying about the victim.
- Tell the group you don’t agree with the plans to exclude or be mean to the victim.
- Ask how they would feel if this was happening to them.
By not knowing all of the facts girls assume they know what others are thinking and feeling. If you think your friends are making assumptions, question them.
Make other suggestions.
- If your friends want to ignore someone, offer an alternative suggestion of talking to the girl first to try to work the problem out.
- If you hear rumors going around about someone, suggest to others around you that the rumor is probably not true or that they should not pass the rumor on.
- If your friend starts spilling some secrets about another girl, recommend that she ask the girl first before she tells other people.
Here are several ways a bystander can react to relational bullying:
Here are some examples of how Jen and Becca might respond as bystanders.
Here are some examples of how several different bystanders might respond to gossip and rumors about Molly.
Think you know?
The following questions will add to your understanding of how to help someone who is being relationally bullied. Work by yourself or with a friend to come up with answers on your own before looking at our answers.
Questions about the video:
Becca and Jen:
Do you think Jen was able to help keep the situation from getting worse? What did she do right?
Jen stopped the assumption that Becca was making. Remember, Becca assumed that Molly was talking about them. Jen disagreed with this assumption right from the start.
Then she gave another suggestion for what Molly and Ally might be talking about. This helped keep the situation from escalating because she was able to stop assumptions that would have made Becca react by engaging in relational bullying.
Jen also suggested talking to Molly about it directly and finding out exactly what she and Ally were talking about. Molly was able to reassure them that she and Ally were talking about their calculus teacher, not Becca and Jen.
Was there anything Jen said or did that you feel comfortable doing if you see relational bullying happening? If so, what was it?
Taylor and friends:
Do you think Taylor’s friends stopped the rumor from spreading? Why or why not?
Taylor’s friends did several things to stop the rumor from spreading:
- They asked Taylor where she heard the information. This can make Taylor consider whether the statement is true and backed up by facts, such as whether she heard it directly from Mary?
- They tell Taylor she shouldn’t gossip and that it was none of their business. This helps Taylor think twice about starting the rumor.
- They also choose to not spread the rumor themselves.
Was there anything the bystanders, both Molly’s friends and Taylor’s friends, said or did that you feel comfortable doing if you see relational bullying happening? If so, what was it?
Other things to think about:
What role do bystanders play in relational bullying?
The bystander can either help relational bullying continue to happen or they can help stop relational bullying in its tracks.
Often, the bully uses bystanders to do her dirty work. By starting a rumor she hopes others will pass it along or by deciding to exclude someone she expects everyone to ignore the victim as well.
If bystanders chose to not spread a rumor or ignore the victim, they are stopping the bullying. If the victim sees that even one person cares about her, the bully has that much less of an effect on the victim.
When it comes to relational bullying, how can doing nothing make it worse?
As with all bullying, by doing nothing when you see it happening you are sending two messages:
- You agree with what the bullying is doing.
- You feel the same way about the victim that the bully does.
Although both of these are true for relational bullying, there are also other things happening when bystanders do nothing.
- Relational bullying affects the entire group, and no one is safe from being the next target or victim.
- By doing nothing, you are telling the bully that she is in control of the group and that you are scared to say what you think and feel which leaves you open to becoming the next victim.
Why are girls so afraid to speak up when they see relational bullying happening?
They are afraid of becoming the next target, being kicked out of the group, or losing their spot in the group.
When you stand up to relational aggression it can show the bully that:
- You are not going to passively take being bullied.
- You do not agree with what they are doing.
- They may think twice before bullying you next time.
Here are some things you can do to help the victim after she has been bullied:
Reach out to the victim after she has been bullied.
- Ask if she is okay.
- Tell her you are sorry that happened to her and that you do not agree with it.
- Tell her the bullying is not her fault.
- Invite her to eat lunch with you, to hang out after school, to go to a sporting event or study in the library together.
Encourage her to tell an adult.
Being verbally bullied can be embarrassing, so it can be hard to tell someone else about the situation. It is always best to find an adult and tell them what happened. Remember, this is not tattling. Tell her that you really think she should tell an adult.
- Tell her that you really think she should tell an adult.
- Offer to go with her.
- Offer to do the talking if she feels uncomfortable.
Click here to learn how to talk to an adult about bullying.
Remember it's not tattling if…click here to learn the difference between tattling and telling (DOC).
If you have not seen the bullying but suspect it is happening, ask!
Being verbally bullied can be embarrassing but the victim may be relieved to talk about it.
- Voice your concern and tell her why you suspect someone has been bullying her.
- Tell her if she does not want to talk right now, you are always there if she wants to talk later.
Let's take a look at what happens next in If Bullying Happens To You →