What are bystanders? Why are they important?

Peer victimization rarely involves just an aggressor and a victim. There are usually bystanders, and depending on how these bystanders respond, they contribute to either the solution or the problem. By learning more about the important role bystanders play, parents can empower their children become helpful bystanders.

A Closer Look  A Closer Look: Helpful vs. Hurtful Bystanders

In a peer victimization situation, bystanders do not play a neutral role. They are either helpful or hurtful.

Helpful Bystanders

  • Seek help by reporting the incident to a responsible adult
  • Rally support from peers to stand up to an aggressive child
  • Directly intervene by discouraging the behaviours of the aggressive child, defending the victim or redirecting the situation

Hurtful Bystanders

  • Do nothing by passively observing or remaining silent during or after a peer victimization incident
  • Instigate peer victimization by prodding people to engage in this behaviour
  • Join in the peer victimization by laughing, cheering or making comments to escalate the incident

The Bully Circle Poster

The Bully Circle Poster provides examples of helpful and hurtful bystanders. Start a conversation with your child about bystanders by reading WITS or LEADerS Books and then using the poster to talk about what roles the characters played in conflict situations.

Suggested books include: Blue Cheese Breath and Stinky Feet, The Girls, My Worst Best Sleepover Party, By Golly, Molly, You’re Right, The English Roses


Parent Toolkit Parent Toolkit: Bystander Quiz

Bystander Quiz If you don’t have access to these books, the Bystander Quiz is another good conversation-starter. Take the quiz with your child and then talk out the answers.

Prepare your child to be a helpful bystander by discussing ways bystanders can make a difference. Let your child know that you and other adults will always offer support when he or she chooses to seek help.