What to do if you witness bullying

We started this series to provide more information on what to do in common emergencies – such as what to do if someone is experiencing a panic attack, or if someone were having a stroke. In this post, we take a look at what to do if you witness bullying.

Education is the key to prevention of bullying, harassment and other forms of violence and abuse. Sometimes in the moment, we can let emotions such as fear or anger get the best of us. It’s important to know what to do to take appropriate action as bullying can have long-lasting effects.

From name-calling to cyberbullying, the harmful effects of violence and abuse can linger for years to come and leave people feeling scared, vulnerable and unsure of themselves. By taking a stand against bullying - in your school, online and in the community - you can help put a stop to and prevent this hurtful behaviour.

A school in Nunavut participating in respect education.The Canadian Red Cross offers a range of programs that can help empower young people to prevent bullying and have healthy relationships.

Consider these 10 tips if you witness bullying:

1. Speak up. Bullying is a serious issue that can make a person feel isolated, but by speaking up against those who bully others, you have the power to stop it.  In the moment it can be as simple as saying: ‘Cut it out’ or ‘leave them alone'. You can ask the person being bullied to leave the situation and to hang out somewhere else.  Speaking up for others is important but so is staying safe.  If you are not comfortable speaking up, get help from someone who can safely intervene.

2. Refuse to go along with it. Youth who bully others often crave attention and an audience for their bad deeds. Those who laugh or cheer on people who bully are sending the message that they approve of their actions, but if you stand up for the person being targeted, you can show that you're against the abusive behaviour.

3. Write down what happened. Incidents can happen quickly, making it difficult to remember everything that occurred. But by writing down all that you witnessed, you can paint a clearer image later on to those you speak to about it.

4. Get help from your friends. People who bully others may get support from a large group, but if you seek the assistance of your friends, you can get the support you need to speak out against bullying and harassment.

5. Be kind online. Young people are often targeted by people who bully online, but you can refuse to go along with this behaviour by avoiding websites that may feature negative information about other students. By refusing to share messages about other young people, being kind online and blocking someone who spreads rumours about others, you can send a strong anti-bullying message.

6. Protect your personal information. You should never give out your passwords, even to close friends, and you should avoid posting personal information online, as it could wind up in the wrong hands. If someone sends you abusive messages, you should always save these exchanges.

7. Seek out counselling. Don't keep your problems hidden. If you're feeling troubled as a bystander of bullying, or you're being targeted by people who bully, you should consider speaking to a counsellor about your problems.

8. Talk to a trusted adult. Whether it's a teacher, parent, relative or coach, if you witness bullying, you should reach out to an adult that you respect and trust. He or she can help you figure out the best approach to take and can try to put a stop to the behaviour.

9. Report the incident. In addition to talking to an adult you trust, you can report incidents to a principal or someone in authority. Making a formal complaint can be a good way to let an organization know about the problem and prevent future bullying.

10. Take action. Talk to your school or community about the possibility of forming a bullying prevention committee with teachers, parents and young people. You can also create a forum online to mobilize young people to speak out about acts of bullying and what can be done to stop them.

Learn more about how to participate in our programs such as Beyond the Hurt and Healthy Youth Relationships.

Get involved in the annual Red Cross Pink Day on February 28 this year; find what events are near you and more: redcross.ca/pinkday - and show your support for Red Cross Pink Day on Facebook by adding this frame to your profile photo.
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