Committee for Children Blog

Encourage Good Bystander Behavior Over the Summer

bystander infographic

Summer is a time of freedom for most kids, and for some, that means temporarily forgetting about academic subjects. Who wants to think about multiplication tables while swimming or climbing trees?

But some of the things kids learn in school have very practical applications in summertime activities. After all, bullying can happen anywhere, at any time. And that means kids don’t have to wait for school to start again to be responsible bystanders. So before your kids go off to day camp or a vacation, talk with them about being bystanders to bullying.

Define the Problem
First, go over the definition of bystander: “A bystander is anyone who is aware that bullying is happening.”

Be Part of the Solution
Next, remind them how to be part of the solution as a bystander:

  • Don’t take part in bullying.
  • Offer support. Be an ally to someone being bullied.
  • Take action against bullying.

Then have kids think about their summer plans.
Together, brainstorm a few situations during their planned activities in which they could encounter bullying. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Swimming at the pool or lake
  • Riding bikes or walking around the neighborhood
  • Visiting a friend or relative in a different city or town
  • Going to day camp or sleep-away camp

Use Your Imagination
From your list, choose one of the ideas and develop it into a scenario.
For example, “You and Jen are walking along the edge of the pool with your towels. Charlie waits until the lifeguard is looking the other way, then grabs Jen’s towel and throws it in the pool. As Jen tries to wring out her towel, Charlie points at her and laughs.”

Talk about each of the responsible bystander points and figure out how they apply to the scenario you’ve created together.
Ask, “How could you avoid taking part in this bullying?” (Don’t encourage Charlie. Don’t point and laugh like Charlie is. Don’t find Charlie’s towel and throw it in the pool for revenge.) Next ask, “How could you offer support and be an ally to Jen?” (Ask her if she’s okay. Offer to help her wring out her towel. Tell her you can both use your towel.) Last ask, “How could you take action against this bullying?” (Offer to go with Jen to tell the lifeguard about what Charlie did. Lead her to another part of the pool area to get away from Charlie. Tell Charlie that what he’s doing is bullying and that he should stop pointing and laughing.)

Repeat the last two steps with the other situations you brainstormed.
Remind kids that throughout the summer, anyone can be a responsible bystander, and that they have the skills to be one too. Bystander power can help them have a fun and safe summer!