Cyber-Sidelines: Stepping up as a bystander

Cyber-Sidelines: Stepping up as a bystander

What if your child’s friend was being cyberbullied, and your child was a witness?

While silencing her son Matthew’s phone, Anna discovers a concerning message about his friend, Ronny. Should Anna confront her son, which might make him worry about his online privacy? What can Matthew do to support his friend? See how Matthew and Anna work through their charged emotions and figure out what to do when Matthew is a bystander to cyberbullying.

In this scenario, you will learn about:

  • Being an active bystander
  • The importance of monitoring
  • Digital citizenship

In this scenario, Matthew was a bystander to a cyberbullying situation. In both face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying, there are three recognized roles: victim, bully, and bystander. A large number of young people may involuntarily become bystanders to cyberbullying through their online social networks, even if they have little knowledge of the situation or those involved.

Anna had to teach her son how to be a good digital citizen. Digital citizenship is a set of standards for appropriate, responsible online behavior that can serve as guidelines for young people, and for the adults who are helping them to stay safe. Digital literacy, ethics, and etiquette will guide children in communicating responsibly online. When these youth witness cyberbullying, they have a responsibility to demonstrate that bullying behavior is wrong and won’t be tolerated within online communities.


Here are some important ideas about digital citizenship:

  • If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online.
  • What a child does online can last a lifetime.
  • Build empathy and resilience in children.
  • You don’t have to be cyber-savvy to keep children safe.  Teach children the skills to interact appropriately and responsibly in the digital world, regardless of what website they are on.
  • Teach by example. Be a good digital citizen so children can follow in your footsteps. 

Monitor your child’s digital media use

Decide what sites you feel comfortable with and how involved you need to be in monitoring. You may want to use parental control tools that allow you to watch your child’s web activity. It’s important to let your child know that you will be monitoring their online activity to protect them—make sure you have their usernames and passwords. To respect your child’s privacy, don’t read any more than is necessary to ensure that your child is acting safely and appropriately online.

How bystanders can intervene in cyberbullying situations

Help children take responsibility as bystanders by giving them these tips:

  • Speak up! Put a stop to unkind behavior online by telling those involved that you don’t appreciate it.
  • Don’t give the bully an audience. You should never forward, post, or share negative messages.
  • Support the person being bullied.
  • Report the cyberbullying to the site on which it is occurring.
  • Tell a trusted adult.