Be an upstander, not a bystander

Online or offline, bullying hurts. Teach your teens what is and isn’t acceptable communication on the web. And if you suspect your teen might be the victim of bullying or engaging in bullying activity, step in. The advice from our partners might also be useful when you have those conversations.

Advice from our partners


  1. It’s important to help children understand what bullying is so they know what to do if they are being bullied. Bullying goes beyond meanness or drama -- it’s intended to harm and is a repeated threatening or aggressive behavior. Talk to kids about the difference.
  2. Make sure kids know what to do and how to respond if they are being bullied. Encourage them not to react or retaliate and instead talk to a parent, teacher, or other trusted adult and have them help resolve the problem.
  3. While the majority of kids don’t engage in bullying, some will be witness to it. Talk to kids about the importance of being an upstander -- not a bystander -- when it comes to bullying at school or online. Emphasize the importance of dignity, empathy, and respecting differences, and encourage them to speak up in difficult situations.


  1. Cyberbullying is usually not a onetime communication, unless it involves a death threat or a credible threat of serious bodily harm. Kids usually know it when they see it, while parents may be more worried about the lewd language used by the kids than the hurtful effect of rude and embarrassing posts.
  2. Cyberbullying may rise to the level of a misdemeanor cyber-harassment charge in the U.S., or if the child is young enough may result in the charge of juvenile delinquency. Most of the time the cyberbullying does not go that far, although parents often try and pursue criminal charges. It typically can result in a child losing their ISP or IM accounts as a terms of service violation. And in some cases, if hacking or password and identity theft is involved, can be a serious criminal matter under state and federal law.
  3. Read more here. Schools can also download the StopCyberbullying Toolkit—worth $1.5 million—for free.

Common Sense Media

  1. Don't share passwords. A common form of cyberbullying is when kids log in to another child's email or social networking account and send fake messages or post embarrassing comments. Kids can protect themselves from this by learning early on that passwords are private and should only be shared with their parents.
  2. Use sites' anti-bullying tools. Good sites have moderators who keep an eye on what's going on. Show your kids how to flag bad behavior, report misbehavers, and block bullies. (But save any evidence in case it escalates.)
  3. Teach responsible, respectful online behavior. Draft a code of behavior that you expect your kid to follow (and check in occasionally to make sure.) The code should include standing up for anyone that they witness being bullied, because peers standing up for peers is one of the most effective ways to thwart a bully.