Be an upstander

An upstander is someone who chooses to support the person being bullied and takes action. If you feel safe and comfortable to do so, there are different ways to be an upstander.

In short:

  • If you choose to support someone who is being bullied, you’ve chosen to be an upstander and you can offer support in different ways. 
  • If you feel safe and comfortable to do so, you can stand up to the person doing the bullying, privately support the person being bullied or reach out to other supports to intervene.

What is an upstander?

If you see something that is not OK, like bullying behaviour online, you have a choice: support the person who is being bullied, or sit back and do nothing. 

Not doing anything, and choosing to keep scrolling can feel like the easier option. Some people may feel they don't have the courage to step in, or are concerned that they’ll be attacked for speaking up. But there are different ways to support someone being bullied, and help them feel less isolated, while keeping yourself safe. Deciding to take action to support others is called being an upstander.

Situations you may see that are not OK:

  • People making mean comments about someone in a comment section.
  • Videos or images making fun of someone ‘as a joke’.
  • A public post that has someone’s private personal details, like their age, school, job, or address.

How to be an upstander

If you’ve chosen to support someone who’s being bullied, you’ve chosen to be an upstander.

By choosing to do something, you are choosing to be part of creating a positive culture change online.

There are different ways to be an upstander – each way is important and can have a huge impact. Depending on your style, what you feel confident doing, and the context of the online harm, you may choose a different intervention style each time, and that’s OK. Because rule number one of being an upstander is to make sure you feel safe and supported.

What being an upstander looks like

Reaching out to the person being bullied

Send a message to the person being bullied. Ask if they’re alright, and offer your support. Whether they’re your friend, or someone you only kind of know, a word of support can go a long way.

Calling out the bad stuff online

If you feel confident and safe, stand up to the person doing the bullying and make it clear that what they're doing is not cool. Be clear, direct, and speak up about the harm. This could look like writing a comment that says, ‘This is not cool/not OK.’ 

Reaching out directly to the person who is being mean

If you’re friends with the person who is bullying, reach out to them and explain why what they’re doing is not OK. They may be more open to a one-on-one message.

Calling in other support for backup

If you see that the person being bullied is really affected by what was put online about them, it’s a good idea to call in other support. This could be reaching out to a trusted adult like a parent, teacher, or older sibling to offer support. It can feel hard reaching out to a trusted adult — you may feel like you should be able to handle it yourself. But some things are too big to just hold on your own.

Anonymously reporting the content to the platform

All social media has a ‘Report’ function, and you can report content as bullying or harassment, whether it’s happening to someone you know, or someone you don’t. The eSafety Guide has information about how to do this on different online platforms.

The main purpose of being an upstander is to let the person who is being bullied know that they're not alone, and that you are on their side. 

Something has happened

Reach out to your friend. Message your friend to make sure they’re OK, let them know that you support them, and remind them how awesome they are. Even a simple message can go a long way and make your friend feel more supported. Try a message like, ‘Hey are you OK? I saw what was posted, and I want you to know that that’s not OK.’

Remember to use supportive language. It’s important to avoid phrases that might come across as shame or embarrassment, like ‘I would be so embarrassed if I were you’ or ‘I would want to die if I were you’. Remember you’re there to help them and support them through it. 

Call out the bad stuff online. If you feel confident and safe, stand up to the person doing the bullying and tell them that what they're doing is not cool. Be clear, direct, and speak up about the harm. This could look like writing a comment that says, ‘This is not cool, or OK.’

Reach out directly to the person who is being mean. If you’re friends with the person who is bullying, reach out to them and explain why what they’re doing is not OK. They may be more open to a one-on-one message.

Get extra help and support. If your friend seems like they’re really down – maybe they’re not turning up to school or they seem really withdrawn or less talkative – talk to a trusted adult. You may feel like you should be able to handle it yourself, but talking to someone makes it easier to decide what to do and deal with the impact. You could also refer them to confidential counselling and support services.

Help your friend screenshot, report, and block on the platform. The eSafety Guide has information about how to do this on different online platforms. If the content is still up after 48 hours, help your friend make a report to eSafety. Learn more about what to expect and how to report.

Get support from confidential counselling and support services

Kids Helpline

5 to 25 year olds. All issues. Confidential phone counselling available all day, every day. Online chat available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Headspace

12 to 25 year olds. All issues. Phone counselling available 12pm to 8pm AEST, every day. Online chat available 9am to 1am AEST, every day.

More support services