Why Bystanders Don't Tell
It's simple: they don't want to become a target themselves. Well, it's actually more complicated than that, but that is usually the number one reason kids don't intervene. Think about it. If you're eight- or ten- or twelve-years-old and the mean girl in class is telling cruel lies about the new girl and socially snubbing her, what are you going to do?
If you intervene, you risk drawing the attention and ire of the mean girl, and she may bully you instead. Most kids will admit that when another child is being targeted, they are secretly relieved it's not happening to them and they stay silent in order to keep it that way.
Another reason a bystander won't tell is if he somehow found himself caught up in the excitement and intensity of the bullying, “lost his head,” and joined in. He may feel lousy that he joined in to prove that he was also tough and strong.
Ask kids why it's hard to defend someone who is being teased, and they will give these responses: “The bully is someone I would like to be friends with.” “Siding with the bully makes me feel stronger.” “I think it's funny.” “Telling someone wouldn't help anyway.” “The bully might pick on me next!”
He may realize that what he did was wrong but fears getting in trouble, so he stays mum. Some kids stay quiet in order to remain part of the gang — one of the boys. To tell would be to isolate himself from his peers.
Many kids don't tell because they don't think it would do any good. They don't tell their teacher because they think the teacher won't believe them or won't want to deal with the complications of the situation. And they don't tell their parents because they think their parents will say, “It's no big deal. It's just part of growing up. He'll be fine.”