R5: – Exploring the roles in cyberbullying







Preventing, Responding, Understanding


Relationship skills, Self-awareness, Self-management


Ages 14-18


Timing: 65 minutes (+ additional time for setting expectations)

Learning outcomes: learners will be able to…

  • Recognise and understand the roles that can exist in a cyberbullying situation.
  • Identify positive strategies for managing and responding to cyberbullying in different contexts.

Key vocabulary: cyberbullying, roles, instigator, bystander, target, cheerleader, stirrer, admirer, follower, joker, context, strategies.

Resources: Google Slides, tool, Cyberbullying scenarios (slides 7-8), Role cards (slide 9), Child Protection Guidance

Key questions:

  • What are the different roles that can exist in a cyberbullying situation?
    • How would you define/explain these roles?
  • How can different roles influence the behaviour of…
    • …a cyberbully?
    • …a target?
    • …a bystander?
  • What contexts might also affect behaviour? (e.g. If you saw one friend bullying another friend, would this be easier/harder to tackle than if they were strangers to you?)
  • What strategies could you use to positively affect the situation if you were…
    • …a cyberbully?
    • …a target?
    • …a bystander?
    • …a follower/admirer/cheerleader?
  • What strategies/tools could you use to seek help on a chat app?

The digital educational tool that accompanies this activity will be available from August 2022 onwards.
Please see this video for a brief explanation of the tool.

Download the activity’s PowerPoint presentation

Starter activity (15 minutes)
We all have a role

Explain to learners that this session is about the different roles that exist in a cyberbullying situation and how these can affect cyberbullying behaviour. 

Ask learners to consider the different roles that exist in a bullying situation online. 

  • How many different roles can they think of?
  • How would they define or explain those roles?

Show the slide with different identified roles and discuss how each role might behave.

Activity (35 minutes)

Note: Before starting this activity, it is highly recommended that you take time to discuss and agree with learners the expectations around behaviour. It is also advisable to set some ground rules and an agreed method for learners to call an end to the role play if they are feeling worried or upset (e.g. use of a code word). 

You should also make it clear to learners that:

  • you will be monitoring the chat,
  • that this activity is a role play exercise,
  • use of is only to take place in a lesson/session under direct supervision of an adult,
  • some learners’ behaviour when in character may make others feel upset or uncomfortable, but this behaviour is only permitted in the role play,
  • at the end of the session, learners will have the opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings, and receive extra support if needed.

Further information on ensuring the session can be run safely can be found in the Child Protection Guidance.

Explain that learners will be exploring how different roles behave by adopting a role in an online bullying scenario.

Explain and introduce the app; you may need to spend some extra time demonstrating the basic functionality of the app depending on learners’ level of experience in using such a communication tool. 

Select one cyberbullying scenario from slides 7-8 (either chosen by the teacher/adult leading the session, or take a vote with learners to pick their preferred scenario).

With a larger group/class, it is advisable to split them into smaller groups of around 6-8 learners, and give each group the same scenario.

Randomly assign each student in the group a role in the scenario by handing them a role card (slide 9). They must behave and speak in the way they believe that role would act in the cyberbullying situation. (Ensure that the roles of cyberbully, target and bystander are filled in each group – remaining group members can be any of the additional roles).

Allow learners to act out the chosen scenario – you may wish to type/copy the scenario text and post it into the chat at the start to remind learners. Depending on the scenario and your learners, you may wish to set a time limit for the scenario (e.g. 5-10 minutes) or agree with learners a natural ‘end’ e.g. if the bully or target exits the chat. However, you may also wish to allow the scenario to continue if either the bully or target leave, in order to explore how behaviour might change.

Plenary (15 minutes)

Take some time with learners to discuss their experience.

Key questions to guide your discussion:

  • How did you feel throughout the scenario?
    • Did your emotions change at any stage? How/why?
  • Did you identify any barriers to doing something or saying something?
  • If you replayed the scenario, what would you have done differently in your role?
  • Were there particular actions/words that made the situation worse? Why?
  • What actions/words could have helped the situation?

Thank learners for their participation and remind them of who they can speak to in order to receive further help or support if the role play experience has worried or negatively affected them.