What is bullying? At first glance, many people might think this behavior is easy to define. Their first image of bullying might be of a physically intimidating boy beating up a smaller classmate. While that can still be considered bullying today, parents need to know that bullying behaviors can be much more complex and varied than the stereotype.
For example, harmful bullying can also occur quietly and covertly, through gossip or on the Internet, causing emotional damage.
As a starting point let’s consider a few other features that have been included in definitions of bullying. Although definitions vary from source to source, most agree that an act is defined as bullying when:
- The behavior hurts or harms another person physically or emotionally.
- The targets have difficulty stopping the behavior directed at them, and struggle to defend themselves.
- Many definitions include a statement about the ”imbalance of power”, described as when the student with the bullying behavior has more “power”, either physically, socially, or emotionally, such as a higher social status, is physically larger or emotionally intimidating.
The types of Bullying: The behavior can be overt, with physical behaviors, such as fighting, hitting or name calling, or it can be covert, with emotional-social interactions, such as gossiping or leaving someone out on purpose.
Intent of the part of the student with bullying behavior: “It is intentional, meaning the act is done willfully, knowingly, and with deliberation to hurt or harm,” but there is some controversy with this statement as some assert that not all bullying behavior is done with intent or that the individual bullying realizes that their behavior is hurting another individual.
Distinction about amount and duration: Many definitions indicate that the bullying is “repeated”, but the reality is that bullying can be circumstantial or chronic. It might be the result of a single situation, such as being the new student at school, or it might be behavior that has been directed at the individual for a long period of time.
The implications for all students: It is also important to note that bullying is not just about the implications for those targeted by the behaviors, but that the behavior can impact all students in the school, including those who witness the behavior and those that engage in the behavior.
Additional factors: these can include; the differentiation between bullying and harassment, enumeration of protected classes, statements around the use of technology, how the behavior impacts educational performance and the physical locations that would fall under the jurisdiction of school sanctions.
A basic guideline for your child is this: Let the child know that if the behavior [of another student] hurts or harms them, either emotionally or physically, it’s bullying.
Bullying behavior has long been a part of our society. The arrival of cyberbullying has heightened our awareness of the destructive behavior of all types of bullying. The damaging effects bullying has on all children involved has come into focus only in the last several decades. The burden of this damage is carried by us all. We can reduce bullying if we work together to show our children a positive way to live together.
Source: Gundersen Health System
Cyberbullying is bullying that takes place using electronic technology. Electronic technology includes devices and equipment such as cell phones, computers, and tablets as well as communication tools including social media sites, text messages, chat, and websites.
Examples of cyberbullying include mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles. Kids who are being cyberbullied are often bullied in person as well. Additionally, kids who are cyberbullied have a harder time getting away from the behavior.
For more resources on cyberbullying prevention, visit the Cyberbullying Research Center at http://cyberbullying.us.