What is Bullying?
Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior that occurs in an intentional and repeated manner causing another child to feel hurt. Bullying can take multiple forms, including spreading rumors, threatening, physical or verbal assault, engaging in insidious practices such as excluding a child from a group to hurt him/her, or any other gestures or actions that occur in a less visible manner.
Are all forms of inconvenience considered bullying?
Not a single child has escaped being teased or provoked by a sibling or a friend. This type of provocation or teasing is not harmful nor injurious if it occurs in a humorous and amicable context and if it is mutually consensual.
Nevertheless, such teasing can go beyond humorous situations and minor inconveniences and turn into bullying if it occurs in an intentional and repeated manner and when bullies misuse their power (including their physical strength, knowledge of sensitive or embarrassing information about the person being bullied, or their popularity and fame) to control or harm the bullied.
Therefore, there are three characteristic features that distinguish bullying from other forms of unfavorable behaviors and practices:
- Imbalance of Power.
What are the types of bullying?
- Physical: such as hitting, punching, kicking, or stealing or damaging property or belongings of someone else.
- Verbal: such as name-calling, putdowns, mocking, labelling and threatening.
- Social: such as ignoring or leaving someone out intentionally, excluding from a group, or spreading rumors about him/her.
- Psychological: nasty looks, stalking, manipulating someone to think bullying is a figment of his/her own imagination.
- Cyberbullying: such as mocking or intimidating someone through text messages, social networks or hacking into one’s account. Click here for more information on cyberbullying.
Research shows that children who repeatedly harm others might suffer from failure to retain jobs or have healthy relationships.
The impact of bullying a child is affected by individual differences as well as the severity and duration of the assault. Among some of the most common impacts are:
- Lack of self-esteem.
- Lack of concentration and poor academic performance.
- Social shyness and fear of new communities.
- Potential psychological health problems such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal attempts.
Research shows that groups who are more targeted by bullying and abusive behaviors tend to be children who are:
- Different: in appearance, cultural or religious background, social status, or have health issues or disabilities.
- Super achievers, exceptionally gifted or who receive significant attention.
- Socially-shy and introverts who are less likely to speak out loud or more likely to feel intimidated.
- Newly arrived to a community: like those who recently moved to a new school or team.
- Quiet and peaceful.
Sometimes it is none of the above. Anyone can be vulnerable to abusive and bullying behaviors.
What are the Common Causes of Bullying Behavior?
No one is born a bully. However, anyone can develop and acquire bullying behaviors under certain circumstances. Some of the prevailing reasons why children/adolescents become bullies include:
- Most children who engage in bullying have been bullied before.
- Being part of an agreement: by joining a group of bullies in pursuit of popularity or acceptance by others or to avoid being bullied.
- Development and acquisition of aggressive and bullying behavior at home, at school, or through the media.
- Feeling ignored at home or suffering from a negative relationship with their parents.
- Feeling vulnerable and powerlessness: When children/adolescents are overprotected, they look for other ways to gain power and exercise control over the others.
- Jealousy and attention-seeking.
- Lack of emotional and psychological security.
- Prior experience that bullying pays off.
- Lack of awareness of the real harmful impact of bullying on victims.
How does bullying affect the bystander or witness?
When a child consistently witnesses acts of bullying and feels powerless or helpless to react, s/he may experience any of the following:
- Feel guilty.
- Feel powerless and helpless.
- Feel anxious and scared of becoming the next victim.
Why don’t bystanders intervene to stop bullying?
Research shows that bystander children who witness bullying cases, rather than adults, are best-positioned to intervene against bullies. However, in many cases, bystanders do not intervene because:
- They think that someone else will step in.
- They are afraid of getting hurt or bullied or becoming unpopular or disliked.
- They are friends with the bully/abuser (even if they don’t approve of how s/he behaves).
- They are not friends with the child being bullied.
Children, Parents and Teachers Speak Out
Celebrities Against Bullying