What is Bullying & How Can We Help Stop It
This post helps answer the question “What is Bullying?” by exploring the types of bullying facing our kids today.
Recently, my son's teachers pulled me aside because one of my son's closest friends had been making poor decisions. So, they were concerned with my son making the same poor decisions based on whom he was aligning. Their intent was certainly good but the impact broke my heart. In other words, my nerves rattled at the thought of my son being a bully or aligning with a bully. With the invasive presence of technology & increasing occurrences of school shootings, I worry about my son's mental health and his habits.
So, that evening I searched for ways to discuss these big topics with him. In other words, topics such as “how to make good decisions” and “how to choose the right friendships”. As a result, I stumbled upon Barbara Coloroso and her amazing work on helping children develop inner discipline.
How Do We Teach Kids to Be Ethical?
She makes so many good points about what it takes to raise ethical human beings. Furthermore, Ms. Coloroso speaks on how to guide children when they make mistakes, make mischief, or make mayhem.
Own it, fix it, learn from it, and make sure it doesn't happen again.
However, before we dive into ways to redirect the behavior and help kids develop inner discipline, let's take a step back to consider fundamentals.
The first topic I'd like to cover is the common types of bullying. Yes, there are many different forms of these behaviors. I will do my best to cover each of them. Furthermore, I will begin with a definition.
What is Bullying?
As a noun, the Merriam Webster definition is as follows: “abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful, etc.”
As an adjective, the Merriam Webster definition is as follows: “prone to or characterized by overbearing mistreatment and domination of others”
While these definitions allow us to create a framework around bullying, they don't allow us to be able to identify (and then eventually do something about) the behaviors that fall under the guise of bullying.
Another Definition of Bullying
StopBullying.gov gives a much more extensive and deeper look into the definition of bullying.
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children that involve a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.
In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:
An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
I encourage you to visit their website to peruse their copious bullying resources for parents, teachers, and kids.
7 Types of Bullying Behaviours
Now that we've laid the ground on what it means to bully, let's dive into types of bullying. Many resources break bullying into four or three basic types. I have tried to take that breakdown a bit further to unpack the myriad of ways kids can bully or be bullied. My hope is that by deconstructing the types, you will be able to see the warnings signs quicker and more evidently.
- Sexual – This involves sexual references, comments, jokes, gestures, physical sexual aggression, calling someone a derogatory sexual name, spreading sexual rumors, posting sexual comments or images online, public shaming, and sexual pressure. VeryWell Family writes extensively about the topic of sexual bullying.
- Verbal – Includes saying and writing words including actions such as name-calling, making threats, teasing, & taunting. In addition, inappropriate sexual comments as well as spreading rumors with words, texts, or emails.
- Physical is pretty straightforward. It includes physical actions such as hitting, kicking, spitting, punching, tripping, pushing, inappropriate hand gestures and destroying someone's personal items.
Social Media & the Impact on Our Kids
- Cyber happens with a device and occurs on social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, email, direct message, and text. It often involves exchanging information or images that cause harm. Cyberbullying is a huge concern because it impacts the online reputation of every person involved in the exchanges. A 2015 statistic from a report written and conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics indicated that, nationwide, about 21% of students ages 12-18 experienced bullying.
- Social (or Relational) is all about defamation. In other words, hurting someone's reputation and/or relationships. So, this form could include spreading rumors, pressuring others to shut out another person, or leaving someone out intentionally. Other instances would be embarrassing someone in front of others and telling people not to be friends with an individual.
More Subtle Forms of Bullying
- Covert is subtle and perhaps the most difficult form of bullying to identify as an outsider. It can include actions such as whispering, evil looks, or simply just turning your back. Additionally, blackmailing, gossiping, or obstructing where a person can sit count as covert bullying. The most challenging part with covert bullying is that the behavior is easily deniable as “just having fun” or “making a joke”. (Source: bullyingnowway.gov.au)
- Sibling is a real thing and is becoming a bigger topic. Psychology Today writes about five signs of sibling bullying including a lack of empathy, no sign of making up, a pattern, an off-balance of power, and an atypical level of intensity. Any type of bullying may cause anxiety and depression and there is great evidence sibling bullying is leading those outcomes.
Additional Resources on Bullying for Parents & Teachers
- Barbara Coloroso's The Bully, The Bullied, & the Bystander From Preschool to High School – How Parents & Teachers Can Help Break the Cycle
- Eight Grade – Amazon offers this perspective of an eight graders journey through a disastrous end to her junior high school years. It is free to watch if you're a PRIME member.
I look forward to sharing more research on this topic.