What Is Bullying?
Bullying is different from the typical disagreements or conflict that occur between friends or classmates. What's the difference?
It's bullying if:
The person is being hurt, harmed or humiliated with words or behavior.
The behavior is repeated, though it can be a single incident.
It is being done intentionally.
The person being hurt has a hard time defending themselves from the behavior.
The student(s) who are doing it have more power.*
* "Power" can include such things as being older, being physically bigger or stronger, having more social status, or when a group of students “gang up" on someone.
A lot of teens describe bullying as, “When someone tries to make you feel less about who you are as a person, and you aren't able to make it stop."
Bullying can happen to ANYONE. Bullying is about someone's behavior. That behavior could be directed at the shy, quiet student, or the class tough guy. Girls bully, boys bully, preschool kids bully, and high school kids bully – there is no one characteristic or aspect that indicates who gets bullied. The one sure thing is that no one EVER deserves to be bullied, it is NEVER their fault, and if someone is being bullied, they have a RIGHT to be safe.
Supportive, diverse environments can help prevent bullying. However, students who are perceived to be different in some way – whether that be their disability, race, sexual orientation, gender, body shape, etc. – are at increased risk for being bullied. To respond to this increased risk, federal and state governments provide particular protections for these students. Protected classes include students who are bullied due to their race, ethnicity, immigration status, disability, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. It's important to remember that even though these particular groups of students are especially vulnerable to bullying, and therefore need special protections, school policies need to protect ALL students. No one EVER deserves to be bullied.
According to a study conducted in 2016 by Nixon and Davis, the reasons for being bullied most often reported by students are looks (55%), body shape (37%), and race (16%). Students with disabilities are bullied two to three times more than their peers (Marshall, Kendall, Banks & Gover (Eds.), 2009). 82% of students who identify as LGBTQ were bullied in the last year based on their sexual orientation (National School Climate Survey, 2011).
So who bullies? Think the person bullying is the big guy who wears black, has low self-esteem, and gets mad a lot? Could be, but it can also be the petite cheerleader or the quiet honor student. It's not the appearance that defines someone who bullies; it is behavior. Students who bully can be any size, age, grade, or gender.
Then there is the group who sees the bullying and this group is really important. They may not be getting bullied, they may not be bullying, but their reaction has a direct impact on the situation. Think about it: Have you ever seen a group watching a fight? There are some who look, then walk away; there are others who watch and say nothing; then there are those who cheer it on. These responses make a huge difference in the outcome of every bullying situation. This group is called the bystanders or witnesses.
And to add to it all, the role that any student plays in a bullying situation often shifts and changes from day to day. Somebody who was bullied on the bus in the morning might be the one who makes fun of a younger kid that afternoon. The kid who laughed with other kids at a fight yesterday might ask the new kid with no friends to sit with him at lunch today.
This is easy to recognize. Examples include pushing, shoving, hitting, kicking, biting, hair pulling, inappropriate touching, breaking objects, and taking or damaging another's possessions.
It's really common because it is quick, direct, and easy to do. Examples include teasing, name-calling, threats, intimidation, demeaning jokes, rumors, gossip, and slander.
This one is something that not everyone thinks of as bullying. It can include using words that demean someone about their gender or sexuality, inappropriate touching of body parts, unwelcome physical contact, or even posting inappropriate photos online.
This type of bullying is more sophisticated. It's calculated and often done by a group. This is nasty stuff. It hurts people on the inside and makes them feel bad about themselves. Examples include leaving someone out on purpose, telling lies to hurt another person's reputation, and humiliating somebody publicly.
Using technology is the newest way to bully. Examples include sending mean text messages, posting videos, stories, or photos ridiculing someone, and spreading rumors through social networking sites.
This year in the United States, 13 million students will be bullied, that's almost one of out every four students. They are often scared to go to school. That means those students lose the opportunity to learn. It is every student's right to feel safe – and be safe – in school.
Students who are bullied may also have lower self-esteem, less self-confidence, increased fear and anxiety, depression, lower grades, and even suicidal thoughts.
It's not just the targets of bullying who affected. Students who bully grow up to have a greater risk of getting in trouble with the law. By the age of 25, one in four who have bullied will have spent time in jail.
Those who witness bullying often express that they feel less safe at school. Their feelings about seeing the bullying range from anger to guilt to fear, and they often wish they could help but don't know how.