Bullying - The Facts

What are the three components of bullying?

Most bullying experts agree that what sets bullying apart from mean behavior is that bullies intend to harm their targets. There’s also an imbalance of power and the acts are usually repeated.

Power imbalance. When there is an imbalance of power, it is hard for the target to defend himself against the bully’s attacks. This difference in power can be physical or psychological. For instance, in cases of physical imbalances, the bully may be older, larger or stronger. Or, there may be a gang of bullies targeting the victim. Meanwhile, psychological imbalances are harder to distinguish. But examples include having more social status, a sharper tongue or more influence at school. The result of any power imbalance is that the target of the bullying can feel weak, oppressed, threatened and vulnerable.

Repetitive actions. Typically, bullying is not a single act of meanness. Instead, it is usually ongoing and sustained. Bullies often target their victims multiple times. Sometimes the bullying will be the same act over and over like demanding a child’s homework or lunch money. Other times, it will include a variety of actions such as calling the target names, tripping them in the halls and posting mean comments online. The point is, that kids can say and do mean things, but an isolated incident does not constitute bullying. A situation becomes bullying when the torment is consistent.

Intentional actions. Another aspect that sets bullying apart from other behaviors is that the bully intends to harm the target. Bullies harass other people on purpose. Their behavior is not accidental and it’s not a “joke.” There is nothing fun about bullying for the victim. Instead, the consequences of bullying are steep. Victims may feel embarrassed, ashamed, upset, afraid, sad or even angry. Additionally, bullying can become so mean that the target can begin to feel anxious and worry about going to school.

What tactics do bullies use to attack others? There are many different ways bullies harm other people. But these incidents can be divided into several categories including physical bullying, verbal bullying, relational aggression and cyberbullying.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Physcial bullying. This form of bullying is often the easiest to identify because it often involves some sort of physical act like hitting, shoving, kicking, destroying property or stealing property.Verbal bullying. Instead of hitting with hands, fists or feet, the bully will hurt another person with words. This type of bullying includes name-calling, insulting, threatening, mocking, intimidating and taunting. Even making racist remarks and sexist remarks is considered bullying. For many people, it is hard to distinguish between teasing and bullying. But one good rule of thumb is if the target is not laughing or having fun then it is bullying.  

Relational aggression. This type of bullying is insidious and uses relationships to control or hurt another person. Some common tactics of relational aggression including excluding or ostracizing other people, talking behind another person’s back, spreading rumors and lies and participating in gossip. Relational aggression is especially hurtful because it deprives kids of the opportunity to form meaningful connections with their peers – something that is especially important during the tween and teen years. 

Cyberbullying. This type of bullying usually takes place off of school grounds by utilizing technology. Some common tools of technology include cell phones, instant messaging, YouTube, social networking, e-mail, chat rooms, blogs and so on. These items are used as a way to engage in relational aggression and verbal bullying. Bullies call names, insult, harass, spread rumors and impersonate other people. They may even threaten to physically harm other people. The challenge with cyberbullying is that it can take place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And it is done at time anonymously. As a result, the effects of cyberbullying are significant.

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