What is Bullying?
Bullying is where an individual
person or a group of people use emotional and/or physical abuse to intentionally annoy, harass,
oppress, hurt or otherwise mistreat another person or group.
Bullying is a deliberate act where the bully consciously sets out
to hurt someone.
bullying can occur in any context in which people come into contact or otherwise interact with one
another. This may be in a physical setting (e.g. face to face) or
remotely (e.g. in cyberspace).
Bullying can often be repeated and persistently aimed
toward particular targets time and again.
Bullying often involves an imbalance of power where the
bully sees or perceives vulnerability in the victim and directs their abusive behaviour toward
What Causes Bullying?
Bullying can be caused for a variety of
often target their attention to passive victims who react by showing signs of being intimidated
such as pleading, crying or running away or who seem to lack self-confidence.
Sometimes bullies pick on people for no
the case of children, some are more likely than others to be victimized
because they might appear
“different” from their peers. Being the focus of a bully’s attention may stem
from a person’s race, their religion, their appearance, their sexual orientation, because
they have a disability or because of their home circumstances. Some
people are bullied for being black, white, Asian, fat, skinny, tall, short, clever, freckle
faced, slow learners, or red-haired.
The pay-off for the bully is usually
the ability to perceive that they are
holding some form of power or supremacy over others or being seen as popular, cool or tough or to get
attention. They attempt to achieve
this through domination and control of those viewed as being weaker, different or more
vulnerable than they are. Bullying can also have its roots in the human
frailties of jealousy, distrust, fear, misunderstanding or ignorance.
cases, the bully themselves may have been a target of other bullies and has chosen to act out
against others in the same way that they have been acted against.
learn to justify their actions by convincing themselves that their targets deserve to be
bullied. They also
believe that the
way to get what they want from others is through intimidation, coercion and force.
Studies have indicated that bullies are largely unsuccessful in developing the important social
skills of sharing, reciprocating, empathizing, and negotiating that form the
basis for sound
What Forms of Bullying Are There?
Bullying can occur in different
forms. The more basic forms of abuse are:
♦ Physical bullying - poking, pushing, hitting, tripping, pinching, kicking,
throwing objects, spitting upon, beating up etc.
♦ Verbal bullying - yelling, teasing, being called names, insulting, put
♦ Emotional bullying - ignoring, excluding, spreading rumors, telling
forms of bullying (which include elements of the basic types) may
♦ Physiological bullying – making threats, using rude, obscene & vulgar
gestures, stalking etc
♦ Cyber bullying - impersonating someone else on blogs or social networking
sites such as Facebook, Myspace, Bebo, Twitter etc, insulting someone in chat rooms, sending hateful or
threatening emails and text messages, using the Internet, chat rooms or mobile phones to send
rumours or degrading images.
♦ Sexual bullying – verbal or physical actions such as
unwanted touching, fondling or brushing
against someone, picking on someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans gender or because of
doubts as to their sexual orientation
Bullying at School
Bullying at school is probably one of the most common
locations for child bullying to occur. It can occur in and around
all areas of the school although it is more likely to occur at recess or lunch times, in hallways,
toilets, during sport or PE, on school buses, in classes that require group work and also during
Bullying has a propensity to occur when there is little or no
classroom or playground supervision and control. It also raises its head when
large groups of children engage in horse play or while playing competitive sports.
at school may sometimes be likened to a “pack mentality” where groups of students attempt to
isolate one student in particular and gain the loyalty of bystanders who are intimidated by
what they see and want to avoid becoming the next victim. These bullies usually try and start
off with verbal bullying tactics such as yelling, teasing, name-calling, insulting and threatening their target before moving onto physically bullying
the victim by pushing them around, hitting, tripping, pinching, slapping or punching and
attempting to cause physical harm.
has been estimated that on average, bullying can happen in school playgrounds every 7 minutes and once every
25 minutes in the classroom. Boys tend to be represented more
so in physical forms of bullying whereas girls tend to be seen engaging in bully more so
through indirect means, such as exclusion, gossiping, spreading rumors and telling lies.
Around 85% of bullying incidents happen within peer groups. The most
common form of school bullying is verbal (name calling etc) with physical abuse being the least
Experience shows that bullying in schools is
usually reduced where the principal and other school leaders demonstrate a firm pro-active
commitment to reducing and stamping out the behaviour.
Cases have been reported where bullying can also be
instigated by teachers and the school system itself. This can occur
because there is a built-in imbalance of power in the school system that can lend itself to subtle
or covert abuse, humiliation, or exclusion. This may happen despite the
appearance of maintaining an express and overt commitment to anti-bullying policies and
Bullying In The Workplace
Bullying in the workplace may take the form of
inappropriate and unwarranted conduct such as: mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct which
is threatening, humiliating, demeaning, degrading or intimidating, that interferes with
work. It may even involve deliberate sabotage or frustration of
one’s efforts in achieving the business outcomes for which they are
Bullying at work is considerably more prevalent than unlawful
discrimination and vastly more prevalent than workplace violence. Studies have indicated that
while only one employee in every 10,000 becomes a victim of workplace violence, one in six
experiences bullying of some sort at work. Bullying is a little more common than sexual
harassment but not verbal abuse which occurs more than
Workplace bullying differs from bullying at school as
workplace bullying often occurs within the established systems, rules and policies of the work
place and society. Despite employers having duty of care obligations at law, such actions may not
necessarily be viewed as being illegal and may not even be against the organisation’s internal
policies, guidelines and procedures. Unfortunately though, the fallout
from such behaviour to the victimised employee and the collateral damage to workplace morale may be
significant and lasting.
What Are The
Effects Of Bullying On Victims?
Bullying is a serious human problem that can
damage the physical, social, and emotional health and well-being of its victims. It
can make its victims lonely, miserable and insecure and can undermine their sense of self
Bullying can cause feelings of helplessness, sadness, loneliness,
low self-confidence, fear, anxiety and poor concentration. It
can lead to social withdrawal. self-harm, depression, greater susceptibility to illnesses,
suicidal thoughts and, in some extreme cases, suicide.
of schoolyard bullying may do poorly in
school, panic at the thought of going to school or may even refuse to attend school
tell tail signs that things aren’t right might include:
adulthood, victims of bullying may go on to exhibit poor self-worth and have problems with
depression, confidence and in relationships.
Bullying also hurts the children who do the bullying as
well as those who watch it happen. In fact, bullying creates a climate of
fear, callousness, and disrespect for everyone involved.
As childhood bullies grow into adults, it
may be found that they are over-represented in cases of:
Dropping out of the education
Convictions for crime
Difficulty controlling their
Convictions for drunk
One should not
assume that just because it is not readily apparent, and children don’t talk about it, bullying
isn’t occurring. Even when children don’t report bullying, there can still be warning signs if you
look close enough.
Bullying can be shrouded in a culture of silence. A lot
of children who may be on the receiving end of a bully's aggression keep it to themselves and
don’t tell anyone.
A good deal of bullying goes unreported because
May not necessarily see it as
Might feel ashamed about it,
Don’t want to be seen or regarded
as weak or sissies,
Feel that they deserve it,
Don’t want to be seen as
Don’t know how to raise it,
Don’t have a trusted grown up or
role model to confide in,
Think adults won’t understand or
Believe that nothing will be done
to correct it
of the possible signals that indicate bullying may be occurring can
Torn, ripped, soiled or lost items of clothing
and other personal possessions without proper explanations,
Signs of physical abuse, such as
bleeding, scratches, welts or bruising
A loss or sudden changes in
A lack of desire to involve
themselves in activities with friends and peers
Sudden loss of interest in favorite
Abnormally sad, moody, anxious,
withdrawn, or depressed
Eating disorders, sleep problems,
Complaining of headaches, stomach
aches, or other physical ailments
Lack of self-confidence
Under achievement in school
Thoughts of suicide
Traits of the Bully
Adult bullies often have
personalities that are aggressive and authoritarian. They usually display a strong
need to control or dominate others and can be contemptuous of subordinates who choose to disagree
with their points of view or demonstrate individuality and free thinking.
Bullies may single out individuals who challenge “norms” for ridicule in front of others.
Bullying may be motivated by envy and
resentment. Some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic, whereas
others can use bullying as a means of concealing feelings of shame, anxiety or to boost their
own self esteem at the expense of others. By demeaning their targeted
victims, the bullying personality feels a sensation of empowerment, control and
often found to be ill-tempered, inflexible, over confident, and don’t like to follow established
rules. They typically fail to show empathy with others and may enjoy inflicting pain
and suffering. Bullies may suffer from depressive illnesses and have personality
disorders. They can perceive or manufacture the perception of hostile intent by
others where none exists, over react in an aggressive fashion to uncertain situations, and hold beliefs that foster and
support violence. They like to preserve a certain self image and show signs of
play an important part in either promoting or preventing bullying. They can be part of the
problem or part of the solution.
the one hand, they may inflame a situation by providing an audience, maintaining silence,
actively encouraging, or joining in – sometimes without realizing
it. On the other hand though, bystanders can
neutralize or help stop the bullying in its tracks by assisting the target, drawing support
from other bystanders, or obtaining help from grown ups.
Studies have indicated that in more than one half the reported cases, bullying can stop within
seconds of a helpful bystander stepping in to take the heat out of the
Bystanders who promote bullying may:
incite the bullying by provoking the bully to
fuel the bullying by back slapping,
laughing, cheering, or making comments that further encourage the bully;
participate in the bullying once it
accept bullying passively by being
an on-looker and not intervening. Passive bystanders can provide the
right climate and audience a bully craves, offering silent acceptance that gives
bullies the ammunition to continue their hurtful behavior.
Bystanders who want to quell the bullying may:
directly step into the situation by
actively discouraging the bully, defending and protecting the victim, or diffusing the
situation by turning attention away from bullying; and
go and get help, by lobbying
support from peers to stand up against bullying or by reporting the bullying to
prepare children to become helpful bystanders who can make a positive difference. They can do this
by letting them know that adults will support them if they are ever called upon to step up and stop
a situation from getting out of hand.
Can Make Bullying Worse?
bullying behaviour can worsen if victims react to bullies by giving in, getting upset, or
retaliating. This can actually encourage them.
Doing nothing is
not an option. This will undoubtedly send the signal to the bully that their behaviour is acceptable and
may continue. Bullying can escalate if bullies are not reprimanded for their
action or no immediate consequences are imposed. However, while it is important for the bullying behaviour to stop
it's wise not to try and humiliate or shame the bully. Instead of acting as a
deterrent, lecturing and scolding can often provide the bully with attention that he or she finds
rewarding. This may unwittingly encourage further incidents.
learn how to behave by watching, mimicking and playing out the actions of elders and grown
ups in their lives. At this stage of their development "monkey see -
monkey do" is very apt. If children observe elders and other role models
acting aggressively, they are more likely than not to show aggression toward others as
well. To help prevent bullying from worsening, take a close look at
your own actions and lead by example.
What Can be Done To Prevent Bullying?
Taking steps to prevent bullying or stop it from escalating is certainly possible and
Many young children engage in aggressive behaviors that may lead to
bullying. If bullying behaviour is not challenged and rectified in childhood, there is
a risk that it may become habit forming and entrenched later on in life.
Strategies and actions will be more effective when applied
early to children who are young or have just begun to show signs of
bullying. The earlier intervention is made the better the outcome will
it’s never too late to alter a bully’s patterns of behavior for the better, it is usually much more
difficult to change established behavior in later years. This is because
such behavior has had a chance to become inculcated and “hard wired” into the bully’s
Bullying prevention should ideally begin in the most
formative and impressionable stages of a child’s development. Pre-school
is an ideal time for this. Adults can teach children important
bullying prevention concepts and skills. They can then guide children as
they play and practice using these skills in social settings.
Social skills that form an important building
block for preventing bullying include:
Standing Up To
often feel trapped as targets of bullying and often perceive themselves as being helpless to
escape their victim role. But there are ways to change their
feelings of helplessness to ones of confidence.
Many victims of bullying resort to using either passive
submission or aggressive retaliation toward their tormentors.
However, the best approach in responding to bullying is by targets learning to stand up for
themselves by responding in an assertive – not aggressive - manner. If
used appropriately, assertive responses should neither provoke the bully nor reward them with
submission. Using an assertive manner in these situations can give a child a degree of
self-confidence and a sense of control that can be off-putting to the bully and deter their
approach from the very beginning.
Every time a child responds assertively to a
bully’s provocations, fearful and helpless thoughts are replaced by strong and confident
Tips For Standing Up For
Stay cool, calm and collected
Take a deep breath and let the air
Don’t cower - sit or stand tall,
Check your body language - keep
your hands at your sides rather than on your hips or folded across your chest.
Don’t show facial expressions of
anger or laughter – have a relaxed but focused demeanor instead.
Make and keep eye contact with your
Speak with a calm and confident
voice that’s loud enough to be heard clearly.
Avoid using provocative words but
use a positive tone of voice
Try and avoid getting into
name-calling, slanging matches or using threats.
Avoid pointing fingers, poking or
other intimidating gestures.
Respond briefly, succinctly and
Do your best to avoid bringing up
past hostilities or making sweeping generalizations.
The Future - Strategies And
Actions To Stamp Out Bullying
We can all do something positive to reduce bullying behavior
in our society. When you hear or see bullying occurring around you consider
adopting the following strategies and tactics:
Intervene straight away - When you
know something is happening but don’t do anything about it, it’s the same as
sending the signal that bullying is OK. If you just overlook the
situation or play down the problem, the child on the receiving end of the abuse
simply won’t believe that grown ups understand, care or can help the
situation. A very sage rule to remember is that if you don’t show
genuine concern and intervene children won’t either.
Get involved even if you’re not absolutely certain
it’s bullying – Studying kid’s actions, words, body language, and
facial expressions will give you some tell tale clues as to whether bullying is
occurring. Even if the behavior doesn’t constitute bullying,
aggressive conduct should be checked and, if need be, corrected or stopped.
Move to where the bullying is occurring and position
yourself between or near the victim and the bully. Taking proper precautions try
and physically separate them if necessary in order to stop the bullying
behavior – In the case of younger children, removing them from
the situation to a designated “time-out” area or similar can be
effective. Enlisting the support of another adult will often help to
diffuse the situation more quickly and provide for a secondary witness to the
Act firmly but appropriately -
Convey the gravity of the situation to those involved while preserving a cool,
calm and collected disposition. Using an assertive tone, announce that the
bullying must stop. Maintaining close eye contact with the bully,
describe the behavior you witnessed, why it is unacceptable and the consequences
of any recurrence.
Enlist further help if required –
Where the bully is being physical, or they are a bigger/stronger child, or there
is more than one bully, it might be advisable to enlist the support of another
grown up to help maintain safety and afford protection to yourself.
Respond assertively not aggressively
– Two wrongs don’t make a right. Solving problems using aggressive tactics is not
the way to go. Doing so may encourage a bully or a bystander to
elevate their bullying behavior or become aggressive toward you.
Try and avoid humiliating the bully by lecturing or
berating them in front of their peers – When intervening, the
objective is to bring a prompt end to the behavior. This should ideally be
achieved without humiliating, ridiculing or shaming the bully. While some people
believe it may serve as a deterrent, lecturing and dressing-down may provide the
bully with attention that he or she finds stimulating, encouraging and
Avoid meting-out immediate
consequences – In the heat of the moment its easy to lose one’s
cool and impose consequences upon the perpetrator that may be totally
disproportionate to the severity of the incident. Give yourself some time
to reflect and consider the incident. Obtain any other clarifying
information. Once you’ve gathered all the facts decide the best course of
action in the circumstances.
Adults should take control of the situation and
resolve it. Asking children to sort out the situation for themselves is not ideal
and can make matters worse – Unlike a simple disagreement,
bullying involves an imbalance of power that calls for a mature mind to intervene
and set things right. Children lack the insights and world experience that
an adult brings to resolving a conflict.
Take a moment to offer praise and appreciation to
helpful bystanders – helpful bystanders i.e. children and others
who try to assist the victim or stop the bully in their tracks and diffuse the
problem are central to preventing and stemming the tide of bullying.
Stay in the proximity – It’s wise to
remain in the immediate area until you’re satisfied that the bullying has stopped
and the parties have moved on.