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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 not accidental. Bullies make a conscious decision to hurt someone.Bullying is a deliberate act where the bully consciously sets out to hurt someone.

Sadly, 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 them.

What Causes Bullying?

Bullying can be caused for a variety of reasons.   Bullies 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 apparent reason.

In 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.

 

In some 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.

 

Bullies 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 enduring relationships.

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 downs

♦ Emotional bullying - ignoring, excluding, spreading rumors, telling lies

Other forms of bullying (which include elements of the basic types) may include:

♦ 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 etc. 

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 after-school activities.

Schoolyards are a common place for bullying to occur.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.

Bullying 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.

 

It 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 common.

 

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 practices.

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 employed.

 

Workplace bullying can impact employee morale and damage organisations.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 bullying.

 

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 worth.

Children who are targetted by bullies may feel helpless and become sad, withdrawn and depressed.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.

Victims of schoolyard bullying may do poorly in school, panic at the thought of going to school or may even refuse to attend school altogether.

Other tell tail signs that things aren’t right might include:

  • Headaches 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting 
  • Rashes 
  • Stomach pain 
  • Sleep problems 
  • Bed-wetting 
  • Teariness 
  • Depression 

In 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:

  • Violence/Assault 
  • Antisocial behavior 
  • Possessing weapons 
  • Dropping out of the education system 
  • Convictions for crime 
  • Difficulty controlling their emotions 
  • Traffic offences 
  • Convictions for drunk driving 
  • Depression 
  • Suicides 

Detecting Bullying

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.

Keep a watch out for bullying warning signs.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 children:

  • May not necessarily see it as bullying,
  • 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 outcasts,
  • Fear reprisals,
  • 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 blame them,
  • Believe that nothing will be done to correct it

Some of the possible signals that indicate bullying may be occurring can include: 

  • 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 friends
  • A lack of desire to involve themselves in activities with friends and peers
  • Sudden loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Abnormally sad, moody, anxious, withdrawn, or depressed
  • Eating disorders, sleep problems, bed-wetting, rashes
  • 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.

Bullies who are adults often desire to control and dominate 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 superiority. 

Bullies are 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 being obsessive.  

Bystanders 

Bystanders can play an important part in either promoting or preventing bullying.  They can be part of the problem or part of the solution.

 

On 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 situation.

 

Negative bystander behaviors Bystanders who promote bullying may:

  • incite the bullying by provoking the bully to action;
  • fuel the bullying by back slapping, laughing, cheering, or making comments that further encourage the bully;
  • participate in the bullying once it has started;
  • 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.

Positive bystander behaviors 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 adults 

Adults can 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.

What Things Can Make Bullying Worse?

Sometimes 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.

 

Children 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 desirable.

 

Bullying prevention should be taught in early childhood.

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 likely be.

 

While 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 mindset.

 

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:

  • Solving social problems
  • Sharing voluntarily
  • Interacting assertively
  • Showing empathy toward others

Standing Up To Bullies

Children 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.

 

Stand up to bullies in an assertive - not retaliatory way.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 ones.

Tips For Standing Up For Yourself

  • Stay cool, calm and collected
  • Take a deep breath and let the air out slowly.
  • Don’t cower - sit or stand tall, head up.
  • 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 aggressor.
  • 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 directly.
  • Do your best to avoid bringing up past hostilities or making sweeping generalizations.

The Future - Strategies And Actions To Stamp Out Bullying

The future - what will you do about 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 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 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.


Seperate the victim and the bully 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 incident.


Act firmly but appropriately 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 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.


Avoid humiliating the bully 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 rewarding.


Think before meting-out consequences 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 need to take control and resolve the problem 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.


Acknowledge and praise helpful bystanders 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 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.

  About Bullying