Bullying means actions or words that are meant to hurt, harm, or injure someone. It’s not just jokes and teasing among friends, since the bully’s target feels real pain.
Bullying can be direct, which means that the bully is directly addressing the person he/she wants to bully. For example, it includes actions or words that are easy to recognize and observe: hitting, stealing, taxing, taunting, insulting, etc.
Bullying can also be indirect. The bully doesn’t directly address his/her victim but tries to harm him/her by talking to other people or ignoring the victim (passive aggression). These actions are harder to see. We would call it indirect bullying, for example, if a person spreads rumours about someone else to damage their reputation, insult them behind their back, make them lose friends, etc.
Whether it’s direct or indirect, we call something bullying when the following 3 criteria are met.
The bully’s intention is to harm the other person, to deliberately hurt him/her and cause him/her injury. In addition, it doesn’t matter whether or not the bully admits that his/her actions were intentional… from the moment it causes distress in the victim, it’s bullying.
Bullying is usually repeated behaviour. However, some serious actions may happen only once but still be considered as bullying (for example, a death threat).
Imbalance of power
Bullying is a situation where the balance of power between the bully and the victim is unequal. For example, it might be a group attacking a single person, a popular kid making fun of a kid who’s more isolated or has fewer friends, a person in a position of authority (a teacher, an adult) dealing with a young person, etc.
Different kinds of bullying
No matter what form it takes, bullying hurts and leaves its marks.
It can take different forms:
- verbal : insulting or making fun of someone, accusing them, calling them names, humiliating them, threatening them, manipulating them, or making racist, sexist, homophobic, or sexual comments.
- social : spreading rumours, ignoring or rejecting someone, creating a situation designed to make them look stupid, breaking up friendships, etc.
- physical : punching, kicking, or spitting, grabbing someone’s sweater, or breaking stuff.
- sexual : forcing someone to engage in sexual activity.
- cyberbullying : using technological tools to bully or harass another person.
If you realize you’re a victim of bullying, don’t keep silent. Take steps to break the cycle of threats by reporting the situation, keeping your friends around you, and looking for help.