Bullying...Understanding the definition

The first step to resolving bullying is understanding the definition

As a facilitator, my job is to teach adults as well as students about bullying and how to stop it. Over the years, I have found that we usually need to go back to the basics before we can tackle bullying. Often the definition of bullying is misunderstood. Bullying is defined as: "using your power, over a period of time, to hurt someone emotionally or physically."

It is important to understand that bullying has evolved and it presents itself in different forms such as:

Cyberbullying - using the Internet, cell phones, videos, game systems, IM, chat rooms, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media to send or post texts or images to hurt, threaten, or embarrass another person. Cyberbullying is also when a perpetrator goes under a false identity to trick others into trusting him/her and then uses information to hurt the individual.

Relational Aggression -  using social or emotional aggression between individuals in relationships, whereby “the group” is used as a weapon to hurt others. This can take the form of gossip, teasing, rumors, social exclusion, manipulative friendships, and even negative body language.

Think about the movie mean girls...We all have heard about it or have seen it; however, now with youth having unlimited access to technology mean girls have gotten a lot meaner. It is not only girls but also boys that are using these forms of bullying to establish their power and hurt others.

We need to shift our thinking that bullying is not just the big scary kid on the playground picking on the weaker one. It can be anyone and it happens more often then we think. One in seven students from pre-school to grade twelve is either a bully or a victim of bullying. 38% of online girls report being bullied, compared with 26% of online boys. In particular, 41% of older girls (15-17) report being bullied—more than any other age or gender group. Theses statistics are scary and disturbing. Yet, when I enter a new school to start a bully intervention program, students often deny that there is a problem. Part of the problem is the lack of understanding of bullying, cyberbullying, and relational aggression.

When we start to change our perceptions of bullying, we start to understand how to prevent and stop the behavior.

 

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  • Great post. I think we need to stop diluting the term to apply when people just aren't nice to each other, like that newscaster who received an email from a viewer concerned about her weight. Remember that?

    Bullying is a real and dangerous problem. It's not just getting your feelings hurt, it's being afraid, coerced and affected negatively in the long-term.

  • Jenna, thank you for your post and I would like to add on to your thoughts. I do remember the newscaster issue. There is a lot more to that story. She was actually not a victim of bullying. The email was inappropriate and mean; however, it was not bullying. As I mentioned, bullying is using your power, over a period of time, to harm someone else. The newscaster was dealing with a single incident and she took it to the media to expose the man that insulted her. Furthermore, her husband used his power and posted the email to his Facebook page. He actually retaliated. The people posting on his Facebook wall were bullying the man that wrote the email to the newscaster. It was a complicated situation and because the media publicized it as bullying, it got more attention. We can see how this becomes a vicious cycle and can easily spiral out of control.

    Honestly, I feel bad for the woman but she is not a victim of bullying. Her message however, did teach students about retaliation and how to use Facebook to get even. I work with teens, I see what they do to each other.

    To support your argument, I agree we need to teach people about kindness and empathy to make a positive difference. In my programs, I go back to the basics and teach students about random acts of kindness. I also like to work on developing empathy and empowerment. For some reason, we are overlooking the power of these skills and how they can help reduce bullying. It is important to not try to retaliate or seek revenge on others that harm us. When victims seek revenge or retaliation, they become bullies and the vicious cycle of bullying continues...

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    As the unfortunate case of Amanda illustrates, cyber bullying is a rising epidemic and one that can easily drive kids to suicide. We should use apps like Qustodio to monitor the accounts our kids interact with so that strangers stay out of bounds. For example, using Qustodio, I watch the profile pictures of people my son interacts with on Facebook. So that leaves me a little reassured that he is among friends. Just Google for it for more info.

  • In reply to Mark Miller:

    You know, I talk about Amanda in my training and I will dedicate my next post to cyberbullying. I also would like talk about Qustodio. I will do some research on the app and it might be good to expand on it to give parents some more resources. Thanks for the idea and I appreciate your feedback.

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    Honestly as a parent who has been actively involved in this issue for close to 10 years, the biggest problem with "bullying" is adults. I have been rooms of highly educated people at National summits ( including the White House Summit)and no one can agree on a "definition" of bullying. Why because we are thinking as adults and trying to include everything that doesn't belong. Thereby actually diluting the act of bullying. Think about it at a kids level, what do they need to know to understand what they are doing is wrong? "The base of "bullying" is all about Power & Control. Power that is abused by one person or a group of people over another to get them to do things they do not wish to do or should not do, through various means,with the sole intent to cause pain or consequence to another person." When kids hear that the light bulbs go off, they get it it is how they are treating each other, they understand it at its basic level. And cyber bullying is exactly the same thing using a different medium, but it has created a great lack of empathy among students because they ever have to see the damage caused. Take away the "cyber" and its still bullying. Yet to adults being direct and simple it doesn't cover "all the bases" but to students it does and we need to work at their level, and empower them to change in ways adults cannot. Peace
    Kevin, Bullypolice USA

  • In reply to Kevin Epling:

    Kevin,
    You are absolutely right. When I conduct parent workshops, it is my biggest challenge to have them see the issues with bullying. It is also a challenge for me to explain that their kid might be a bully. As adults, we think of bullying in a different way. We have years of life experience and also knowledge that kids don't have, so I agree it is important for parents to understand bullying from the perspective of a their child. Also, kids live in two worlds: 1) the virtual world, and 2) the real world. When those worlds get infected by bullying it has such a negative impact on the child development and well-being. As adults, it might be hard for us to grasp, we are not nearly as co-dependent on social media and technology. Your post gives me some good ideas for my next few blogs. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate it!

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    In reply to Kortney Peagram:

    Kortney, The biggest issue is "adults" don't understand the difference between "bullying" of the old days and the "New age of Bullying" they are oblivious of the impact of technology. One of the worst decisions ever was when schools took the tact of " if its electronic its not our issue" This happened about 5 yrs ago across America and the bullies thrived and now schools are wondering why. I sat on a panel, one of the first on Cyber issues, and people ignored it. We have a long way to go and it will be the students who get us out of this mess, the adults need to empower them and let them go. Just spoke at a school and the Principal said she is now bombarded with every form of program and speaker one can imagine. It is the new "cash crop" for speakers (some who have no business speaking on the topic except for a paycheck) Schools please do your homework with speakers. Call where they have been and get the gut reaction of those who witnessed it. Please check out our website mattepling.com for more information. Need anything just email.

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