Bullying is a complex issue. Not all unwanted interactions between students are classified as bullying, even though it may seem like it. Below we have presented extensive information on bullying for your review. If you believe your student, child or someone you know is being bullied, we encourage you to discuss it with your school or the institution involved, or seek the advice of counselors or other professionals.

Formal Definition of Bullying

The generally accepted definition of bullying is as follows:

  • Bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions.
  • Bullying involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time.
  • Bullying involves an imbalance of power or strength.

Experts generally agree that if all three conditions do not exist, bullying behavior is not present. If bullying does exist, bullying may take the following forms, which can all lead to long-term emotional damage.

Types of Bullying

  1. Physical Bullying: hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, scratching or any other form of physical attack. Damage to or taking someone else's belongings may also constitute physical bullying.
  2. Verbal Bullying: Name-calling, insulting, making racist, sexist, or sexual orientation or gender jokes, remarks, teasing, using sexually suggestive or abusive language, offensive remarks. Verbal bullying is the most common form of bullying.
  3. Cyberbullying: any type of bullying that is carried out by an electronic medium such as:
    • Text message bullying
    • Picture/video bullying via mobile phone or camera
    • Phone call bullying via mobile phone
    • E-mail bullying
    • Chat room bullying
    • Bullying through Instant Messaging (IM)
    • Bullying via websites or social media pages
  4. Emotional Bullying: spreading nasty stories about someone, exclusion from social groups, being made the subject of malicious rumors.

The Signs of Bullying

Bullying can take many shapes and forms from online to in-your-face. The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services has published these warning signs:

Bullying Victim Warning Signs

  • Comes home with damaged or missing clothing or other belongings
  • Reports losing items such as books, electronics, clothing, or jewelry
  • Has unexplained injuries
  • Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches, or feeling sick
  • Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams
  • Has changes in eating habits
  • Hurts themselves
  • Are very hungry after school from not eating their lunch
  • Runs away from home
  • Loses interest in visiting or talking with friends
  • Is afraid of going to school or other activities with peers
  • Loses interest in school work or begins to do poorly in school
  • Appears sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed when they come home
  • Talks about suicide
  • Feels helpless
  • Often feels like they are not good enough
  • Blames themselves for their problems
  • Suddenly has fewer friends
  • Avoids certain places
  • Acts differently than usual

Bullying Behavior Warning Signs

  • Becomes violent with others
  • Gets into physical or verbal fights with others
  • Gets sent to the principal's office or is in detention a lot
  • Has extra money or new belongings that cannot be explained
  • Is quick to blame others
  • Will not accept responsibility for their actions
  • Has friends who bully others
  • Needs to win or be best at everything

Why Students Don't Report Bullying

Students don't report bullying for a number of reasons ranging from the fear of retaliation to being labeled a "rat." The Committee for Children (cfchildren.org) has written extensively on the subject and the following is a summary of their findings.

  • Students Fear Retaliation and a Reputation as a "Rat" - This might be especially true about reporting popular students who bully. There is evidence that well-liked and successful children can be the most skilled at bullying and at escaping detection.
  • They Don't Want to Lose Power - Students may not report that they or their friends bully because they don't want to lose the power they gain through controlling others.
  • They Don't Recognize Subtle Bullying - Students may not report more subtle, indirect, and relational types of bullying (such as deliberately excluding peers or spreading rumors) because they don't realize that these are also unfair, unequal ways to treat others.
  • They Feel Ashamed, Afraid, or Powerless - Students may not report being victims of bullying because it makes them feel shamed, afraid, and powerless. Over time, they may come to feel they deserve it. This may be particularly true of children in fourth grade and up.

What You Can Do to Prevent Bullying

Experts cite that the most important thing you can do to prevent bullying is to develop a relationship with your child that is warm, loving, and that fosters communication. Often easier said than done, but it is important that a child can feel comfortable coming to you with their problems. When they do come to you, it is important that you take action, treat them with respect, and to not pass off their issues with a "kids will be kids" attitude.

Bullying is caused by an imbalance of power between the bully and the victim. Instill in your child positive values such that they use their "power" in a positive way.

Here are other things you can do:

  • Keep a watchful eye for the signs above.
  • Set firm rules and times for Internet and mobile phone use.
  • Keep cell phones and computers out of bedrooms.
  • Monitor online activity.
  • Get involved at school! Encourage your school to adopt an anti-bullying program if they don't already have one.
  • Encourage your child to stand up for others and to report bullying incidents immediately.
  • School leaders can't help if they don't know.
  • Encourage your school to have an anonymous reporting solution to help kids too afraid or embarrassed to come forward.
  • Become a school volunteer/monitor.
  • Find and read information on bullying like our White Paper: Stopping Bullies
  • Seek professional counseling if you can't solve the problem alone.