Most people can recognize the most overt bully behavior although some will explain away physical bullying as “boys will be boys”. In last month’s blog I went over understanding what bullying is as a definition. I also identified how adults share some responsibility. In order to make it easier to take on the adult responsibility for preventing bullying, this blog will give concrete examples of what bully behavior looks like.
In looking at the various examples, keep in mind that all of them pertain to repetitive behaviors.
1) Whenever it’s more than one person against a single target, it’s bullying not “fighting”.
2) A “fight” where only one person is getting physical and the other isn’t fighting back is bullying.
Examples for both 1 & 2 are hitting, pushing/shoving, tripping, pinching, poking and kicking.
3) When only one person is laughing about engaging in “rough play”, it’s not mutually agreed activity. One sided “rough housing” where the other person doesn’t think it’s fun is physical bullying.
4) Destroying or damaging someone’s things isn’t a prank and harmless.
5) If the person being physical wouldn’t be comfortable with an authority figure knowing about it, it’s not play, it’s bullying.
6) Bra snapping and invasive touch are forms of physical, sexual bullying. Lifting or looking up skirts is sexual bullying. “Pantsing” is physical, sexual bullying meant to humiliate despite even the urban dictionary’s assertion it’s a prank. Some bullying can be sexual harassment but not all sexual harassment is bullying.
1) Teasing is mutual, with both people enjoying a playful, verbal exchange, innocent in motive and stopped as soon as one person wants it to stop. When it doesn’t meet any of those criteria, then it’s taunting not teasing. Taunting is bullying. Teasing allows everyone to keep their dignity and stays lighthearted. Taunting does not.
2) Name calling is not “playful fun”, especially when the names are racial or sexual in nature. When someone says “I’m teasing, can’t you take a joke?”, that doesn’t make the behavior teasing or ok. It’s verbal bullying.
3) Spreading rumors, especially those that can harm a reputation, is verbal bullying. It may also be cyberbullying.
4) Even innocent sounding statements, in a different context and tone, can be verbal bullying. In the 1940’s book “One Hundred Dresses“, a group of girls laughingly tells a poor student (who always wears the same thing) variations of the statement “I love your dress”. Standing alone, the words sound perfectly fine but everyone knew they were meant to hurt. That’s verbal bullying.
5) Verbal threats to cause harm– whether physical, emotional or social harm– are a form of bullying.
6) Using words to objectify girls or call them by body parts or demean their sexuality are all forms of verbal sexual bullying. Using words to try to demean boys by suggesting they are less than “real boys” (i.e., girls or homosexual-which is itself offensive) are also.
1) Real friends don’t engage in social or relational bullying but unfortunately it’s become so pervasive and accepted that many female friend groups engage in it. It’s still toxic. The classic example of this is the movie “Mean Girls“. Note that this behavior is so accepted, this is a comedy.
2) Deliberately working to exclude or keep one person on the outside of the social group or activity is bullying.
3) Using social pressure to encourage other kids to treat someone in a mean way, to exclude them, or to spread rumors about that person is bullying.
4) Intentionally trying to make someone feel stupid, insignificant or “not ok” in some way is social bullying. An example might be something like “You don’t play sports?!? What’s the matter, are you terrible at them?”. Another might be “Seriously? Your family can’t afford to go on spring break? ” (with a tone suggesting the poorer student is pathetic).
5) When a group makes an obvious play at whispering and laughing pointedly as soon as a specific person comes into the room or into close proximity to the group, that’s social bullying.
6) Suggesting a girl is an easy sexual conquest or a boy has either no experience or skills sexually are two common ways of engaging in social/relational sexual bullying.
1) Using social media to engage in any of the verbal or social/relational bullying discussed above is cyberbullying.
2) Attempting to humiliate by posting embarrassing or compromising photos (especially when the target isn’t even aware a picture has been taken) online is cyberbullying. In some cases, it could even rise to the level of a sexual crime like child pornography.
3) Spreading rumors online, damaging someone’s reputation online and exposing someone’s private information with intent to suggest that person is available for any form of “hooking up” are all forms of cyberbullying.
4) Cyberbullying has grown by huge percentages in recent times. It is often a form of bullying that entices the person doing the bully behavior to escalate because he or she is removed from seeing the immediate effects. The target of cyberbullying is even more likely to feel out of control, anxious or depressed as this type of bullying can go viral and is often impossible to remove. The ability to be anonymous online dramatically increases the intensity, frequency and scope of bully behavior.
One of the most important things that will change bullying is when we collectively stop treating it is normal, acceptable behavior. It is not a rite of passage. It is not “normal” kid behavior. It’s not boys being boys, or just “mean girls”. It’s not a joke or teasing or rough housing. It’s not flirting. It’s not funny. How we talk about all these behaviors is important either to allowing bully behavior to continue or putting a stop to it. Join me in working to stop and prevent bullying.