What is Bullying?
The authors recognize that traditional bullying can be described in many ways: a repeated pattern of anger to gain power over another, the intent to harm another or a disparity of power between the bully and their victim. Bullying can also occur verbally and physically or socially and emotionally.
However, the study also indicates four variances in bullying that help alter its definition in our present society and should be looked for in any bullying literature you may plan to share with your class.
1. Bullying is a social phenomenon
In the young adult literature examined by Hughes and Laffier, a trend developed where the bully was keen to maintain their status or sense of control. These behaviours are considered to be a social phenomenon because youths’ desire for power in a hierarchical social setting, like school, where they are trying to learn ‘who they are’ can be considered a natural consequence.
To help address bullying as a social phenomenon with your students, ask them:
- How does bullying begin in a social setting?
- Does bullying reflect social issues?
- How can bullying be continued or halted by bystanders?
- How does your social response impact bullying behaviours?
2. Bullying as a Group
Bullying may no longer be perpetuated by a single individual. In some cases, the authors note that a group of people bully another person or group. The authors also note that the group does not necessarily need to be together to carry out the harassment. For example, members of the group could attack a victim at different times through cyberbullying.
To engage your students on the topic of group bullying, ask them:
- What impact does group bullying have on victims?
- What role do the members of the group play?
- Do the group members do anything to prevent or encourage the bullying?
- How can bullying by a single person evolve into a group phenomenon? What would your role be if it did?
According to prior research, between 30-40% of students have felt the effects of or taken part in cyberbullying.
The act of cyberbullying maintains the same characteristics and actions of traditional bullying with the exception of the actions happening online through messenger chats, emails, texting or social media.
The authors note that because it is easier to remain anonymous online, bullying can be easier or even engaged in with students who would not typically take part.
The wide expanse of the internet helps to create more chances for bullying to occur and allows the impact of the actions to spread farther and faster.
To help address cyberbullying with your students, ask them:
- What is cyberbullying and why do students take part in it?
- Why can cyberbullying have more of a negative impact than traditional bullying?
- What kinds of cyberbullying have you seen? What are some options for intervening?
4. Sexual Bullying
Hughes and Laffier note in their study that verbal abuse is the most common type of bullying and can frequently include language that attacks a person’s sexual orientation. Research has shown that 93% of youth hear negative language about sexual orientation occasionally, while more that 50% of teenagers hear this kind of verbal abuse daily at school.
To help your students talk about sexual verbal abuse, ask them:
- What are the reasons and outcomes of verbal abuse?
- How can others intervene with sexual verbal abuse?
- How can we create a safe and inclusive learning environment?