Bullying behavior is not always easy for adults or children to recognize or define. A fight between friends or siblings or rough play between children with equal power is conflict, not bullying. It is bullying when a person or group of people intentionally use their power to hurt, frighten, threaten or exclude another person. Intimidation affects bystanders, too.
According to a KidsHealth KidsPoll in 2004, of a sample of over 1,200 children ages nine through 13:
- 86% reported they have seen someone else being bullied;
- 48% said they have been bullied; and
- 42% admitted to bullying other kids.
Bullying can take place anywhere; however, it often takes place at school. Bullying affects not just those children and teens who are bullying or being bullied, but also children and teens who see it happening, or ‘bystanders.’
Six Types of Bullying
Emotional bullying involves excluding others from activities or gossiping and spreading rumors about a person. This type of bullying is more subtle and is especially common among females.
Physical bullying involves more ‘visible’ bullying behavior such as hitting, kicking, hair pulling or even threats of physical harm.
Verbal bullying involves name-calling, continual mocking, insults, taunts, or making jokes about and laughing at another person’s expense--‘laughing at’ ‘rather than 'laughing with’.
Racist bullying involves using racial or ethnic slurs, offensive gestures, or making fun of someone’s cultural traditions.
Sexual bullying involves unwanted physical contact, jokes, comments or taunts about sexual body parts, teasing about sexual orientation or starting rumors about sexual activities (A more common term for this may be sexual harassment).
Cyberbullying involves harassment by sending or posting hurtful images, messages, or threats through e-mail, text messaging, instant messaging, mobile apps, or social media sites. This type of bullying, unlike other forms, often allows for anonymity and more frequent attacks or incursions.
Who Bullies and Why?
Sometimes people assume that it is only boys who bully because, according to the Committee for Children, they tend to use more visible methods of bullying such as hitting, fighting and threatening while girls might be more likely to use less visible methods such as excluding others or spreading rumors. The bottom line is that both boys and girls do bully, and may use any of the six types of bullying.
Bullying can be a form of acting out in an attempt to deal with a tough situation. Bullies may be going through a difficult situation at home, or may have learned this behavior because she was or is being bullied or abused. Bullies usually have a low-self esteem and often target those who are different for one reason or another. Children or teens may bully in order to gain acceptance or be popular among peers, or to feel like they are in control.
What are the consequences of bullying?
Bullying is not to be taken lightly as there can be serious consequences for everyone involved, the bully, the bullied, and the bystander. The Committee for Children reports that:
- Children who are bullied are more likely to develop future academic problems and psychological difficulties;
- Children who are bullied are more likely to experience low self-esteem and depression, anxiety, and insecurity that may continue into adulthood;
- Child who bully are more likely to experience a decline in their peer group status which becomes more and more important in your child’s social development as they enter the teen years; and
- Children who bully and continue this behavior as adults have greater difficulty developing and maintaining positive relationships.
For more information on the long-term consequences of bullying please see the following study published in JAMA Psychiatry (2013).