What is Bullying?

Blog Post created by teachontarioteam on Jul 24, 2015

iStock_000012129142Small.jpgEvery seven minutes a child is bullied at school, but often parents don't even know their child is a victim because kids are too scared to tell. Therefore, it is up to adults to spot the signs and stop the bullying.


What is bullying?

Bullying can be:

  • physical (e.g.: hitting)
  • emotional (e.g.: name-calling)
  • social (e.g.: spreading false rumours)
  • cyber-based (e.g.: mean text messages)


Today, there is greater understanding of the impact of bullying and how it leads to long-term problems for the child and community. Educational and parenting expert Barbara Coloroso says that bullying is not about anger or conflict but instead it's about contempt for another person.


Bullying has three core elements:

  • humiliation
  • oppression
  • abuse at the hands of one or more peers who have more power than the target.


The most common forms of bullying are name calling and exclusion. Targets are usually smaller than the bully and shy. Boys bully more than girls although girls can be much more malicious. There is a difference between teasing and taunting.


The statistics on bullying:
  • Every seven minutes a child is bullied in the schoolyard.
  • 10% of children endure bullying every day of their lives.
  • 80% of children at school are involved in bullying either as a bully, the one being bullied or a bystander to the bullying.
  • 160,000 students a day in the United States stay home from school for fear of further bullying. The numbers are considered comparable in Canada.


What makes a bully?

That question is harder to answer than it seems. We usually picture a bully as a big mean kid who likes to torture children and small animals. Those bullies do exist but they are few and far between. “It’s so normative and so many kids engage in it that it’s hard to answer what makes a bully,” Tracy Vaillancourt, the Canada Research Chair in Children’s Mental Health and Violence Prevention, says. “What makes one child bully another child? Just being human. Most kids do it at some point in their life. And power corrupts, so many times kids do it because it’s a good way to achieve and maintain popularity.”


What is a bystander?

A bystander is a witness to the bullying who does nothing or eggs the bully on. Bullies love an audience because that’s how they maintain their status and popularity. They want other kids to view them as tough and they derive pleasure from it. Bystanders are considered just as harmful as the bully.


What is indirect bullying?
  • name-calling
  • whispering and note writing campaigns
  • gossip and spreading rumors
  • shunning
  • cyber-bullying


Signs that your child is a target:
  • Your child used to like to go to school but doesn’t anymore.
  • Your child used to be happy and isn’t anymore.
  • Your child does not seem to have any friends. If your child never gets invited to birthday parties there is a problem.



What to tell your kids if they are bullied:
  • It’s not your fault.
  • You're not alone. We will fix this together.
  • Reassure them that there are things they can do but you will do them together.
  • Tell the teacher.
  • Tell a person who cares.


What parents should do:
  • Look at your own behaviour—you set the tone for expectations of treatment. Make sure you walk the walk.
  • Be proactive instead of reactive.
  • Talk to your kids about their friendships. Ask them who they sat beside at lunch and who they played with at recess. Your child’s friendships are just as important as their academic achievements.
  • Some children are bullied by their teachers. If that is the case, schedule a meeting with the teacher and the principal. Teach your children to build healthy relationships.
  • Teach your kids to not be a bystander by just walking away. Bullies love an audience and often they’ll stop if they don’t have one.
  • Listen to the targeted child and let them take part in the resolution to the bullying. They know the situation better than you do.
  • Open your eyes to the fact that your child could be a bully. Be as open to the idea that your child might be the victimizer as you are that they are a victim. You need to send clear messages at home as to your expectations on how people should treat each other.
  • Be aware of the Safe Schools Act and what will happen if your child is a bully.
  • Read "Tips on Dealing with Bullying" for real-world strategies to teach your child.


What the school are doing:
  • Most school boards offer workshops where teachers learn how to recognize the signs of bullying and how to combat bullying in the classroom, hallways and playground.
  • Teachers are communicating with each other on how to deal with aggression in schools.
  • Many schools also have peer mediation programs that encourage students to talk out their problems with their peers.
  • Research into the topic continues at universities and research institutions worldwide.
  • Many researchers and authors are speaking with schools and parent group to combat bullying.
  • Every parent and community member should be able to deal with bullying in their own communities.


You can stop bullying if you stay aware, engaged and treat people with dignity and respect. Your kids will learn from you how people should be treated and won't stand for anything less.