Did you know that one out of every five students report being bullied? (National Center for Education Statistics, 2019) That alarming statistic is the exact reason we are recognizing National Bullying Prevention month, a time when teachers, administrators, and parents come together to combat the presence of bullying. As you can imagine, prevention is a collaborative effort, but to come up with an effective strategy, one must understand what bullying is in its many forms.
What is Bullying?
Bullying is defined as someone aggressively using their “power to target another individual with repeated, unwanted words or actions” to hurt them physically or emotionally in a way that makes it difficult for them to stop what is happening to them. By definition, bullying involves acts that make one feel less than in one way or another.
What are Some Different Types of Bullying?
Bullying can look different, as it comes in varying forms and degrees of severity. Let’s take a deep dive into the different types of bullying and how to distinguish them from one another.
- Verbal bullying: Verbal bullying is known to include verbal insults, teasing, or harmful remarks intended to harm the recipient emotionally. Though it can begin harmlessly, it can escalate to the point where the individual begins to feel deeply affected in a way that can influence how they see themselves.
- Physical bullying: Physical bullying can be one of the easiest to recognize because it involves inflicting physical harm on another or damaging physical property.
- Social bullying: Also known as covert bullying, social bullying can be hard to recognize, as it refers to actions taken to damage one’s social reputation. This particular type of bullying can include spreading rumors, encouraging others to treat someone differently or exclude him/her, or playing jokes on someone to humiliate him/her. Though harder to detect, it can be extremely damaging to one’s psyche over time.
- Cyberbullying: This particular type of bullying is newer, as the prevalence of mobile devices and digital social platforms are how it came to be. According to The Cyber Bullying Research Centre, this type of bullying can be defined as the “intentional and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, phones, and other electronic devices.”³ This type of bullying can be difficult to catch, as it takes place using digital technology such as computers, smartphones, and social media software. This type of bullying can include hurtful messages or posts, online rumors, or imitating the identity of another online in a malicious way. Though difficult to recognize, the digital “paper trail” can be easy to follow once found.
Engaging in Proactive Prevention
Though the types of bullying can vary widely, each type makes a negative impact on the adolescent psyche. In order to decrease the prevalence of this problem, it is imperative to bring all parties together to be proactive with a prevention strategy. When forming a strategy that works best for you, consider the following:
- Help kids understand bullying: Teachers, administrators, and caregivers alike have the power of information by their sides. When given the proper information about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely, kids are equipped with the proper mechanisms to make a difference. Whether you are providing them with a standardized procedure for reporting or the definition of the different types of bullying, it’s imperative that kids understand what is happening to them (or those around them) and that they have the power to change the trajectory of this behavior.
- Communication: The first step to protecting students against bullying is making them feel heard in the event that they need to express themselves. Whether you are a parent waiting for your student to arrive at the bus stop, an administrator monitoring students walking the halls, or a teacher watching students file into your classroom, you have the power to make students feel that they can talk to you. To create this type of environment, make sure to take the time to check in with students, listen to them, ask how they feel school is going, and ensure that they feel understood if they present any concerns. Strong lines of communication can go a long way, as some students suffer in silence without actively communicating outward, leading to an emotional, and sometimes, physical impact.
- Model behavior: We’re all familiar with the term “Monkey see, monkey do,” and it couldn't be more true. When students see how we treat and speak to others, they begin to exhibit similar behaviors. As you converse with others, ensure that you too are leading with kindness and respect, helping students see how others should be treated and spoken to. Should things occur or be said that do not fall within those guidelines, students will pick up on this and know that something is wrong.
- Come up with a reporting procedure: As students begin to feel more comfortable communicating with you, they will feel comfortable enough to tell you if bullying may have occurred to them or a friend. To combat this, it is best to have a reporting procedure in place that is consistent and acts as a process parents can rely on to keep their students safe. This procedure can include identifying the specific person students or their parents can report things to as well as the cadence of meetings with students and their parents to remedy issues. Parents, teachers, and administrators will feel more confident with standard reporting and remedying processes in place, allowing students to focus on communicating when or if there is a problem.
- Encourage kids to make friends: Encouraging kids to engage in activities they love with their friends builds confidence and strengthens bonds between students simultaneously. As students grow closer, they’ll feel more protected from bullying and more confident in who they are, making it harder to penetrate the psyche or their physical space.
We Can Make a Difference, One Student at a Time
When we all come together, we have the power to make a difference and diminish the presence of bullying. As you consider how you can make a difference, keep in mind some of these suggested strategies. If you would like to learn more about bullying or equip yourself with resources to guide conversations, feel free to learn more about Meaningful Conversations, a Social-Emotional Learning solution intended to help students feel heard, see themselves and others appropriately represented in the world, and understand the world we live in. Designed to foster self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and responsible decision-making, this resource can equip students with the knowledge they need to understand what bullying is and how to combat it.
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- National Center for Education Statistics. (2019, July). Student Reports of Bullying: Results From the 2017 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs2019/2019054.pdf
- National Bullying Prevention Center. (n.d.). Questions Answered. PACER Center - Champions for Children with Disabilities. Retrieved September 28, 2022, from https://www.pacer.org/bullying/info/info-facts.asp
- National Centre Against Bullying. (n.d.). Types of bullying: National Centre Against Bullying. NCAB. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.ncab.org.au/bullying-advice/bullying-for-parents/types-of-bullying
- StopBullying.gov. (2021, November 10). How to Prevent Bullying. StopBullying.gov. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from https://www.stopbullying.gov/prevention/how-to-prevent-bullying