In today's world, the topic of bullying is brought up in just about every conversation. Whether you are an adult or a kid, anyone can experience bullying. Since I have started working in the school environment, I have seen bullying of every kind from physical bullying to emotional bullying. The one thing that I have begun to see as well is the idea of someone saying they are being bullied, but they really don't know if they are; they just say they are because it is said so much.
So, what is bullying? I think it is important to clarify what it is to be bullied, and whether you are an adult or a child, the definition still holds true.
I don't know how many times this school year I have heard, "Stop bullying me," and every time I hear someone say that, I think to myself, "Is that person really being bullied?" Recognizing when someone is being bullied seems to be a very easy thing to do, but is it? We all know when someone is being physically bullied, but the problem is that the majority of situations aren't physical; it's usually the emotional or psychological that causes the most scars.
In order to define what a bully is the definition can be broken into three components. The definition of bullying as defined by Steps to Respect: Bullying Prevention Program states that bullying is aggressive behavior that involves unwanted, negative actions, involves a pattern of behavior repeated over time, and involves an imbalance of power or strength.
There are couple of things I would like to point out from the definition. The first part of the definition that I would like to look at is involving unwanted, negative actions. I have had many students ask me this year if they were playing with their friends and being mean back and forth with each other but still having fun, is that bullying? The answer to this question is No. Although they may be negative actions, it does not fit in the definition of unwanted and therefore should not be labeled bullying each other.
The second part I would like to look at is involving a pattern of behavior repeated over time. A one-time occurrence of another person being mean to another person does not mean that someone is being bullied. The word bully is used so often today that just about every time a person is treated poorly that person immediately jumps to using the term bullied. Although this incident should be responded to with just as much seriousness as a "real bullying" situation, it only causes confusion and takes focus away from the incidents that are "real bullying" situations.
Bullying has become such a buzzword around the world and with good reason, but the problem with it being used so much is that it really takes away from the seriousness of some issues. I have heard so many times this year, "Stop bullying me or I will punch you." Is this a victim finally having enough and standing up for themselves, or is it that these are two kids being mean to each other? We really need to make sure that we are labeling incidents correctly so we are not painting a false picture of what is really going on. If we don't, then the major issues are minimized, and then we over look the issue in the future.
Don't get me wrong I feel that bullying is a major issue in our society, and we all need to work together to help reduce bullying. The hard part about bullying is the most harmful form is behind the scenes bullying, which most people have no clue is going on. This is what makes it so difficult to recognize, and why we immediately jump to the conclusion that any negative behavior directed towards another is considered bullying. We want to make sure that others are treating others in a nice manner, but in the mean time we do not address the real issues - just the ones on the surface.
So the next time that you are faced with a situation that may or may not be a bullying situation, run through the definition in your head and make a decision on whether you call it bullying or not. We no longer want to contribute to the confusion of this topic and put our most at-risk youth in even greater harm.