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What Constitutes Bullying?

What Constitutes Bullying?

Bullying can lead to physical and emotional harm, but do we agree on what it is?

Most people will agree bullying is a hurtful form of abuse that often leads to severe physical and emotional harm for its victims. What many don’t agree on, however, is just what constitutes bullying.

What is bullying?

The University of Michigan conducted a recent poll on children’s health asking a national sample of adults what behaviours should be considered bullying and what behaviours should require school officials to intervene.

The results show 95 percent of adults say schools should take action when a student is made to feel afraid for his or her physical safety, but only 90 percent say that threatening physical safety constitutes bullying.

Eighty one percent say schools should intervene when a student is humiliated or embarrassed, but only 62 percent say that this is a form of bullying.

Isolation was less of an issue among American adults, only 56 percent of which thought the issue requires school intervention, and only 48 percent say isolating a student should be considered bullying.

“The key finding from this poll is that adults don\’t see behaviours across the bullying spectrum as equivalent,” says Matthew M. Davis, director of the C.S. Mott Children\’s Hospital National Poll on Children\’s Health.

Different forms of bullying?

According to Stop a Bully, a Canada-wide, non-profit anti-bullying program, bullying consists of three types of abuse: emotional, verbal, and physical. It typically involves unequal power relationships, hurtful actions, direct or indirect actions, and repetitive behaviours.

Isolation can be a dangerous form of bullying as it has been linked to incidences of violence and suicide.

Stop a Bully reports that exclusion and being left out made up 14 percent of bullying incidents reported between September 2011 and April 2012.

Stop a bully

What may be more concerning about bullying is that despite being against it, few people will intervene on behalf of a victim. Educating students on how to act against bullying is crucial to building healthy and safe school communities.

Stop a Bully’s “3 R’s to Stop Bullying”:

  1. Recognize bullying: learn about what constitutes bullying and take steps to stop it.
  2. Refuse to be a bully bystander: don’t stand by when witnessing bullying. And don’t give bullying an audience.
  3. Report bullying: tell a parent, friend, teacher, or principal if you’re a victim or if you witness bullying.


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