Bullying is an act of aggressive and unwanted behaviour that involves intimidating and/or physically harming another person. Bullying involves a power imbalance of the stronger attacking the weaker. Children who are victims of bullying often feel alone and powerless to change their situation.
Bullying takes many forms. It can range from a tiny shrug of the shoulders that signifies that you are to be left out of the group to overt physical aggression (hair pulling, pushing, hitting, harming in any way physically) and/or emotional abuse (hinting at something about you personally that feels attacking, hurtful, intimidating; saying or telling others things about you out loud or laughing and belittling you). There are a million ways that we can feel bullied.
Sometimes people hurt us by mistake when they are angry or hurting themselves. That is often painful but is a normal part of relating and learning how to get along with each other. But when someone intends to hurt, or belittle, or guilt-trip, or shame another person and they repeat doing it, that is bullying.
Bullying is never right and no-one deserves to be bullied. It is a violent and controlling thing to do to another person, whether it’s physical or emotional. It’s also very difficult to admit if you yourself are bullying someone else – underneath the wish to make someone else feel small or bad is your own hurt and shame. Those feelings can change, and the bullying actions can stop.
Adults, peers and siblings can be bullied or be bullies. Sometimes they are doing it unconsciously (which means they are not aware consciously they are doing something) and sometimes it can be intentional. Either way, it hurts our feelings and our sense of ourselves. If it continues, it can hurt to an extreme level.
Violence can be physical or emotional. It can be spoken, suggested subtly or done in cyberspace. Cyber-bullying is a growing problem as the anonymity makes it easier for people to harass others. Whatever the form, it is never right, and you have the right to get help if you are being bullied or if you are worried you are bullying someone else. Underneath wrong behaviours there is always distress, and if that distress is helped, we can stop acting out the wrong behaviours.
Click on the following links for sources of help:
- Childline (or call 0800 1111)
- NSPCC has information on bullying and cyberbullying and what to do
- The Anti-Bullying Alliance
- Young Minds – a UK young people’s mental health and wellbeing charity
- Kidscape working to prevent bullying
- The UK Government’s website has some helpful information on legal aspects of bullying in school and outside school, and when to contact the police.