What is bullying?
Bullying is defined as “a pattern of repeated aggressive behaviour with negative intent, directed from one youth to another where there is a power imbalance” (Bullying at School. What We Know and What We Can Do. Olweus, D. Oxford, Blackwell, 1993). What distinguishes bullying from other behaviors is that it is repeated, there is a power difference and harm is done (Olweus, 1993).
In general bullying falls into two categories: direct and indirect. Direct bullying is overt and obvious and includes verbal and physical assaults and verbal taunts and threats. Indirect bullying is more subtle and less obvious and includes forms of relational bullying (exclusion, spreading rumours, gossiping, teasing, and threatening to remove friendship) (Bullying Presentation. Mitchell, J, RCMP/Deal.org).
Children/youth need your help – whether they are bullies, bystanders or victims – to deal with bullying. Unfortunately bullying is happening in all schools and communities across Canada. Children who bully come from all walks of life. Both boys and girls – in cities big and small and from all racial and socio-economic backgrounds – bully. The same can be said of those who are bullied.
No one deserves to be bullied and it should not be accepted as part and parcel of childhood/adolescence. BULLYING IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM WITH SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES FOR OUR YOUTH. Frequent bullying leaves children/youth with long-lasting emotional and sometimes physical scars. Many children/youth reach a breaking point and they start bullying others, excessively violent, depressed or suicidal. An in-depth study on school shooters profiling carried out by the Threat Assessment Centre at the US Secret Service found that the one thing all shooters had in common was they were or felt they were victims of bullying.
Children who bully, if they don’t get help to stop, often turn into adults who bully – they bully their co-workers, spouses, children and other family members. Children who learn how to acquire power through aggression on the playground may transfer these lessons to adulthood in the forms of sexual harassment, dating violence, and marital, child and elder abuse. School failure/drop out, adult criminal behaviour, alcoholism, poor marital relationships, increased use of mental health services and poor occupational adjustment and advancement are common among adults who bully.
More often than not, bullying takes place on school property. According to bullying experts Debra Pepler and Wendy Craig (1997), bullying takes place every 7 minute on the schoolyard and every 25 minutes in the classroom. It’s important for teachers to be mindful of signs of bullying taking place in their schools and to act when you see or hear of bullying incidents. The worst thing we can do as teachers/adults is witness bullying and do nothing about it. This sends a message to both the children/youth bullying and those being bullied, that bullying is acceptable. In most provinces and territories of Canada, school administrators and teachers are required to follow legislated safe school policies (link) and to enforce a code of conduct to ensure a violence-free learning environment for all their students. Many schools go much further to foster a positive and caring learning environment by introducing school-wide anti-bullying programs and other cooperative classroom and playground strategies.
Taking a Stand
Do you have a safe school program or strategy in place at your school? If not, consider taking the lead on establishing a committee to investigate what measures can be taken at your school to ensure teachers are on the look out for bullying and it is taken seriously. Keep an eye on our Resources & Research and Professional Development opportunities for useful tools, websites and programs, as well as conferences and workshops coming to your area.