It used to be taken for granted, but bullying is not “harmless fun.” In fact, it makes headlines. Parents, healthcare professionals and educators now realize that this destructive behavior has far-reaching after-effects–not only for the target, but also for the bully and the bystanders.
As news coverage of it increases, sometimes the definition of bullying can become unclear. So let’s set the record straight.
Bullying is intentional, unwanted aggressive behavior by an individual or group with real or perceived power against someone who is weaker.
Bullying is repetitive: It happens or can happen more than once.
Bullying happens anywhere: in the home neighborhood or in school classrooms, hallways, bathrooms, play areas, extracurricular events or the bus.
What Does Bullying Look Like?
Furthermore, bullying takes on many appearances.
It can be physical:
- Hitting, kicking, punching, pinching or any other form of bodily aggression.
- Damaging or stealing someone’s property.
It can be verbal:
- Teasing, taunting, threatening, name-calling or insulting.
- Making racist, sexist or homophobic “jokes” or remarks.
It can be indirect:
- Spreading unkind stories or malicious rumors.
- Excluding someone from social groups.
- Sending abusive mail or email.
It can be virtual:
- Cyberbullying happens via text messages, pictures, videos, Facebook/Instagram, phone calls, email, chat rooms, instant messaging or Web sites.
New Laws Address a Serious Issue
Now, bullied children and adolescents have the law on their side: In 2010, New York State passed the Dignity for All Students Act to provide public school students with a school environment free from discrimination, intimidation, taunting, harassment and bullying. Last July, Governor Cuomo signed legislation that requires every New York State school to enact an anti-bullying protocol and designate an on-site educator to receive, investigate and act on reports of bullying.
In New York City, the United Federation of Teachers’ bullying hotline deals with concerns not appropriately addressed in individual schools: 212-709-3222. For additional resources and support, email me (Mwelles@nshs.edu) or David Fagan, MD (Dfagan@numc.edu), my colleague and co-creator of the Antibullying Committee for Chapter Two of the American Academy of Pediatrics.