What are bullying and cyberbullying? It depends on where you seek a definition. Each country, state, and province have a definition along with legal ramifications for doing either.
As I am both a citizen of the USA & Canada, I will be sharing information and definitions used by both countries as this is where my knowledge is.
Bullying happens when there is an imbalance of power; where someone purposely and repeatedly says or does hurtful things to someone else. Bullying can occur 1:1 or in group(s) of people.
There are many different forms of bullying:
- Physical bullying (using your body or objects to cause harm): includes hitting, punching, kicking, spitting or breaking someone else’s belongings.
- Verbal bullying (using words to hurt someone): includes name calling, put-downs, threats and teasing.
- Social bullying (using your friends and relationships to hurt someone): includes spreading rumours, gossiping, excluding others from a group or making others look foolish or unintelligent. This form of bullying is most common among girls.
Cyberbullying involves the use of communication technology; Internet, social media sites, websites, email, text messaging, and instant messaging to repeatedly intimidate or harass others.
- Sending mean or threatening emails or text/instant messages.
- Posting embarrassing photos of someone online.
- Creating a website to make fun of others.
- Pretending to be someone by using their name.
- Tricking someone into revealing personal or embarrassing information and sending it to others.
Cyberbullying affects victims in different ways than traditional bullying. It can follow a victim everywhere 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from school, to the mall and all the way into the comfort of their home – usually safe from traditional forms of bullying.
Over time, youth who are bullied or bully others find their own ways of dealing with it. While some victims/bullies may become depressed and begin to withdraw socially, others react aggressively and turn to violence.
Dangers for Children and Adolescents Who Are Bullied:
- Social anxiety, loneliness, isolation
- Stress related health problems (e.g., headaches, stomach aches)
- Low self esteem
- School absenteeism and academic problems
- Aggressive behaviours
- Contemplating, attempting, or committing suicide
Dangers for Children and Adolescents Who Bully Others:
- Not knowing the difference between right and wrong
- Delinquency and substance use
- Academic problems and increased school dropout rate
- Sexual harassment and dating aggression
- Gang involvement and criminal adulthood
- Difficulties in their relationships with others
- Being bullied at the hands of others
Bullying is a major problem for Canadian children and one we cannot afford to ignore. We all have the power to keep youth safe. Bullying should never be a part of anyone’s childhood. This is why I believe more awareness is needed and more parental, educational, and community involvement is required. A grassroots approach.
- More than one out of every five (20.8%) students report being bullied (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016).
- 33% of students who reported being bullied at school indicated that they were bullied at least once or twice a month during the school year (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016).
- Of those students who reported being bullied, 13% were made fun of, called names, or insulted; 12% were the subject of rumors; 5% were pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on; and 5% were excluded from activities on purpose (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016).
- Students who experience bullying are at increased risk for poor school adjustment, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression (Center for Disease Control, 2017).
- Students who are both targets of bullying and engage in bullying behavior are at greater risk for both mental health and behavior problems than students who only bully or are only bullied (Center for Disease Control, 2017).
- Bullied students indicate that bullying has a negative effect on how they feel about themselves (19%), their relationships with friends and family and on their school work (14%), and physical health (9%) (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2016).
- Among high school students, 15.5% are cyberbullied and 20.2% are bullied on school property (Center for Disease Control, 2017).
- The percentages of individuals who have experienced cyberbullying at some point in their lifetimes have nearly doubled (18% to 34%) from 2007-2016 (Patchin & Hinduja, 2016).
- When assessing specific types of disabilities, prevalence rates differ: 35.3% of students with behavioral and emotional disorders, 33.9% of students with autism, 24.3% of students with intellectual disabilities, 20.8% of students with health impairments, and 19% of students with specific learning disabilities face high levels of bullying victimization (Rose et al., 2012).
- Students with specific learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, emotional and behavior disorders, other health impairments, and speech or language impairments report greater rates of victimization than their peers without disabilities longitudinally and their victimization remains consistent over time (Rose & Gage, 2017).
All states have various criminal laws that might apply to bullying behaviors, depending on the nature of the act. For example, if someone is physically hurting another, assault statutes might apply. All states also have criminal harassment and/or stalking statutes, and most include explicit reference to electronic forms.
In certain states, the bullying law specifies provisions allowing the school to discipline students in appropriate and measured ways.
In every state except Montana, the bullying law mandates schools to have a formal policy to help with identification of the behavior and discuss the possible formal and/or informal disciplinary responses that can follow. Some laws require certain elements to be included in the policy (such as a specific definition of bullying), while others simply require a policy without specification.
The statistics are quite high and the numbers concern me. Please note bullying and cyberbullying are not just limited to youth. I, and many other adults have been affected by bullying and cyberbullying.
Actually, last week I had an individual sending me very negative and derogatory texts and doing what could be termed as harassment and/or a form of bullying. The comment section on my blog re: a post on bullying led to an individual posting rather negative comments as well.
I was also harassed and stalked on social media this past fall on both LinkedIn and Facebook, and I dealt with this issue 6 years ago as well.
No individual whether adult or youth should have to go through this. Change is needed. More awareness is needed so individuals no matter their age can identify bullying and cyberbullying and report it if need be.
A screen provides a bit of anonymity, but that is false. Bullying in person is the same thing-harassment and usually about power, but face to face. Neither are okay. More needs to be done.