PEER CONFLICT, MEAN BEHAVIOUR AND BULLYING
What’s the difference? Not all unpleasant interactions are bullying. Please see the Vancouver School District pages at VSB Safe Schools to help you determine if the behaviour is bullying or if it resembles more closely instances of peer conflict or mean behaviour.
What is bullying?
Bullying is serious behavior that has three key features – all three must be
present for the situation to be considered bullying:
Power imbalance -- One child clearly has power over the other(s), which
may be due to age, size, social status, and so on.
Intention to harm -- The purpose of the bullying behaviour is to harm or
hurt other(s) – it’s intended to be mean and is clearly not accidental.
Repeated over time -- bullying behaviour continues over time, and gets
worse with repetition. There is a real or implied threat that the behaviour
will not stop, and in fact will become even more serious
Bullying is acting in ways that scare or harm another person. Kids who bully usually pick on someone who is weaker or more alone, and they repeat the actions over and over. Bullying starts in elementary school and becomes most common in middle school. By high school, it is less common but still occurs.
Bullying can take many forms, including:
- Physical harm, such as hitting, shoving, or tripping.
- Emotional harm, such as making fun of the way a child acts, looks, or talks. Writing mean things about someone in emails or online journals (blogs) is also bullying.
Girls who bully are more likely to do so in emotional ways. Boys who bully often do so in both physical and emotional ways. For example:
- A girl may form a group and exclude another girl or gossip about her.
- A boy may shove another boy and call him names.
Both boys and girls take part in "cyberbullying." This means using high-tech devices to spread rumours or to send hurtful messages or pictures. Emotional bullying doesn't leave bruises, but the damage is just as real.
If you think your child is being bullied—or is bullying someone else—take action to stop the abuse.
Why is it important to stop bullying?
Bullying is a serious problem for all children involved. Kids who are bullied are more likely to feel bad about themselves and be depressed. They may fear or lose interest in going to school. Sometimes they take extreme measures, which can lead to tragic results. They may carry weapons, use violence to get revenge, or try to harm themselves.
Kids who bully others are more likely to drop out of school, have drug and alcohol problems, and break the law.
What are the traits of children who bully?
Children who bully are often physically strong. They may bully because they like the feeling of power. They may be kids who do things without thinking first and may not follow rules. These boys and girls have not learned to think about the feelings of other people.
How do children who are bullied act?
Children who are bullied are often quiet and shy. They may have few friends and find it hard to stand up for themselves. They may begin to think that they deserve the abuse.
What can children do if they are bullied?
Children are often scared and angry when they are bullied. They may not know what to do. Teach them to:
- Talk back. Say, "Leave me alone," or "You don't scare me." Have your child practice saying this in a calm, strong voice.
- Walk away. Don't run, even if you are afraid.
- Tell an adult. A parent or teacher can then take steps to stop the bullying.
What can you do to stop bullying?
Bullying can be stopped if people pay attention and take action.
Bullying most often occurs in school, and it is most common in schools where students are not well supervised. If bullying is happening at your child's school, talk to the principal or vice principal. Urge the school to adopt a no-bullying policy. All children should know that those who bully will be disciplined. Children who are bullied should be supported and protected.
As a parent, you can help your child get involved in new hobbies or groups, such as school clubs or church youth groups. Being part of a group can help reduce bullying. Having friends can help a child have a better self-image.
Kids can help keep other kids from being bullied. If you are a kid, don't let yourself be part of the problem.
- Speak up when you see someone else being picked on. It can help to say something like, "Cut it out. That's not funny." If this is too hard or scary to do, walk away and tell an adult.
- If someone sends you a mean email about another person, don't forward it to others. Print it out and show it to an adult.
Useful link for students and parents
The provincial Ministry of Education's "ERASE Bullying" initiative features a website with very helpful and informative information for both students and parents on the issue of bullying. Go to http://www.erasebullying.ca.
To learn more please visit the HealthLink BC website: Bullying