Bullying is never okay, and if you or someone you know is experiencing bullying, you should speak up. But before you do, it’s important to understand if bullying is definitely going on, so it can be dealt with in the proper way.
A definition of bullying
According to Bullying Free NZ, bullying is defined as physical, verbal, or social behaviour that is deliberate, involves a misuse of power, is repeated/consistent, and can cause harm.
Bullying can happen to anyone, anywhere. It doesn’t just happen at school, people can also experience bullying at social events, sports clubs, at home, and online.
Look for these signs to determine if bullying is happening:
The interactions are not between equals. The bully has some kind of power in the relationship. They may be physically stronger, have more social status, or know a secret about their victim.
It’s a pattern of behaviour. Bullying isn’t one off-incidents or friends falling out. It’s a continued pattern of aggression that hurts and isolates the victim.
It’s intended to hurt. Friends will sometimes hassle each other in a good-natured way. If a friend’s hassling hurts you, you should be able to talk to them about it. They might not even realise they said something hurtful. In contrast, a bully’s intention is to hurt you.
It causes harm to the victim. That harm might be physical intimidation, isolation from friend groups, humiliation from online posts, or low self-esteem because of nasty rumours.
Bullies may choose to act this way because they see it as fun, they want people to be afraid of them, they want to fit in, they’re copying examples from whanau or friends, or their victim makes them feel uncomfortable or envious.
Not all verbal or physical aggression is bullying. For example, bullying isn’t one-off fights or events, or having a difference of opinion between friends or classmates. It’s also not a single act of social rejection, theft (although bullies can also be thieves), or using derogatory comments that offend without meaning to. None of these things are good either, but they may need a different approach to dealing with a bully.
If you or someone you know is a victim of bullying, you should talk to a teacher, parent, or someone you trust.