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Bullying (harassment)

harassment; bullying; teasing; violence; digital; cyber; bully; victim; SMS; email;

Contents

Bullying harms both the person being bullied and the person doing the bullying.

Bullying is much more common than many people believe.

There is another topic on this site called 'Dealing with bullying' if you are looking for ways of managing it.

What is bullying?

Bullying is when hurtful or upsetting things are repeatedly said or done to people.

  • Bullying is also called harassment or peer abuse.
  • Bullying can involve physical violence such as hitting, kicking, punching or pushing, or verbal violence including teasing and name-calling.
  • Bullying can also include damaging, stealing or hiding a victim's things, or making demands for money or favours.
  • Another form is to exclude victims, by encouraging others not to have anything to do with them, spreading lies or stories about them, ignoring them and not speaking to them.

Cyberbullying

Another type of harassment is cyberbullying

Cyberbullying uses technology to harass, embarrass or threaten to hurt someone physically.

  • It can be SMS messages on mobile phones, and abusive emails.
  • People can even do it anonymously – so you don't know who it was.
  • A type of electronic stalking can also occur, where the harasser sends messages over and over – this is called 'cyber-stalking'. This type of harassment is particularly scary, as it follows the person everywhere on their phone or computer at home or school.

The best way to avoid this is to be careful to whom you give your personal information. You could also change your phone number and email address. If it continues, you could contact the police or your telephone provider to work out ways of protecting yourself.

Only give access to your real friends on Facebook.

For more information have a look at 'Cyberbullying'.

Why do people pick on others?

Bullying comes from a belief that it is OK to act that way.

  • Some people believe that it is OK to bully people who are different from them, such as people from different races and cultures, people with disabilities or people who are gay or lesbian.
  • Some people believe that because they belong to the majority group (ie. there are more of them), they are somehow better than people in minority groups. This means that they might discriminate against and pick on people from minority groups.
  • Sometimes people believe it is OK to bully because they have grown up with violence or bullying in their lives, and have come to believe this is a normal way of relating to others.
  • When people have been hurt themselves, they could have low self esteem. They may start to feel they have no power in their lives. Bullying others may make them feel more powerful by controlling them.

Whatever the reason, it is not OK to bully.

  • People choose to bully and harass.
  • It is possible to take control and learn more positive behavioural choices that don't hurt others.

Victims are sometimes bullied by a group or 'gang' of their peers.

  • Bullies may work in groups so they each feel less guilty about the harassment.
  • It is easier for them to take less responsibility for the bullying by blaming their friends – for example, "the others started it…. I only joined in".
  • Members of a group might also join in on bullying a victim because they are worried that if they don't, they will become victims themselves.
  • A bully's self esteem may be low, and being in a group or gang makes them feel more important.

The impact of bullying

Bullying can have serious effects on victims

  • Low self-esteem and feelings of sadness, anxiety, and loneliness become stronger.
  • They may feel powerless and that they have very little control over their lives.
  • They may stay home from work or school (or wherever the bullying is happening) to avoid being bullied.
  • They may develop physical illness, depression and thoughts of suicide. Some people have committed suicide because their lives were made miserable by bullying, and they believed that their situation could never improve.
  • Some people may never get over childhood experiences. They may grow up with poorer self-esteem and higher rates of depression than adults who were not bullied as children.

What about those who do the bullying?

  • Some bullies continue to think it is an OK thing to bully others.
  • Long-term studies have shown that many people who are violent as adults have been bullies when they were young.
  • Some bullies end up getting into trouble with the police, and have criminal records at a young age. Some end up serving a prison sentence.
  • Some will enter into adult relationships where they use bullying, abuse and violence, and so that they keep the cycle going.

Why pick on me?

Anyone can be bullied, and it may never be clear why he or she has been singled out as a target.

  • People who look a lot different from others can sometimes be picked on. This can be because they don't have the clothing or shoes advertised as popular, or because they don't have the 'perfect' look or body shape.
  • People may be picked on because they are part of a minority group, or because they lack self confidence, or because they are smaller or weaker, or because they are brighter and have different values, or simply because they are there!
  • Bullies often target people who are vulnerable and less able to protect themselves.
  • They may target people who don't have many friends to help them.
  • Often bullies will tease victims who react to stress by crying, getting upset or distressed. Bullies often find these reactions 'amusing', and will continue to torment these victims just so they can enjoy watching the way the victim reacts.
  • Bullies are often not able to see how their behaviour feels from the victim's point of view.

Josh says:

'Putting someone down, paying them out, or ganging up on someone are not ways to make you popular with other kids. No one is likely to want to be a true friend to someone who likes hurting others, so bullies often end up out of the group.

Victims can end up out of the group too. It's up to you to make sure that you dob in the bullies and keep complaining until something is done about it. Everyone has the right to feel safe, especially at school.'

Resources

South Australia

  • School Counsellors and teachers at your school.
  • Youth Healthline:  Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm 1300 13 17 19

Australia

Reference

Sourander, A. et al. What Is the Early Adulthood Outcome of Boys Who Bully or Are Bullied in Childhood? The Finnish "From a Boy to a Man" Study. Pediatrics, 2007; 120: 397-404.

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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