This is Part 1 of a four part series on bullying.

The new school year is almost here. No matter how much you’re enjoying the summer, there’s always something exciting about shopping for school supplies, getting a new backpack, brand new pens and maybe even some stylish clothes to start the school year off right. Some students’ excitement, however, gets overwhelmed by dread. For them, school isn’t a place where you get to learn, hang out with friends and be a part of something. For these students, they are bullied, harmed and disregarded at school.

What does bullying really mean?

Many people use the word bully today. But what is bullying anyway? Additionally, why does it matter? Let’s start with the basic definition of the word bully:

verb use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.

Furthermore, experts in the field of bullying define it this way:

  1. Unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. (
  2. When someone is being hurt either by words or actions on purpose, usually more than once, feels bad because of it, and has a hard time stopping what is happening to them. (Pacer)
  3. Repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological aggressive behaviour by a person or group directed towards a less powerful person or group that is intended to cause harm, distress or fear. (Dept. of Education)
  4. The use of force, threat, or coercion to abuseintimidate, or aggressively dominate others. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception, by the bully or by others, of an imbalance of social or physical power, which distinguishes bullying from conflict. (Wikipedia)

That’s a lot of information! Essentially, when a person or group with perceived power repetitiously seeks to injure another person or group through any means deemed necessary, that’s bullying. The bully’s goal is to dominate and to prove their superior power and their ability to control others.

Bullying has lasting effects

Consequently, why does this dynamic of power and control that bullies perpetrate matter? Because bullying is trauma and it has deep and lasting effects for both the bully and the bullied.

Bullied students are more likely to experience:

  1. Depression and anxiety
  2. Self-imposed isolation and withdrawing from peers
  3. Anger and rage, leading them to pay the hurt forward
  4. Increasing thoughts of suicide

Those who are bullies are more likely to experience:

  1. Inability to form lasting connections with peers
  2. Higher likelihood of perpetrating physical violence
  3. More likely to drop out of school
  4. Greater likelihood of abusing drugs and alcohol

So, clearly bullying is a serious problem with serious consequences. As a result, there aren’t easy answers, but now that we have this foundation for understanding what bullying is, we can start to talk about cause, prevention, and how to create dynamics of empathy within our school communities.

Continue with Part 2 of the series here.


photo credit: Senado Federal Dia Nacional de Combate ao Bullying e à Violência na Escola via photopin (license)