Recognizing Bullying

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Bullying is something that anyone can picture, but it’s often hard to describe without giving physical details or words.  However, the basis of bullying is something that isn’t seen but is clearly felt.

  • It’s what experts call “an imbalance of power.” It’s when someone believes they have the power to control or harm someone else. It might be with physical strength, or being “more popular,” or having or talking about embarrassing information.
  • It seeks an audience. It is rarely just known between the bully and the victim, even if the communication or event seems to be just one-on-one.
  • It has to be aggressive in nature, not kindly. It can appear condescending but that, too, is a form of bullying if it is intended to make the recipient uncomfortable.
  • Bullying isn’t a one-time situation. By definition, it is repeated –either by the bully or as received multiple times; or it has the potential to be repeated.
  • It can be purely physical, where one person hurts another or their possessions. It can include spitting and physical pranks and unwelcome sexual advances.
  • It can be communication —anything from unwelcome teasing to threats to rumors to name-calling to taunting to rude hand gestures.
  • It can be social—excluding or encouraging exclusion, rumors, creating situations that will embarrass someone or make them fearful.
  • It can happen in school, at church, in sports, on a bus or playground, or in a public setting like a mall.
  • An increasing amount of bullying takes place on the Internet—so-called “cyberbullying”--via cellphones and other devices, anywhere people can share information with individuals or groups. It’s intended to harm or humiliate, and is persistent (the Internet and cybermessages are often inescapable), permanent (they can remain online indefinitely), and hard for adults to notice or detect. Many recent incidents of teenage suicide are linked to this kind of bullying.
Since 1992, Dr. Robinson has worked in a variety counseling positions. She is also a popular author and speaker on topics ranging from childhood development and sexuality, teen issues, family dynamics including caring for elderly relatives, and church resources for families.

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