Bullying is something that most people will encounter in some form, at some point in their lives. It’s really common, but that doesn’t make it OK! In a situation that involves bullying there are usually three roles – the bully, the victim and the bystander.
It can get very confusing at times to identify what bullying is, as it has so many different forms. There are different types, physical – hitting, shoving, verbal – using words to attack someone, social – excluding someone, talking behind that person’s back and cyberbullying – using electronic media forms like whatsapp, text messages, and social media to spread rumours, send hate messages and so on. Whatever the method, and this point can’t be repeated enough…bullying is not OK!
It is equally important to be able to identify a situation as bullying, as sometimes there is a fine line and you can’t tell the difference. For example, if there is teasing without an intention to hurt then you cannot use the word bullying. Unfortunately, once you use the word, it becomes a sort of a label and then the people involved also get stuck with a label, a “bully” or a “victim” and both of these come with their own set of challenges.
Bullying is a lot about power, about making the other person feel powerless, and often manifests itself as repeated behaviour. If a situation doesn’t make you feel good, then it is most likely bullying. Unfortunately, a lot of victims of bullying end up being made to feel as if it is their fault, which it is not. On the other hand, there is a perception that bullies are often victims of bullying themselves which may or may not be the case. For all of the above reasons, it’s really important not to get fixated on labelling and try and see the situation for what it is.
Try taking this quiz to see if you can identify which situations can be identified as bullying:
There is a boy who is different in your class. Lately there are people who are making fun of him, but they never say anything to his face.
Absolutely – Gossiping or talking behind someone’s back is the most hurtful forms of bullying. Using the internet or smart phones is cyberbullying and is never OK.
There is a girl who you consider your best friend, who chooses to talk to you when you guys are alone, but not when she is talking to ‘cooler’ kids.
Yes – being an on-again, off- again friend is hurtful. If it keeps happening, you need to keep your distance to protect yourself. You can let her know you need your space when she does talk to you.
A girl in your class wears her hair a different way today and all the kids think she looks funny. The kids call her a mean name, you don’t say the name, but you laugh along.
Yes – joining in the laughter means joining in the bullying and encouraging the bullying. By encouraging the bullies, you may do as much harm as the bullies themselves.
Your entire class is invited to a birthday party, except one boy as no one likes him.
Maybe – if the plan is made outside school, then it’s ok to invite a smaller group of friends. But if the boy is being left out to make him feel bad, at the very least, it is mean. It doesn't cost anyone anything to be more inclusive.
You are on a class whatsapp group on which a few people are constantly saying mean things about this girl. You do not participate, but you remain on the group.
Absolutely –the girl is part of a group where she is being excluded by being singled out.
What can you do? Speaking up for others isn’t always easy, and in some cases you might not be able to say anything during the situation, but you can always do so later. Reach out to that person and report the incident to a trusted adult later. It’s never too late. Remember that your response can make a big difference to the person you are helping, and also impact how you feel about yourself.
If you are the target, then always remember that it’s not your fault, staying quiet about it may not always help the situation. You have to try and let the bully know in your own way that you are not OK with it, without being mean or getting into a fight.
None of this is easy, and some situations are complicated, but just try and keep in mind that if more people choose to be kind, there will be a lot less of breaking heads over check ins, interventions, suspensions and all sorts of problems.
Famous TV show host Ellen DeGeneres put it beautifully. She said:
“We focus so much on our differences, and that is creating, I think, a lot of chaos and negativity and bullying in the world. And I think if everybody just focused on what we all have in common – which is – we all want to be happy.”
If you have any questions or doubts, please write to the School Outreach Team at Ummeed – email@example.com
Written by: Bhavna Faizullabhoy. Bhavna is a Graphic Designer, Writer and Communications Professional. She loves trekking and the outdoors. She takes climate change very seriously. Bhavna firmly believes there is no “planet B” and hopes to be a change maker in some form.