The Definition Of Bullying: A Timeless Conduct With New Instruments & Know-how

by Terry Heick

Stopping bullying is simply as seemingly as stopping poverty, racism, or violence.

If we are able to begin from this type of humility, we could possibly enhance our effectivity in coping with and responding to it as an issue.

In fact, there isn’t any ‘it.’ Bullying is an output and a symptom—the results of quite a lot of elements that manifest themselves properly past the college. Celebration of aggressiveness and violence, pack mentalities, melancholy, peer strain, lack of empathy, violence at house, insecurity, social media, an absence of position fashions, and extra all mix with scores of different elements to supply the ugliness that’s bullying.

Know-how has a method of amplifying our greatest and worst traits as folks, and that’s true with bullying—or cyberbullying—as properly. Cyberbullying is only a digital layer added to what’s gone on for years in colleges, on playgrounds, in workplaces, and even with skilled athletes. In truth, there’s now spectacular nuance accessible when bullying by know-how.

For one, there’s the visibility and scale of all of it. Make one touch upon an Instagram thread, and each single individual afterwards sees that remark, in addition to any reply. Similar with fb, tumblr, and twitter in the event you dig a little bit. The snide remark within the hallway that was solely heard by 4 of 5 folks has been changed by the snarky subtweet that has everyone taking screenshots.

Which brings us to the relative permanence of digital fare. As soon as it’s emailed, posted, preferred, tagged, texted, or in any other case flung out into the digital ether, it’s “unfastened.” Gone. Now not beneath the sender’s management. Social media is designed to make folks seen and heard, which implies it captures—and amplifies–all the pieces. In truth, sure apps, like Snapchat, are constructed round this very concept of permanence vs impermanence as some form of escape of accountability.

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The Definition Of Bullying

After which there’s the nuance I discussed, beginning with passive-aggressive conduct that so many social media platforms appear designed for. The aforementioned subtweets, ‘sliding out and in of individuals’s ‘mentions’ on twitter, tagging—and extra acutely, failing to tag those that very properly ‘ought to’ve’ been tagged, failing to reply to tags in a well timed style, following and unfollowing, friending and defriending, and extra all create an ecology that breeds bullying.

Which brings up an attention-grabbing level: What does it imply to bully? And extra broadly, what sort of response is smart to get nearer to the roots of the issue?

Bully schooling ought to in all probability be an enormous a part of it, largely constructed round a transparent, trendy definition for bullying and all of its levels. defines bullying as “undesirable, aggressive conduct amongst college aged youngsters that entails an actual or perceived energy imbalance. The conduct is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” That’s not a really kid-friendly definition, in order that’d be a great begin—a definition for bullying that the individuals who have bother understanding it might use. “Being imply to folks that may’t or gained’t defend themselves” could also be too flimsy-sounding, however it’s clear.

Possibly some compelling and genuine examples, embody passive-aggressive bullying? The long-lasting bully takes lunch cash, grabbing pint-sized children by their ankles, turning them the other way up, and shaking out their change. Actually this nonetheless occurs, and it’d be a stretch to say ’21st-century bullying’ is all the time digital. However updating how we outline bullying, what it appears like, the place it occurs, and a few fundamental methods for response could also be a great first step.

If nothing else, we would work to take away the stigma from being bullied. Everybody, in some unspecified time in the future, has been bullied. There isn’t any purpose for disgrace. Which brings us to a key takeaway right here—transparency. We will’t stop bullying, however we are able to make it crystal clear that it:

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Has various levels, behaviors, and contexts
Isn’t all the time apparent
Is just not okay
Is correctable
Takes a village to appropriate

Highlighting the causes and behaviors as an alternative of demonizing the bullies themselves might be one technique. (The identical strategy, by the way, might profit how we deal with felons.)

Whereas there’s some form of justice in calling out and ridiculing bullies, that’s loads like screaming at youngsters for screaming at different youngsters. Your response to any of this can be a matter of non-public philosophy and politics, however the large concept is to deal with the ecology that produces the issue, reasonably than taking part in whack-a-mole each time it surfaces. It’s not simple, however neither is spending two hours each morning responding to the earlier night’s center college fb blow-up.

The tone and phrases of our social interactions are new, and require newly simplified considering to grasp.


Educators have taken many approaches to fixing the issue of bullying, from making it ‘uncool’ to bully, to scary punishments, to educating tolerance. Tolerance is a part of the difficulty, however even that begins with highlighting variations between folks, and means that one ‘tolerate’ the opposite.

‘Stopping bullying’–and racism and sexism and dozens of different examples of how people might be merciless to 1 one other constantly sufficient to require a phrase for it–is unimaginable. It’s formidable to strive, however ambition is one in all schooling’s largest sins. Because the frequency and anonymity of our interactions enhance by digital instruments, so does our capability to bully in additional refined, passive-aggressive methods than ever earlier than. This isn’t restricted to youngsters, both–you’ve in all probability felt it your self on twitter or fb or instagram or the remark’s part of a weblog.

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Digital citizenship first will depend on a extra elementary sense of citizenship–being a human being, then carrying that to digital areas. We may do worse than serving to college students to mirror on these interactions (which might have the side-effect of slowing them down). Earlier than every interplay, fascinated with just a few easy questions would change all the pieces.

Who is that this individual?

What’s their historical past?

How can we join–how do our similarities and variations have an effect on our emotions in direction of each other? How do our variations probably strengthen our interplay?

How can I assist them develop?

What do they want from me, and I from them?

That is digital citizenship in query kind. So long as this type of considering is absurd, our capability to harm each other shall be as properly. The brand new considering right here, then, isn’t new in any respect, however reasonably displays a must return to that which is easy within the face of circumstances which appear extra advanced than they really are.

So what’s a easy definition for bullying? Deliberately inflicting struggling for another person–typically somebody who can’t or gained’t defend themselves. The identical because it’s ever been. Right this moment, there are simply extra instruments to make it occur, and new alternatives for extra refined and nuanced bullying. However the conduct itself hasn’t modified.

It’s what occurs when one individual fails to care for an additional.

A model of this publish was written by Terry Heick for Edutopia; The Definition Of Bullying; How Bullying Is Altering