Bullying is defined as “the deliberate intimidation or persecution of those who are perceived as weaker”. This harmful aggression can be directed by an individual or a group against its victims and can happen anywhere to anyone irrespective of age, class, race, gender, religion and sexual orientation.
It is generally conducted out of the presence of adults or in the presence of those who fail to intercede. Bullying is repeated and relentless, and can therefore cause huge physical, emotional and psychological pain brought on by feelings of fear, loneliness, confusion, humiliation, stress, depression and lack of self-esteem and self-confidence. It can result in absenteeism from school, poor or deteriorating schoolwork, personality change and illness.
A quarrel between friends or occasional fight among equals does not classify as bullying. Young people typically describe being bullied as being persistently picked on, pulled and pushed about, called names and being made fun of, talked about or totally ignored, hit or hurt in some way, and having money/possessions taken. A key component of all these is the use of intimidation as power, resulting in a power imbalance due to strength, size or numbers. Read about the many different forms or types of bullying.
Despite it being said time and again, bullying is not just “a stage of life”, “a normal part of growing up” or “character building”. It is a learned behaviour and children can be taught to behave more appropriately. Above all, bullying is not socially acceptable so it is up to all of us to understand it, identify it and empower its victims so that each individual’s personal dignity is respected.