Addressing Bullying Within The Team

Facts About Bullying Behavior

Bullying is 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. Both children who are bullied and children who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be unwanted and aggressive and include:

  • Imbalance of power. Children who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
  • Repetition. Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

Types of Bullying

There are four types of bullying:

  1. Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:
  • Teasing
  • Name calling
  • Inappropriate sexual comments
  • Taunting
  • Threatening to cause harm

2. Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:

  • Leaving someone out on purpose
  • Telling other children not to be friends with someone
  • Spreading rumors about someone
  • Embarrassing someone in public

3.  Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes:

  • Hitting, kicking, or pinching
  • Spitting
  • Tripping or pushing
  • Taking or breaking someone’s things
  • Making mean or rude hand gestures

4. Cyberbullying involves the use of e-mail, social network sites, cell phones, webcams, text messages, Internet sites, etc., to send mean messages, spread rumors, and post embarrassing pictures or videos and fake websites or profiles. Cyberbullying messages can:

  • Happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a wide audience
  • Be extremely difficult to delete

Why Children Do Not Ask for Help

Statistics from the 2008–2009 School Crime Supplement show that an adult was notified in only about one third of bullying cases. Children do not tell adults for many reasons:

  • Bullying can make a child feel helpless. Children may want to handle it on their own to feel in control again. They may fear being seen as weak or a tattletale.
  • Children may fear backlash from the child or children who bullied them.
  • Bullying can be a humiliating experience. Children may not want adults to know what is being said about them, whether it is true or false. They may also fear that adults will judge them or punish them for being weak.
  • Children who are bullied may already feel socially isolated. They may feel like no one cares or understands.
  • Children may fear being rejected by their peers. Friends can help protect children from bullying, and children can fear losing this support.

Strategies for Addressing Bullying Behavior

How you respond can make an impact on bullying behavior immediately and over time. When responding to bullying, it is important to use the most effective strategies.

There are simple steps that adults can take to keep children safe.

1. Stop bullying on the spot.

Take these steps:

  • Intervene immediately. It is okay to get another adult to help.
  • Separate the children involved.
  • Distract the child doing the bullying or offer an escape for the child being bullied by saying something like, “Mr. Smith needs to see you right now” or “Come on, we need you for our game”
  • Make sure that everyone is safe.
  • Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
  • Stay calm. Reassure the children involved, including bystanders.
  • Model respectful behavior when you intervene.

Avoid these common mistakes:

  • Do not ignore it. Do not think children can work it out without adult help.
  • Do not immediately try to sort out the facts.
  • Do not force other children to say publicly what they saw.
  • Do not question the children involved in front of other children.
  • Do not talk to the children involved together—talk to them only separately.
  • Do not make the children involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.

Get police help or medical attention immediately if:

  • A weapon is involved.
  • There are threats of serious physical injury.
  • There are threats of hate-motivated violence, such as racism or homophobia.
  • There is serious bodily harm.
  • There is sexual abuse.
  • Anyone is accused of an illegal act, such as robbery or extortion—using force to get money, property, or services.

2. Find out what happened.

Get the facts:

  • Separate all of the involved students.
  • Get the story from several sources, both adults and children.
  • Listen without blaming.
  • Do not call the act “bullying” while you are trying to understand what happened.

Determine if it is bullying:

  • What is the history between the children involved? Have there been past conflicts?
  • Is there a power imbalance? Remember that imbalance is not limited to physical strength. It is sometimes not easily recognized. If the targeted child feels like there is a power imbalance, there probably is.
  • Has this happened before? Is the child worried that it will happen again?
  • Are any of the students involved in a gang? Gang violence has different interventions.

3. Support the children involved.

Support the children who are bullied:

  • Listen to and focus on the child.
  • Assure the child that bullying is not his or her fault.
  • Know that children who are bullied may struggle with talking about it.
  • Give advice about what to do.
  • Work together to resolve the situation and protect the bullied child.
  • Be persistent.
  • Follow up.