There are many different types of bullying that can be experienced by children and adults alike; some are obvious to spot while others can be more elusive. Bullying is a negative behaviour perpetrated by an individual or a group of individuals, repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or a group either physically or emotionally. It is often motivated by prejudice against particular groups, for example on grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, special educational needs or disabilities, or because a child is adopted, in care or has caring responsibilities. It might be motivated by actual differences between children, or perceived differences. Although there is no single definition of bullying or harassment, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) identifies three characteristics that are included in most definitions:
1. The behaviour is intended to cause distress;
2. The behaviour is repeated;
3. There is an imbalance (real or perceived) of power between the perpetrator/s of bullying and the target/s.
“Behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally.” (Safe to Learn, DCSF 2007).
Below is a description for each different way that bullying could be happening.
Physical bullying: Also called “direct bullying”, it includes hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching and pushing or damaging property. Physical bullying causes both short-term and long-term damage. Physical bullying is a serious problem, affecting not only the bully and the victim, but also the other students who witness the bullying. There are many types of negative physical interactions that can occur between children and young people, including fighting, practical jokes, stealing, and sexual harassment. These things are not considered physical bullying unless the same victim is targeted repeatedly, the bully or the group of bullies intend to hurt, embarrass, or intimidate the victim, and the actions occur in a situation with a real or perceived imbalance of power, such as when the bully is stronger than the victim or has a different social background. Physical bullying occurs most often at school, but it can also occur on the way to and from school and after school. Middle school is the age when bullying is most common (9- to 13-year-old), with almost all middle school students being affected directly or indirectly by bullying. This is an age where young people want to fit in with their peers, making some children more likely to bully or condone bullying to fit in, while those who don’t fit in stand out as victims or possible targets. Bullying can also occur in earlier grades, as well as through college and even into adulthood.
Physical bullying is more likely to occur among males, though females may also be the perpetuators or the victims of physical bullying. Bullies may have multiple reasons for bullying others, such as wanting more control over other children and wanting to fit in. Victims of physical bullying are often physically weaker than the bullies, and also may be socially marginalised for some reason, including weight, ethnicity, or other characteristics that make it harder for them to fit in. On the other hand, research has debunked several misconceptions about bullies, who aren’t necessarily insecure, socially clueless, or academically inept. In fact, some of them appear to be confident, “popular” and have friends who condone their behaviour. Young adults who bully others, however, often have trouble maintaining self-discipline, self-control, following rules, caring for others, and are at higher risk for problems later in life, such as violence, criminal behavior, or failure in relationships and career.
Bullying can have serious consequences for the victims, leading to low self-esteem, depression, trouble at school, and sometimes even violent behaviour. The physical health consequences of physical bullying can be immediate, such as physical injury, or they can involve long-term effects, such as headaches, sleep disturbances, or somatisation. However, the long-term physical consequences of bullying can be difficult to identify such as anxiety or other adverse childhood events that can also have physical effects later into adulthood (Hager and Leadbeater, 2016).
Verbal bullying: While the effects of physical bullying may be more obvious at first, verbal bullying is more insidious and may happen over long periods of time working to destroy a child’s self-image and self-esteem. Verbal bullying is often underestimated but should not be treated as “kids simply being kids”. In fact, verbal bullying is not teasing; teasing is when two people find it funny and are having fun. Verbal bullying is not funny and must be taken seriously by parents, school administrators, teaching and non-teaching staff.
Verbal bullying can start off harmless and it can escalate to levels which start strongly affecting the individual target. it includes: name-calling, homophobic or racist remarks, insults, spreading rumours, gossiping, persistent teasing, intimidation, hurtful things about victim’s appearance, race and colour, talking about someone behind their back, or other verbal abuse. Verbal bullying can also take the form of criticism. Listening to negative comments on a regular basis can tear down confidence and esteem, not just ruin the victim’s reputation. Young children are especially susceptible to this type of abuse, causing them to feel rejected and unloved. This type of bullying is usually done to somebody that is known to the perpetrator or has contact with via friends, acquittances or others. With verbal bullying, the goal is still to degrade and demean the victim, while making the aggressor look dominant and powerful. All bullying focuses on creating a situation in which the victim is dominated by the aggressor and this can happen also verbally and not just physically.
In many cases, verbal bullying is common amongst girls as girls are generally subtler than boys. They use verbal bullying, as well as social exclusion techniques, to dominate other peers and show their superiority and power. However, there are also many boys perfectly capable to use elusive verbal techniques for domination, and who are practiced in using words when they want to avoid the trouble that can come with physical bullying. In November 2011 a research, released to mark the start of the Anti-Bullying Week organised by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), reveals that nine out of 10 children aged 11 to 16 have been verbally bullied or witnessed it happening to others in the past year. The vast majority (79%) of victims report it taking place at school.
Victims of verbal bullying are affected in many emotional and psychological ways. This type of bullying can lead to low self-esteem, as well as depression, anxiety, sadness, withdrawal from others, losing interest in favourite activities, trouble sleeping or eating, and other psychological problems. It can aggravate negative feelings that the victim may already be experiencing at home or in other places, and in some cases, verbal bullying can reach a point where the victim is so depressed that he/she may turn to substance misuse or in some extreme cases, to suicide. Several instances of teen suicide have been linked to prolonged verbal bullying of a classmate or a peer. In the end, words have a strong power, and the realities of verbal bullying can have dramatic physical consequences, even if the aggressor never touches the victim.
Social bullying: sometimes referred to as “covert bullying”, is often harder to recognise and can be carried out behind the bullied person’s back. It includes consistently excluding another person or sharing information or images that will have a harmful effect on the other person. It is designed to harm someone’s social reputation and cause humiliation. Being socially bullied is the second most common form of bullying, after name-calling. This sort of bullying is often harder to recognise and is often carried out behind the back of the person who is being bullied. It includes: lying, fake rumours and spreading gossip, encouraging others to turn against someone, leaving someone out constantly and encouraging others to do the same, socially excluding and damaging someone’s social reputation or social acceptance, using humiliating nicknames and continuing when asked to stop. Covert bullying can include repeatedly using negative hand and facial gestures, menacing and threatening looks, whispering, playing nasty jokes, encouraging others to socially exclude someone, damaging someone’s social acceptance, and restricting where a person can sit and who they can talk with. The effects of social bullying in a school setting can be quite extensive and often severe. Peer’ groups will often attack one another or members of other groups to make themselves look more powerful and in control.
Emotionally, social bullying can lead to low self-esteem and confidence as well as anxiety and depression, which can have a serious knock on the victim’s emotional and mental health and well-being. The victim feels rejected, inferior, unloved, unpopular, unwanted or hated. Another emotion the victim can feel is anger and this may develop into aggressive behaviour. The anger and frustration can feel destructive; therefore, asking for help is very important.
Cyber-bullying: this type of bullying can be overt or covert bullying behaviours using digital technologies, including hardware such as computers and smartphones, and software such as social media, instant messaging, texts, websites and other online platforms. It can occur at any time through email, text messages, and apps, or online in social media and forums, or gaming where people can view, participate, and share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behaviour.
The most common places where cyberbullying occurs are:
• Social Media, such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter;
• SMS (Short Message Service) also known as text message sent through electronic devices;
• Instant Message (via devices, email provider services, apps, and social media messaging features);
Emotional bullying: It occurs when a person tries to get what they want by making others feel angry or afraid. It is any attempt by one person (the bully) to coerce someone else (the target) by exhibiting behaviour designed to emotionally distress them. While sometimes this may mean a direct threat, it often takes the form of the bully acting upset in some way until the target complies with their unreasonable demands. By getting upset the perpetrators aims to make their targets wrongly feel that they are the one who are being unreasonable and should therefore back down. The upset may take many forms, such as lying, ridiculing, humiliating, ostracising, shouting, sulking, tormenting, frightening, crying, martyrdom or even self-harm. This behaviour can be seen in adult relationships like when an emotional bully makes the party “pay” for a perceived mistake or when an emotional bully constantly uses sarcasm in response to questions.
Physical scars go away over time and young people become more self-aware and capable to deal with those situations by speaking to an authority figure or by dealing with bullying accidents themselves in other ways. But emotional scars may take a long time or professional help to heal. If the emotional bullying is long-lasting, it can even lead to extremes, such as self-harm and even suicide. Victims often feel shame, guilt, embarrassment and fear. These effects of emotional bullying can result in:
• Long-term clinical depression;
• A lack of self-esteem;
• Bad grades in school or poor job performance;
• Feelings of isolation;
• Self-harm or suicide.
Emotional bullying can also lead to a version of Stockholm Syndrome, where the victim over-identifies with the emotional bully.
Thus, physical, emotional, verbal and cyber-bullying can all have the same potential effects on children and young people. According to an Italian research published in 2009, which analysed 30 studies that included more than 219,000 children and adolescents, school-age children who were bullied by their peers were roughly twice as likely as their non-bullied counterparts to experience psychosomatic symptoms, including headaches and stomach-aches, dizziness, bedwetting and sleep problems (Gini ; Pozzoli, 2009).