How to Identify Different Kinds of Bullying

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Talking about bullying with your child never feels good, but it’s important to keep lines of communication open. As children learn how to navigate new social situations, there may be times when you both need to know how to identify bullying and what steps to take to get help.

The U.S. government website, stopbullying.gov, defines bullying as “unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.” According to one prior study, one out of every five kindergarteners experiences frequent bullying. 

Below are common types of bullying each parent should be aware of:

  1. Cyberbullying. This refers to any bullying that takes place online or in the digital space. Cyberbullying tools include computers, laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices. Common platforms for cyberbullying include text messages, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok Twitter, and other online communication and social media platforms. Tactics used in cyberbullying include sending hurtful messages, hacking others’ accounts, perpetuating false rumors online, and purposeful exclusion from online communities. 
  2. Physical bullying. This refers to inflicting physical harm on another person with the potential of causing temporary or permanent pain or damage. Common tactics include punching, tripping, kicking, pinching, and so on. Physical bullying may also involve damaging or defacing the property of others (e.g., tearing up someone’s drawing). 
  3. Social Bullying. This refers to attempting to exclude, humiliate, or damage the reputation of another person. Social bullying is typically easier to conceal and more difficult to “prove.” Common tactics include perpetuating false rumors, lying about others, unflattering imitation of others, asking or motivating others to exclude someone, and so on. 
  4. Verbal bullying. This refers to when exchanged remarks intentionally are intended to harm or inflict emotional pain upon others. Common tactics include name-calling, taunting, threatening, racist comments, sexist comments, and homophobic comments. Oftentimes, perpetrators will say they are “just teasing” or “playing around.”

If you think your child is being bullied, there are some actions you can take. Check to see if your child is displaying warning signs of bullying, such as strange injuries, damaged property, trouble sleeping, or avoidance or school or other social gatherings. If your child is indeed being bullied, then immediately contact the teacher(s), guidance counselor, school principal, and other relevant authorities to discuss the situation and develop a plan to keep your child safe. 

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