What is Bullying? - Definition, Types & Coping Strategies

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Monica Gragg

Monica has taught college-level courses in Tourism, HR and Adult Education. She has a Master's in Education and is three years into a PhD.

Bullying refers to acts or behavior of intentionally causing harm or discomfort to another person. Learn about the definition and types of bullying, explore categories of bullying actions, and learn strategies in detecting and coping with bullying. Updated: 05/02/2022

Why We're Talking About Bullying

You may know many kids' movies that gave a humorous or nostalgic depiction of bullying—think of Phillips in The Sandlot or Scut Farkus in the A Christmas Story. Sadly, the truth is that bullying is a very serious and dangerous presence in schools, becoming so prevalent that we now refer to the ''bullying epidemic.'' It is estimated that anywhere from 13 to 18 million students are bullied in the United States every year, severely impacting education and safety. Tragically, increasing numbers of young people who find themselves the victims of bullying are turning to self-harm.

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  • 0:05 Why We're Talking…
  • 0:44 Definition of Bullying
  • 1:20 Types of Bullying
  • 3:41 Bullying Actions
  • 4:22 Detecting and Coping…
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Definition of Bullying

Bullying is any unwanted, aggressive behavior, usually between school-aged children or teens. The behavior makes the target uncomfortable, especially as bullying is usually a repeated act. According to the National Education Association, the top reasons students are bullied are weight, gender, disability, and perceived sexual orientation. With more awareness of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community, bullying based on sexual orientation has dramatically increased over the years.

A bully comes in two common forms. One type of bully is popular, has social power, and leads a social group. These bullies will bully to maintain popularity. The other typical bully has few friends, a low self-esteem, and may struggle with issues such as depression or anxiety. Peer pressure will encourage them to bully. Both types of bullies are easily frustrated or aggressive, have issues at home, problems with following rules, and they view violence in a positive way.

Types of Bullying

Three main categories of bullying are: direct bullying, indirect bullying, and cyberbullying.

Direct bullying is obvious physical bullying or a combination of physical and verbal bullying. An example of this type of bullying might be hitting or kicking a victim while calling the victim names in front of other students. Direct bullying is seen more among boys.

Indirect bullying is more discreet and primarily verbal. An example of this type of bullying might be creating hurtful rumors about a victim and spreading them throughout the student body. Girls are more likely to bully indirectly.

Cyberbullying takes place online and through a device such as a mobile phone, tablet, or computer. Cyberbullying is usually coupled with other forms of bullying and is harder to detect or monitor. It can be mean or derogatory texts, emails, or comments on social networking sites. Cyberbullying goes beyond words; it can be embarrassing photos or videos. Once on the Internet, these words and images can be swiftly spread to reach hundreds of people (even family members and friends), making the repercussions and emotional trauma for the victim even more intense and damaging.

Looking at social networking more specifically, some bullies will use their own profile to bully someone or they may use a fake profile. That is one of the reasons why it's hard to detect. Even professional law enforcement can have difficulty investigating cyberbullying and protecting victims, especially if there are no physical threats. Only recently did state legislatures begin to address cyberbullying as a crime, and these laws are still evolving.

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