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Talking About Bullying

Sadly, many children—and even adults—have been bullied, and the harsh impact of bullying can last a lifetime.

What is Bullying?

Most people think of bullying as teasing, threatening, taunting or hitting by one or more students against a victim.

However, bullying also includes indirect actions, such as rumor-spreading or intentional exclusion, which label and isolate the victim from his or her peers. Indirect bullying (also called relational aggression) can happen through social media websites, text messages and emails as well as in person.

Why Does Bullying Continue?

Unfortunately, bullying is often not prevented or stopped for various reasons.

  • Incorrect assumptions. Some students and adults may believe victims are partially responsible for being bullied, and others are under the assumption that bullying toughens a weak person.
  • Failure to address the subject. Students feel teachers rarely or never talk to them about bullying, and parents may not be talking about bullying to their children unless they are aware of a problem.
  • Ineffectiveness. Students believe adult interventions are infrequent and unsuccessful.

What Can You Do?

Use the following tips to help create and maintain safe and pleasant learning environments.

  • Discuss the expanded definition of bullying. For example, bullying can now occur through social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Encourage open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance. Reduce the likelihood of bullying by teaching children to see things from different perspectives and understand different cultures, values and norms.
  • Encourage children to report bullying, even when they are afraid. Problems can only be fixed when the silence is broken.
  • Build conflict resolution skills. Demonstrate how to manage conflict in ways that help children grow and learn.
  • Listen carefully and encourage others to listen. Allow an open dialogue that enables people to share their point of view.
  • Brainstorm solutions to the conflict, and consider how every solution may result in a different outcome.
  • Discuss how to properly use technology at home and in school.
  • Be observant. Carefully and periodically monitor Internet searches and history as well as any websites created by children.
  • Consider visiting a pediatrician if a child displays physiological and/or psychological symptoms without an apparent explanation.
  • Build supportive home environments where families can discuss problems together and learn how to deal with any frustration, stress and anger.
  • Stay involved in local schools and activities for youth.

Adapted and excerpted from:

R. V. Barnett, “How Parents and Agents Can Address Bullying with Youth” (FCS2243), UF/IFAS Family, Youth and Community Sciences (rev. 07/2012).

Photo Credits: Tatiana Gladskikh/iStock/Thinkstock