The Phenomenon of Bullying
The nature of bullying has changed over the recent years. These days, researches define bullying not as a problem of an individual, but as a social, cultural, and a relational phenomenon.
Years ago, both teachers and parents tended to regard bullying as something to do with the individual’s personality, referring to it as, e. g.: “He/She also smells so bad”, “He/She is too sensitive”, or “You should see his/her farther…”. Nowadays, such statements should raise the alarm. There can be no justification for bullying.
Contrary to the past understanding of bullying, cultivated, for example, by Norwegian scientist Dan Olweus, where the focus was on the individual’s personality rather than on the context, it is now apparent that bullying is a group phenomenon with social dynamics, and is strongly related to the context. Therefore, attention should be given to all parties and to the ways they interact with each other (Kofoed ja Søndergaard, 2009).
The Mechanism of Bullying
The short animation “Why does bullying occur?” illustrates the conclusion of researchers who found that bullying is a group phenomenon, not a problem related to the victim’s personality or looks. Any child can become a victim of bullying, or a bully.
Bullying can happen only if bystanders, directly or indirectly, resort to it and don’t interfere. When a child is bullied in a children’s group, it reflects the dynamics in the group where nobody can feel safe because of fear of becoming a victim themselves. Bullying has negative consequences for the victim and the bully, as well as bystanders. This is why Free of Bullying focuses on a children’s group as a whole and its social environment which must be based on values and the positive feeling of being together.
Characteristics of Bullying
In order for the work with bullying to be effective in a group of small children, the definition of bullying must be clear and unambiguous: bullying is when a member of a group is systematically and intentionally hurt or ignored in a situation he or she is forced to be in and where it might be, for any reason, difficult to defend oneself.
In the Free of Bullying programme, we build on the following characteristics of bullying.
- Bullying is a group phenomenon – Bullying happens within a group and around it, where several parties have more or less visible roles (victim, bully, bystander, defender).
- Bullying is systematic – Actions are repeated or are part of the pattern over a long period of time.
- Bullying is intentional – Actions are intentionally planned to make the victim feel bad; they are not unintentional single incidents.
- Bullying can be visible or covert – On the one hand, bullying may include teasing and physical violence, on the other hand, it may be more covert, for example, when someone is ignored or excluded or gossiped about, which makes it harder to recognise. Bullying presupposes the situation in which power relations are unbalanced.
- Bullying occurs in a social situation the child cannot leave – The example of such situation is preschool or school the child is forced to attend, or an after school activity the child feels obligated to participate in.
- Bullying involves power imbalance – Bullying presupposes the situation in which power relations are unbalanced.
Types of Bullying
- Verbal or spoken: teasing, name-calling, threatening, scaring, etc.
- Physical or involving physical human contact: hitting, pushing, standing in one’s way, blocking an activity, hiding things, etc.
- Covert, social or relating to communication: exclusion from a community or a joint event, exclusion from a group, face-pulling, ignoring, gossiping, mocking body language, etc.
- Cyberbullying or bullying involving technology and devices: unpleasant posts on the internet, posting photos without permission, fake accounts, threats and teasing via SMS and on social media sites.