Threats, spreading rumors, physical and verbal attacks, exclusion from a group: Bullying might be easy to define, but it's not always easy to identify. Younger students might get a little too rough playing, and older students might playfully tease one another.
According to StopBullying.gov, an important first step in identifying bullying is that it must be unwanted aggressive behavior. If you're trying to decide if students are jesting "all in good fun," or if there's a dangerous power struggle in play, consider the following questions.
What's the relationship between the students?
Are the students friends, or do they have a history of issues between them?
What's their body language saying?
Leaders can't always rely on youth to report bullying, but students don't need to speak up in order to express that they're being bullied. When it comes to tense situations, consider facial expressions and body language of students. Does it look like they're having fun, or are they exhibiting signs of distress?
Is there a power imbalance?
Bullying often occurs when there's an existing power imbalance between students. Power imbalances can be characterized by physical differences between children such as age, size and strength. However, imbalances can also result from differences in characteristics such as popularity, demographics, skills or abilities, and access to resources and information (such as the ability to reach an entire student body with a single e-mail).
Is this a pattern?
Bullied children often experience multiple incidents of aggression against them. However, a one-time instance can still constitute as bullyingóand adults should never wait for a pattern to emerge before responding.
When in doubt about any of the above questions, it's important to follow up with the student you perceive as being bullied. And of course, even if a behavior you observe isn't bullying, it still may not be acceptable in the classroom or on a trip.
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