University of Florida

Talking About Bullying

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

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 talk to their children about bullying unless they are aware of a problem.
  • Ineffectiveness. Students believe adult interventions are unsuccessful and infrequent.

What Can You Do?

Use the following tips to help create and maintain safe and fear-free 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 shares every point of view out in the open.
  • 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.
  • If a child displays physiological and/or psychological symptoms without an apparent explanation, the consider involving your pediatrician.
  • 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.

Condensed from:

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


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