What is bullying?

Girl getting bullied in high school hallway
  • An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity— to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
  • Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

StopBullying.gov defines bullying as:  unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems. In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

There are three types of bullying:

  • Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. Verbal bullying includes:
    • Teasing
    • Name-calling
    • Inappropriate sexual comments
    • Taunting
    • Threatening to cause harm
  • Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. Social bullying includes:
    • Leaving someone out on purpose
    • Telling other children not to be friends with someone
    • Spreading rumors about someone
    • Embarrassing someone in public
  • Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. Physical bullying includes:
    • Hitting/kicking/pinching
    • Spitting
    • Tripping/pushing
    • Taking or breaking someone’s things
    • Making mean or rude hand gesture

We know that youth with physical, developmental, intellectual, emotional, and sensory disabilities are more likely to be bullied than their peers. Especially, when the disability is more apparent. Factors including social skill challenges, or environments which aren’t accepting may increase the risk. Research suggests that some youth with disabilities may bully others as a learned behavior or a defense mechanism. Additionally, children with delayed or impaired language may not know they are experiencing bullying – especially if they don’t have access to the language around them.

How is bullying different for children who are deaf or hard of hearing?

    Many children and adults who are hard of hearing report a sense of “paranoia” or worry that people are talking about them, laughing at them, etc when they aren’t sure what is taking place. To gain some insight, imagine a classroom with a group of children in one corner reading a book and talking. Perhaps they read and discuss a funny page and begin to look around as they laugh and talk. A student who is hard of hearing may see this group laughing and looking their way, not understanding the entire conversation, and may think that they are the subject of the laughter instead of the book or conversation. This is not an uncommon occurrence for many children and adults who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Having speech that sounds “different”, or a visible device like a hearing aid or cochlear implant, can also be a source of attention for a child. Many adults recount stories from childhood in which they’re speech was “not good enough” or “sounded funny”, which was the reason for some of their bullying and social isolation. Other reports acknowledge that misunderstandings can also be a source of bullying behavior. Responding incorrectly in a conversation is not an unusual experience for children and adults who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Part 2 is coming later this week! 

Information gathered and adapted from StopBullying.gov, Able SC, and Hands & Voices National.