University of Florida

Talking About Bullying

Many children--and adults--have been victims of bullying. Help put a stop to bullying by identifying aggressive behaviors and encouraging children to report them.

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--that stigmatize the victim and result in social isolation from his or her peers. Indirect bullying--also called "relational aggression"--can happen through websites, e-mails, and chat rooms as well as in person.

Why Does Bullying Continue?

Unfortunately, bullying is often neither prevented nor stopped for various reasons.

  • Incorrect assumptions. Some students and adults may believe that victims are at least partially responsible for bringing bullying on themselves or that bullying toughens a weak person.
  • Failure to address the subject. Students feel that teachers seldom or never talk to them about bullying. Parents may not talk to their children about bullying unless they are aware of a problem.
  • Ineffectiveness. Students believe that adult interventions are ineffective and infrequent.

What Can You Do?

These tips can help parents and educators create and maintain safe and fear-free learning environments.

  • Discuss the expanded definition of bullying. For example, bullying can now occur through electronic media such as e-mail, blogs, and instant messaging.
  • Encourage open-mindedness, tolerance, and acceptance. Seeing from different perspectives and understanding different cultures, values, and norms can reduce the likelihood of bullying.
  • Encourage children to report bullying, even when they are afraid. Teach them that problems can only be fixed when the silence is broken.
  • Build conflict resolution skills. Demonstrate how to manage conflict in ways that help youth grow, learn, and become better citizens.
  • Listen carefully and encourage others to listen. Allow and encourage an open dialogue that allows every point of view out in the open.
  • Brainstorm solutions to the conflict, and consider how each alternative solution may prompt a different outcome.
  • Discuss the proper use of technology at home and in school. Encourage students to use computers productively, and discourage destructive use of computers and the Internet.
  • Be observant. Carefully and sporadically monitor the use of Internet searches and websites created by youths.
  • Consider involving your pediatrician when physiological and/or psychological symptoms appear without an apparent explanation.
  • Build supportive home environments where families can discuss problems together and learn how to deal with frustration, stress, and anger.
  • Stay involved in local schools and activities for youth. Build on positive assets and protective factors for individuals and the community.