When does typical teasing become bullying?

Painful or embarrassing social experiences are part of the growing up process and almost everyone has already been teased at least one time in their lives. Learning how to rebound from negative interactions is an important skill for all of us. However, being bullied or engaged in bullying activities is not something that should be overlooked because of the long lasting negative emotional effect it can have. Teasing and aggressive behaviors towards peers becomes bullying when:

  • There is a power difference. Bullying is done by someone who is in a position of power (for instance higher physical strength, popularity, better economical status, etc.) and it is directed at someone who is perceived as less powerful.
  • There is intention to cause harm. Bullying can take the form of a physical or verbal attack characterized by threats, spreading rumors, or excluding someone from a group on purpose.
  • It is repeated. Bullying follows an ongoing repetitive pattern of hostile or aggressive actions directed at who is the target.
  • It does cause harm. A teasing or aggressive behavior becomes bullying when it impairs the wellbeing or daily activities of who is the target.


People don't usually bully because they are bad. Engaging in such behaviors is not a reflection of who they are as a person. Some of the reasons people may be mean to others are:

  • They want to fit in with a group of friends who are picking on one classmate.
  • They are getting bullied at home or at school.
  • They are looking for attention from the teachers, parents, or classmates wrongly using this behavior as a way to feel important.
  • They are more impulsive than other peers and have not found healthy ways to discharge their impulses.
  • They have the tendency to perceive other peers as hostile, even when they are not.
  • They don't really understand how their behavior can make the victim feel (especially younger children). Some children start by making fun of their peers without realizing the harm they are causing.


What is cyberbullying?

Bullying can be verbal, physical and more recently it can take place online. Nowadays, we also interact and establish relationships with our peers through the internet via many different online social platforms. Not only the good aspects of interactions are extended to the virtual world, but also the negative ones. Cyberbullying is the contemporary online version of traditional bullying, and it refers to any act of psychological abuse, including intimidation, aggression, threat, humiliation, exclusion, or stalking carried out via the Internet repeatedly over a period of time, at regular or irregular intervals.

These aggressive acts are done by one person or a group of people, through electronic means of communication (e.g., Facebook, e-mails, chat rooms) against a victim who is unable to defend himself/herself easily. The perpetrators do not come in direct contact with the victim, they are hidden behind the screen of their computer or mobile phone and they usually use false identities. They can offend their victims whenever and however they want and even expose them to more viewers.


When should I pay special attention to bullying?

We should give attention to bullying every time it is happening and there are different ways that we may experience it. We can either witness it happening to other people, we can be a victim of bullying, or we can be a bullying perpetrator. None of these situations are pleasant and all of them require some action because they can lead to important negative outcomes, such as:

  • Feelings of sadness, anxiety, decreased self-esteem, irritability or depressed mood.
  • Isolation and feelings of loneliness.
  • Physical injuries or damaged personal items.
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness.
  • Declining grades and loss of interest in schoolwork.
  • Trouble sleeping or frequent bad dreams.
  • Changes in eating habits, either loss of appetite, or compulsive eating.
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming oneself, or talking about suicide.
  • Being overly aggressive and getting into physical or verbal fights.


The first important thing to keep in mind is that we shouldn't handle bullying on our own. Asking for help is extremely necessary when it comes to preventing bullying situations, as well as properly assisting the people who are involved and suffering from it. 

What can I do if I struggle with bullying or cyberbullying?

If you are witnessing bullying, being a victim of bullying or practicing bullying, the most important thing to do is asking for help. So you may:

  • Ask a trusted adult for help. Trusted adults are usually our caregivers, other family members, or someone else who is responsible for taking care of us. Let your trusted adults know about your difficulties. They can be helpful for assisting you and helping you get any additional help you may need.
  • Talk to your teacher. Reaching out to your teacher can be helpful, too. Teachers usually notice some things that are going on among the students. Talking to them not only helps you understand your difficulty, but it can also inform them on things that can be done in the classroom or at school to help you with your difficulties.
  • Talk to someone you trust in the school staff. Sometimes we don't feel very comfortable talking to a teacher, but there is someone at school who we feel we can open up to. So, try reaching out to that person. He or she can help you navigate through the best way of reaching out for help and dealing with your difficulties.

If you are being bullied there are some things else you may try:

  • Practice assertiveness. Practice showing confidence verbally and nonverbally to stand up in front of bullies without being aggressive. You may script some things you could say and role-play them with someone you trust.
  • Find allies. Talk to your friends about ways you can handle the situation or how they may have handled similar situations in the past. Friends may have good ideas and help you feel less isolated.
  • Get involved in activities you are good at and that can help you to build your sense of confidence and enjoyment. These may be protective factors to the negative effects of bullying.

If you have already tried some or most of these suggestions and the problems you are facing persist, it may be the moment to seek out other professional support.


What kind of professional support can be sought out?

It is not unusual for us to feel embarrassed, inadequate, or guilty if we are struggling with bullying. But, if you think you are facing this difficulty, support and guidance are available now.

Pediatricians or family physicians can help to address initial concerns and refer to specialized professionals. Also, whenever possible, a consultation with a mental health professional may be helpful.

The public system provides services through the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and Centers of Multidisciplinary Assessment, Counseling, and Support (KEDASY).


Where to find more information

Specific, detailed, and clinical information on bullying can be found at [clinical short guide at the program website].

If you want to know more about the closest available services for educational and public health systems for children and adolescent assistance across the country, go to our Services Mapping webpage here.

You can also find more information by pointing your phone camera at the QR code below or by clicking here.



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