Although at first it may seem simple to define what constitutes bullying behavior, it does not always fit the classic stereotype of the older boy beating up his smaller classmate. Bullying is a multifaceted behavior that shifts with the situation, the people involved, the time and place. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention 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.” According to this definition, bullying involves several factors:
- The behavior is not welcome to the person being bullied.
- It occurs among school-age children, so although bullying behavior may be found across ages, the technical definition of a bully is a child who engages in such behavior.
- The bully and bullied both understand the bully to have more power in the situation, even if other factors are “equal.” Many times, bullies are bigger, stronger, older, have more friends, which leads to a real power imbalance as well as a perceived one.
- The bully either repeats the behavior, or their access to the victim implies they will be able to.
But this may not comprise a complete definition of bullying. PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center is careful to point out that “while some bullying is physical and easy to recognize, bullying can also occur quietly and covertly, through gossip, on a smart phone, or the Internet, causing emotional damage.” In such cases bullying still relies on a power dynamic that places one peer over the other. Perhaps a popular girl has a much wider reach with her nasty words, for instance, or an older boy is on the football team and can therefore influence many of the junior and senior boys at a high school.