What is Bullying

Bullying has been defined in many ways, but the kind of bullying behaviour that we are trying to prevent had been well described in Ireland in the Department's Guidelines 

"Bullying is repeated aggression, Verbal, Psychological or Physical conducted by an individual or group against others.

Isolated incidents of aggressive behaviour, which should not be condoned, can scarcely be described as bullying. However, when the behaviour is systematic and ongoing it is bullying". (For examples see the Anti-Bullying Code I recommend in Appendix 1 below)

The New Procedures (Irish Department of Education and Skills)  give a new definition which is essentially the same as the above:

"Bullying is defined as unwanted negative behaviour, verbal, psychological or physical conducted by an individual or group against another person (or persons) and which is repeated over time.

The following types of bullying behaviour are included in this non-exhaustive definition:
(i) deliberate exclusion, malicious gossip and other forms of relational bullying;
(ii) cyber-bullying; and
(iii) identity-based bullying such as homophobic bullying, racist bullying, bullying based on a person’s membership of the Traveller community and bullying of those with disabilities or special educational needs.
In addition, in the context of these procedures placing a once-off offensive or hurtful public message, image or statement on a social network site or other public forum where that message, image or statement can be viewed and/or repeated by other people will be regarded as bullying behaviour."

[- New Procedures 2.1.1]

The New Procedures and accompanying expansion emphasise a relatively new and insidious form, namely Cyber-bullying, also some long-established but hidden forms such as homophobic bullying, racist bullying and bullying of people with disabilities or special needs.  Nowadays we know that the aggression can be conducted on cyberspace, by emails, posting on the Internet, social network sites, chat rooms etc and bullying pictures can also be published on these places. This type of bullying is nowadays referred to as cyberbullying. In an important new development, the New Procedures point out that such a once-off placing of an offensive or hurtful public message on cyberspace will now be regarded as bullying behaviour in Ireland.

This is welcome.  As we know, once-off postings on the Internet, phones etc are circulated widely resulting in the "once-off" element being eliminated.  Such a posting is effectively a nefarious repetitive act as it can be accessed continuously.

A dictionary definition of the verb "bully" is: To treat cruelly, persecute or intimidate. These three, when carried out repeatedly, fairly sum up the range of behaviour included under the concept of school bullying.

 The Anti-Bullying Code recommended on this site (see Appendix 1) also gives a detailed description of what a particular school might describe as Bullying for that particular school. The Code is now updated to take cognisance of the New Procedures.  From the very beginning, everyone within the school should know, and be agreed on, what school bullying is; and the term should be spelt out (as in the Code) so that there is no doubt in anyone's mind that a particular line of behaviour falls, or doesn't fall, into the category of school bullying for that particular school.

In particular it must be clear that the line which makes the demarcation between "friendly horseplay" or "friendly ribbing", on the one hand, and bullying behaviour on the other hand, can be clearly drawn and must be clearly understood. An acid test can be: Does the victim object to the kind of behaviour inflicted on him or her?

Note on Cyber bullying:

The modern inventions of all classes of mobile phones combined with the availability of Internet sites and pages and walls has made bullying more rampant and easier for the bullies.  What was once posted on the toilet wall, the classroom wall or written on a victim's ruler or copy book, or on a wallboard or passed around a class in scribbled notes can now be literally posted to the whole world via the internet. This is a frightening prospect for any child, any student or any adult.

It is my opinion that a school whose students engage in cyberbullying of another school student whether inside or outside  of school or school hours  should investigate this kind of bullyiing and try to stamp it out.  The New Procedures appear to endorse this opinion.

I advise against any child offering himself or herself on any website (such as Ask.ie) as a target for questions.  The questions very often turn from harmless/amiable into vicious/insidious.  I advise parents to shield their children from this kind of dangerous website or similar sites like Facebook or chat rooms.

Barnardos have a very helpful page on Cyberbullying here

Note on Homophobic Bullying

This kind of bullying occurs when a student is bullied because of her or his sexual orientation.  Children can be particularly cruel in this area and again many cruel and needless deaths have been caused by homophobic bullying.  Its prevalence has recently been highlighted by the Lesbian and Gay community although it  was already pinpointed in the Department's Guidelines as far back as 1993. For help See Links. The New Procedures place a very special emphasis on Homophobic bullying.

Note on Racist bullying

Ireland has now a sizeable proportion of non-nationals and nauralised Irish who ned special protection from school bullying.  Also, the Traveller Community need the same kind of protection. The New Procedures place an emphasis on Racist including Traveller bullying

Not Only Peers are bullied

It is important to remember that bullying is both horizontal and vertical.

Not only do peers of any age group or standing bully one another, (horizontal bullying) but non-peers also bully (vertical bullying).  So, in a school, students might bully other students, and teachers other teachers, but also teachers might bully students, a Principal might bully teachers or students or a school secretary, and students might bully teachers or the Principal.

All of these different types of bullying need to be prevented.


This page last edited: 20 March 2014