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Emotional Bullying A Top Concern For Our Youth – by Rodger Dinwiddie, Executive Director


A recent survey of children in grades five through 12, conducted by researcher Tonya Nansel et al, found America’s youth are more concerned about emotional abuse than physical violence. Unfortunately and ironically, most schools in America are described as “safe” if there is no violence.

In a truly safe school, all students feel like they belong, are valued, and feel physically and emotionally safe. At the core of this reported student fear and concern is bullying. Yes, bullying has been in the news for many years since school shootings began. We now live in a post-Columbine era, and in spite of this, there is still a great deal of misunderstanding about what bullying actually involves.

Dan Olweus, the world’s leading researcher on bullying, states a person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself. Expressed in more everyday language, one might say bullying is when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself. In summary, bullying is by definition: aggressive behavior that intends to cause harm or distress; is repeated over time; and occurs in a relationship where there is an imbalance of power or strength.

Olweus states, “A somewhat different kind of imbalance may happen when the ‘source’ of the negative actions is difficult to identify or confront, as in social exclusion from the group, hurtful gossip that happens behind the student’s back, or when a student is being sent anonymous mean notes.”

Finally, there is also a difference between bullying and teasing. Olweus reminds us, “in the everyday social interactions among peers in school, there is a good deal of (often repeated) teasing of a playful and relatively friendly nature and in most cases this cannot be considered bullying. However, when repeated teasing is degrading and offensive and continues in spite of clear signs from the targeted student that he or she would like it to stop, this certainly qualifies as bullying. It is helpful to keep in mind this difference between friendly, playful teasing and bullying – although the line between them may sometimes appear somewhat blurred.” 

There are many forms of bullying which may include being verbally bullied, being socially excluded or isolated, being physically bullied,  being bullied through lies and false rumors or having money or other things taken or damaged.  It also includes being threatened or forced to do things, being racially bullied, being sexually bullied and being cyber-bullied (via cell phone or the Internet)

It is not bullying if there is conflict or aggression between students who are of equal power, including physical or mental strength, or social status.

The first step our STARS specialists take in helping students who are being bullied is to get to the heart of the issue and to figure out what kind of bullying is taking place.  If you believe you are being bullied and live within the ten-county region STARS Nashville serves, I strongly encourage you to seek our professional help at your school or call 615-279-0058.  If your school is interested in finding out more about how to prevent and intervene successfully with bullying situations, please contact STARS at the same number. Emotional bullying is real and every person deserves to live a life free of this threat.  In upcoming blogs, we’ll take a closer look at the types of bullying and offer some important solutions. Emotional bullying is real and every person deserves to live a life free of this threat.  In upcoming blogs, we’ll take a closer look at the types of bullying and offer some important solutions.