What is bullying to you? What sets teasing apart from bullying?
According to a report by UNESCO titled “Behind the numbers: Ending school violence and bullying”, almost one in three students, 32%, have been bullied by their peers at school at least once. The report mentioned that more than one in three students, 36%, have been involved in a physical fight with another student. Based on a report by UNICEF in 2018, 50% of students aged 13 to 15 worldwide have experienced peer-to-peer bullying inside or around school.
While the world has been paying close attention to cyberbullying in recent years, school bullying should not be ignored as it still remains a significant problem, especially when some people still find it difficult to differentiate between bullying and teasing. It is very common for some bullies to get away with their actions by simply saying “I was just teasing or joking around”.
Oung Dane, a 21-year-old Phnom Penh resident, thinks the definition of bullying is very subjective. Although there is a clear definition of bullying from various organizations, at the end of the day, only you can define what is bullying to you and what is not.
She said, “Sometimes people intend to tease their friend for real, they have no intention to bully them. However, their friend might get offended by the action and consider it as bullying. It really depends. ”
Chan Sokmeng, a junior student at the Royal University of Phnom Penh set a clear line to what he considered as bullying and teasing.
He expressed, “I call it teasing when someone stops doing a certain thing to me when I tell them to. For instance, when I told them to stop calling me fat. If they do not stop after having been told to, I will consider it as bullying.”
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, bullying is defined as “the behavior of a person who hurts or frightens someone smaller or less powerful, often forcing that person to do something they do not want to do.” The dictionary defines “tease” as to laugh at someone or to say unkind things about them, either because you are joking or you want to upset that person.
Dane mentioned that “Growing up, whenever I heard the word bullying, I thought of the act when a group of friends threatens someone in the same school for money and their belongings as it is very often portrayed in Asian movies. While in Western movies, students with a nerdy look often get bullied.”
The National Centre Against Bullying , explains bullying as a series of misuses of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behavior. In order to call it bullying the person or people who commit the act has full intention to cause physical, social and/or psychological harm. It can involve an individual or a group misusing their power, or perceived power, over one or more persons who feel unable to stop it from happening.
The organization mentioned that a single incident, conflict or fight such as one-time social rejection or dislike, single episode acts of nastiness or spite, random acts of aggression or intimidation and mutual arguments or disagreements are not considered as bullying. Primarily, there are four types of bullying which are physical bullying, verbal bullying, social bullying and cyberbullying.
Actions including intended hitting, kicking, tripping, pinching and pushing or damaging property can be considered as physical bullying. Various actions such as name-calling, insulting, teasing, intimidating, making homophobic or racist remarks, and verbal abuse often count as verbal bullying. Social bullying includes lying, spreading rumors about someone, encouraging others to socially exclude someone, damaging someone’s social reputation or social acceptance, humiliating someone, playing nasty jokes, and mimicking someone unkindly. The Cyberbullying Research Centre defined cyberbullying as intentional and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, phones, and other electronic devices.
The Global Bullying DataBase combined data from six international surveys on bullying prevalence amongst 11- to 15-year-olds in 145 countries and found that what people perceive as bullying vary. Some surveys include being teased and others excluded it from bullying, while some only classified physical threats and violence as bullying.
Due to little exposure to what bullying is, Hoeng Sattya, who is now 23, realized that she had been bullied by some of her friends during her high school days when she entered university 3 years ago. She said that back then whenever she was asleep in the classroom, some of her classmates would take dirty fabric, which was used to erase the whiteboard or to wipe the floor, to cover her.
“When I woke up with the fabric on my head, the whole class would always laugh at me. Thinking about those days, I was angry at them but I couldn’t seem to find the word to describe the action. I even thought why would I be angry at them while they were just teasing for fun. Now, I realized that it is bullying.”
Hang Sophearyn, mother of a 10-year-old, expressed that her son has been physically bullied by his peers before. She is still afraid that the cycle might repeat itself in the future. She constantly reminds her son to tell her immediately when someone does something bad to him at school, as she believes teachers do not have enough time to help students avoid peer-to-peer bullying.
She advised, “To other parents, I strongly encourage them to regularly check on their own children, no matter how busy they are. This can be done by asking them directly in a soft tone or look over their body often. I totally oppose parents who ask their children to bully the bullies back.”
This post is also available in: KH