We are all familiar with the stereotypical oversized bully pressuring you for lunch money, or the loud obnoxious type that has a cruel talent for pointing out all of your insecurities. They don’t have a problem making themselves known and exercise their power of intimidation to get what they want, but what about the bully that has no idea that they are contributing to the problem? That unintentional bystander that thinks they are on the outside looking in may be doing more damage than good.

The question is, is it possible to unknowingly be a bully?  Yes, but the key is to recognize what type of bullying is taking place and understanding that there are multiple forms. In more recent years we have become more aware that bullying is an ever-present burning flame, yet to be extinguished.  It is still pervasive in schools and with the reach of Social Media, the effects of school-time bullying stretch beyond the cafeteria, playground, and bus stops.



Bullying has become more ubiquitous because our access and misuse of Social Media has become an easy tool of exploitation making it disturbingly powerful.  Social Media users are getting younger and they are consuming and creating content that outlasts their attention spans.

The unintentional bully has the ability to correct and adjust their behavior.  They just need to know their actions are indeed harmful to those around them. In some cases, the unknowing bully has to be convinced of their unconscious mistreatment of others exists. This can be tricky for someone to accept, especially when the range of bullying continues to expand.

Bullying is divided into categories. This will not only help you to identify it in others, but it will help you identify bullying type behavior in yourself as well.

  • Physical Bullying (Alannah & Madeline Foundation, 2018):  This one is easily recognized.  Causing harm to a person using physical force through kicking pushing and other forms of violence is the most obvious type of bullying, but it is not the kind that goes without intent.

  • Verbal Bullying (Alannah & Madeline Foundation, 2018): Another easily recognized form of bullying and usually accompanied with physical bullying, but not always is Verbal Bullying. Using harmful or threatening speech toward another person is bullying, but again this is also used with intent, but here is where unintended bullying begins.

  • Social Bullying (Alannah & Madeline Foundation, 2018): This type of bullying seems like it would be easy to identify, but social bullying can be confused as normal everyday social behavior. A simple conversation can become an indirect bullying comment that can later hurt, isolate and cause embarrassment. Spreading rumors, and carrying out lies can also be a form of Social Bullying. You have to be careful with this because you can spread lies without knowing. If you are not sure that something is true, not repeating it is the best way to keep from potentially and unknowing participating in bully-like behavior.

Because Verbal Bullying is closely related to Social Bullying it is important to consider these questions if you think a certain behavior may be crossing the line:

  1. Consider the intent of the comment or rumor.
  2. Don’t repeat negative comments, whether you believe them to be true or false
  3. Remove yourself from the presence of negativity. We know this is easier said than done, but do not participate in the conversation that has the potential to isolate, embarrass or humiliate others. Taking part in that conversation negatively will result in you taking part in a bullying matter.
  • Cyberbullying (Alannah & Madeline Foundation, 2018):  This may seem almost too obvious to define, but Cyberbullying can take place on any device that has access to the Internet where content can be created, shared and delivered rapidly.  This can be done through SMS text messaging, Social Media, forums and anywhere that information flows through the Internet.

To ensure that you do not take part in cyberbullying practice the following:

  1. Report the comment to the platform.  Most Social Media websites have a report button or option. This will alert the website of misuse and may result in a frozen account.
  2. Tell an authority. For students and young users, telling an adult that you trust is important. They often have more resources and strategies to deal with unsavory content online.
  3. DO NOT forward, share or comment on content that may be deceitful, hurtful or bully-like in nature. Report content and tell an authority.

Not all of us are ambitious enough to confront a Bully, but there are alternative ways to help stop bullying from stretching out of control. By not supporting their actions the effects and harm of their negativity are weakened.  You do not have to be a bystander in your opposition. Silently leave the conversation and remove your presence from the equation. You have more power than you realize. You may not be aggressive or have all of the words to use against those who use intimidation to their advantage, but by not participating as their audience you break down the reach of their intent.  Are you strong enough to walk away? Are you strong enough to press “delete comment?” Are you strong enough to share your feelings with someone who has more resource to help make a change? Of course, you are!


For more information about bullying and how to stop it, visit:

http://www.k12.wa.us/Safetycenter/BullyingHarassment/default.aspx   (Washington State)