Bullying is a deliberate campaign of harm. This aggression can be physical, social, or even psychological — all kinds of bullying are serious.
People don’t always fit into neat boxes of “bully” or “victim.” Some people who bully others are also victimized by a third party. These individuals are called bully-victims. In general, bully works as a noun when speaking about bullying in general (“Childhood bullies often target submissive peers”). If speaking of a particular individual, however, person-first language is more precise (“Person X used to bully others” instead of “Person X was a bully”).
Bullying is possible due to a power imbalance (real or perceived). The perpetrator(s) may have more social clout, be in a position of authority, or simply be physically stronger than their victim. The imbalance may not always be apparent to outside parties, which can make it difficult for victims to convince others they need help. Bullying can severely damage a victim’s physical and emotional well-being (as well as that of bystanders).
Cyberbullying is done with computers, cellphones, and other electronic devices. Unlike with traditional bullying, a cyberbully can use anonymous features to hide their identity, and they may enlist followers or friends for large-scale harassment campaigns. Being online enables certain tactics that couldn’t easily be done offline:
While this term is often used in the context of romantic fraud, it can also be used for bullying. A bully may create a false identity in order to approach and befriend their victim. They use the person’s trust to gain access to secrets and insecurities, which they then use against the victim.
A bully may post a victim’s personal identifying information (phone number, address, etc.) on a public forum. This enables others to harass the victim offline through prank calls, stalking, and even physical confrontation.
A bully may gain access to intimate photography of a person, whether through hacking, deceit, or theft. They then share these photos online without consent in order to humiliate the victim. This can impact an individual’s reputation, career, romantic relationships, and even physical safety. “Revenge porn” is a type of nonconsensual porn.
Bullies can use apps (or co-conspirators) to send a deluge of texts to a victim’s phone. This enables bullies to harass the victim at all hours and can make the phone virtually impossible to use.
Bullies sometimes post controversial or hurtful comments in order to get a response from someone. When a cyberbully trolls someone, it can be difficult to tell what is a joke and what is a threat, especially since much of internet communication (memes, gifs, emojis, etc.) has ambiguous meaning.
- What is the Difference Between Bullying and Harassment? (National Bullying Prevention Center)
- Social Media, Cyberbullying, and Online Safety Glossary (Cyberbullying Research Center)
Bullying refers to aggressive, persistent behavior that is intended to embarrass, intimidate, isolate, coerce, or harm a vulnerable party. In general, bully works as a noun when speaking about bullying in general (e.g., “Childhood bullies often target submissive peers”). If speaking of a particular individual, however, person-first language is more precise (i.e., “Person X used to bully others” instead of “Person X was a bully”).