Sexual Harassment & Bullying

Sexual harassment and bullying are two different ways for perpetrators to harm their victims through violence, threats of violence, manipulation and unwanted touching. However, while sexual harassment is a form of bullying, bullying isn’t always sexual in nature. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of sexual harassment and bullying and what you can do to prevent it from happening to you, and to teach children and others not to become bullies.

What is Bullying?

To look at the issue in detail, let’s look at the definition of bullying. Bullying is an act or set of behaviors that is unwanted, aggressive and typically takes place among school-aged children. However, bullying can occur into young and older adulthood as well becoming more commonly known as harassment, sexual or otherwise.

Bullying often involves two defining characteristics that make it what it is and a recurring problem. First, bullying typically involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Second, the behavior is usually repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time toward the same victim(s). Bullying can result in lasting serious mental health problems for both the bully and the bullied victims.

While it is known by parents, teachers and other adults that sometimes kids can be mean to one another, say hurtful words or occasionally hit out of anger and frustration, that behavior becomes considered bullying in cases where one child is older than another or physically stronger than another. Bullying among adults also must maintain that characteristic, which is why it can take place when a boss bullies an employee or subordinate. Bullying among children can also take place when individuals of a predominant race or culture intentionally attack or threaten minority classmates and other children.

Bullying can take on three primary types:

  • Verbal bullying. This can entail calling names, making threats, teasing, taunting and inappropriate sexual comments, which then borders on sexual harassment.
  • Physical bullying. Hitting, spitting, tripping, punching, taking or breaking someone’s things and rude hand gestures would all be considered physical bullying acts.
  • Social bullying. In the era of social media, which more pre-teens and teens are having regular access to than ever before, social bullying has become one of the more prevalent types of bullying. It is more difficult for parents to monitor as children and teens can become more secretive with how and where they post. They can post anonymous rumors about a person, call names, send harassing messages, take and post unwanted pictures of a person, etc. Social bullying can also include intentionally leaving other children out. Telling classmates not to talk to/hang out with a specific child, making embarrassing comments and spreading false stories about them.

What is Sexual Harassment?

While still a form of bullying, sexual harassment typically happens to teens and adults. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, non-consensual flirting, requests for sexual acts or favors as well as other verbal and physical harassment in a sexual nature.

Like other types of bullying, power play can be a big part of sexual harassment; teachers sexually harassing students, employers to employees, etc. These power dynamics are often the reason behind the perpetrator sexually harassing the victim – to feel powerful.

How to prevent sexual harassment and bullying:

For children and teens, there are some great ways to help prevent sexual harassment and bullying.

  1. Recognize body autonomy. Never touch another person without their consent. Never allow someone to touch you if you don’t want them to.
  2. No means no. Always. No exceptions.
  3. If you’re angry at a person, talk to them or consult an adult, parent, or teacher to help mediate the disagreement. Do not resort to mean and bullying behaviors to retaliate.
  4. If you feel like you’ve bullied someone in the past, apologize. Everyone will feel better.
  5. Remember that everyone is different. Some people are born with physical or mental differences, but those differences are part of who they are and are not an excuse for someone to tease them or highlight those differences in a cruel way.
  6. If you feel like you’re being bullied or you see bullying take place to a friend or classmate, tell a teacher or parent right away.
  7. If it seems safe to do so, laugh off the bullying or in a calm voice, tell the bully to leave you or your friend alone.
  8. If the bully seems dangerous, walk away and consult an adult.
  9. Stay away from people and places where bullying happens. Don’t hang around with bullies.
  10. Stay close to adults. Most bullying takes place when adults are not around.

Other Ways to Prevent Bullying:

To avoid putting all of the responsibility on potential victims to prevent bullying and sexual harassment, it is important to start by teaching lessons to young children on concepts of consent and body autonomy as well as kindness and empathy. Some studies have shown that children who are willing to make friends with the “loner” students (who are often the biggest target for bullies) the number of bullied children is able to drop significantly.

One resource, invented by a teen who was bullied, is called the Sit with Us app. The idea is that kids who are surrounded by friends are less likely to be a target for bullies. The Sit with Us app helps kids and teens find friends to sit with at lunch or hang out with in social settings. Encouraging your child and teen to make friends with everyone can greatly cut down on the amount of students being bullied.

Teaching these concepts to children at a young age (including toddlerhood) can help them be more accepting of children who are different, help them show kindness and compassion and help them learn the importance of respecting others.


Social Media Bullying

When it comes to cyber bullying, statistics show most cases are taking place on popular social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. In 280 characters or less, teens can make hurtful and emotionally scarring comments about fellow schoolmates on Twitter. On Instagram, they may leave bullying and mean comments on photos including body shaming or fat shaming comments about a person’s picture featuring their body or highlighting their appearance. On Facebook, the messenger app makes it easy for kids to send cruel messages back and forth, create groups where teens can gang up on one another. On Snapchat, known for sending easy-to-delete photos, teens can pass around inappropriate photos of classmates or hurtful images that can fall under various forms of bullying harassment. While bullying statistics show overall bullying rates continue to decline in the United States, social media has made it easier than ever for teens to participate in this ugly trend. However, with social media sites, there are methods of recourse. Keep reading to learn more.

Cyberbullying and Social Media:

Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow teens to share pictures, posts and communicate with friends. However, they are also a hotspot for social media bullying. And the bullying behavior doesn’t always start and stop with teenagers. Many Instagram Influencers are subjected to dozens, if not hundreds and thousands, of rude and bullying comments daily on their accounts. Instagram is known for posting pictures to share with friends, family and followers. However when teens are using such an app to make hurtful comments, spread rumors and participate in other forms of verbal/written bullying, it can create lasting emotional scars for the victim.

More research on social media and cyberbullying indicates that while only about 10 percent of teens have reported being bullied on social media, the harm can be far more lasting and severe than the typical school-yard bully name calling. Making threats via social media, sexually suggestive comments and hate speech are all various forms of social media bullying.

Is it Bullying or Banter?

Twitter is a popular social media tool among teens and young adults. It’s an easy way to share information, talk to friends and update status’ to followers. However, it can be a tool used to target people directly with harmful words, spread rumors and share outright lies.

Much media attention is placed on President Donald J. Trump’s outlandish Twitter feed featuring some tweets that subjectively threaten others. However, some see the president’s use of his Twitter account as a prize of free speech where he is able to banter back and forth on a variety of topics pertaining to the United States. However, some of the subjects of his tweets indicate he uses his social media tool as a method to make harmful comments and bully others; making threats and name calling being two of the most common complaints. It is unclear what type of example this behavior sets for some of the younger Twitter users.

Social Media Bullying Recourse:

Fortunately, there are ways to monitor what your teen does online and on their social media accounts. Be friends with your child on Facebook. Follow them on Instagram and Twitter. Monitor their Snapchat usage. Some parents go as far as ensuring they can log on to their child’s social media profiles if need be. However, there are other ways to pay attention to what your child does online.

In addition, it is important for teens and social media users of all ages to know there are rules governing social media usage. Each set of rules is specific to the social media platform. For example, Twitter has a Hateful Conduct Policy in which users can report posts that violate the rules of Twitter’s service. These rules include:
Promoting violence
Threatening or attacking other people or inciting harm based on a person’s race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.

It is important to note that on Twitter’s Hateful Conduct policy, it stipulates that when a post is reported for violating the rules, Twitter’s post monitors may consider the context in which the post was made before it outright removes the tweet or suspends the account.

Similarly, Facebook allows an easy method of reporting photos and posts. Users can report hate speech, non-consensual use of another person’s photos, photos that may illustrate a threatening position against a person or groups of persons as well as direct threats made against a user.

One useful tool to help combat social media bullying is the block feature. It is a simple process to block followers on the various social media platforms. Ridding your profile of such negativity can make the entire social media experience more pleasant and safe. On Instagram, users can turn off comments on posts, which makes it easier to prevent users from leaving harmful comments, make threats or participate in body-shaming commentary. In addition, protecting yourself or your teen on social media should include being extremely selective in who you allow access to your profile. Recognize that on Twitter, it is more difficult to do so as profiles cannot be made private. Facebook offers tight privacy settings for users, which makes it easier to keep bullies out. On Instagram, users can also change their profiles to private. Close monitoring of social media pages is one of the best ways to keep bullies from being able to do damage to their victims.


Cyber Bullying & Other Social Bullies

As the Internet and online social networks continue to grow so does cyberbullying aka social bullying. Cyber bullying can take on many forms. Keep reading to learn what cyber bullying is, the different types of cyber bullies, and tips on how to stop cyber bullying of children and teens.

When we think of bullying, we often think about physical altercations, or perhaps verbal abuse from others. However, this in not the only form of bullying. As the Internet becomes more popular, and as online communities become more tight-knit and more prevalent, bullying is popping up in cyber space. Cyber bullying can be just as devastating as bullying in real life. Indeed, in some cases cyber bullying is an extension of bullying already endured in the “real world” at school.

What is Cyber Bullying?

Cyberbullying is when a child or teenager is harassed, humiliated, embarrassed, threatened or tormented (bullied) using digital technology. This is not limited to the Internet; cyber bullying also encompasses bullying done through such things as text messages using mobile devices. It is important to note that cyber bulling can only happen between minors. When an adult is harassing children or teenagers, it is known as cyber harassment or cyber stalking.

Cyber bullying is often a systemic attempt to get another child or teen to feel bad about him or her self through electronic communication. It usually happens more than once, and includes leaving demeaning messages on someone’s Facebook page (social bullying), uploading embarrassing photos, or spreading gossip or rumors through instant messaging and text messaging. There are a number of ways to humiliate and threaten children online. And because the damage is often psychological, and carries over into the real world, the threats posed by cyber bullying can be very real. There have been cases where cyber bullying has led to severe depression, self harm and even suicide.

Different kinds of cyber bullies

While some of the traits of cyber bullies are similar to more traditional bullies, it is important to note that there are some differences. Some cyber bullies are victims of real word bullying, and go online and bully others to feel powerful. Others are bullies offline, and want to extend their sphere of influence and power to the online world. Other cyber bullies just want to show that they can do certain things online to show off.

It is important to look for signs that your child is being bullied or is a cyber bully. In both cases, it is important to stop the problem by looking for causes of the bullying behavior. The motives for cyber bullying are rather wide ranging, so it is important to find out the reasons behind the behavior so that a solution can be found. Additionally, it may be necessary to help children and teenagers involved by getting them counseling and helping them understand how to overcome the problem.

Stop cyber bullying

It is important that parents play a role in stopping cyber bullying and the social bully. Indeed, it is vital that parents pay attention and be open with their children and invite their confidences. If your child is a cyber bully, you should make clear rules about appropriate online behavior, and have consequences, such as losing accounts or computer time, if they break the rules. You can work with schools to help stop cyber bullying, and work with other parents to try and prevent it. Make sure your child knows that he or she can come to you if there is a problem online.

In some cases, it is possible to get law enforcement involved – especially if an adult becomes involved and brings the level of offence to cyber stalking or cyber harassment. It is vital that your child comes to you when cyber bullying takes place. It is usually possible to print the screen showing the offending action. Additionally, it is possible to trace the IP address of the user, and locate the computer from which the cyber bullying is taking place. This can help prevent further incidents.

Ultimately, though, it is important that your community as a whole takes a stand against cyber bullying, teaching kids to treat each other with respect, and to see that it is unacceptable when others are being hurt or harassed by a social bullies.