Seven Myths about Bullying

Myths about bullying contribute to its reproduction. We're going to discuss some of the most widely shared beliefs about bullying and the role they play that enable it to be reproduced and maintained over time.
Seven Myths about Bullying
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 29 August, 2023

School bullying has always existed. Consequently, there are many myths surrounding this unpleasant phenomenon. Fortunately, today, bullying is no longer an invisible reality. However, today, the problem now enters the child’s house via technology. Consequently, there are no safe spaces for children. This represents a setback.

For this reason, it’s imperative that all those involved (teachers, parents, and students) have information on the most frequent forms of bullying today and the most successful interventions.

Some interventions are more effective than others. But, if the people who have to initially raise the alarm are unable to identify what’s happening, they find it difficult to do so. In this article, we’re going to debunk certain of the myths surrounding bullying. We’re also going to provide some information about this unpleasant phenomenon and its effects.

Bullying affects the entire educational community

Bullying is understood as physical, psychological, or social harassment of a student by their schoolmates, sustained over time. Although in principle we might think that this problem only involves the victim and the perpetrator, in reality, this type of aggression affects the entire educational community.

This point is argued in an article written by the UCAB (Universidad Católico Andrés Bello)(Venezuela). It points out that the faculty, administrators, parents, and students aren’t isolated entities. Consequently, something that happens to one member of the classroom, even a teacher, affects everyone.

For example, the consequences for the bullied student’s classmates can range from restlessness to impotence, in many cases, for not knowing how to help.

You might also like to read Five Types of Bullying

The main myths surrounding bullying

Starting from the basic definition of bullying, we’re going to debunk some of the most common myths surrounding it. It’s useful to know about them as it means we can get hold of the appropriate tools and intervene in stopping the bullying.

Child is a victim of cyberbullying, a form of bullying that breaks the myths of believing that it is only physical aggression
Bullying transcends from school to home, becoming cyberbullying

1. Bullying always consists of physical attacks

Physical aggression is the most conspicuous face of bullying. That’s because it’s visible and therefore undeniable. However, it’s not the only kind. In fact, bullying can appear in more subtle forms such as humiliation, verbal insults, and social exclusion. Moreover, the consequences of these actions are as serious or more serious than those derived from blows, although they’re not always given the importance they deserve.

In recent times, cyberbullying on social media has become one of the most frequent occurrences among young people. It’s a particularly aggravating form of bullying as it follows the child into their own home, the place that used to be their safe haven away from school.

According to the Estudio Sobre Acoso Escolar y Ciberbullying (Study of School Bullying and Cyberbullying), through the screens, bullies launch insults, threats, and rumors, to mention a few examples of cyberbullying. They’re usually combined with face-to-face attacks at school.

As a result, the victims might be fearful and request to change schools. They also might require psychological treatment or even develop psychological disorders, the report claims.

2. Any conflict that occurs at school is bullying

We shouldn’t go to the extreme of considering any altercation between students to be an incidence of bullying. In fact, to use this term, there must be an intention to harm, repeated aggression, and an imbalance of power. So, if a couple of students argue on one day or do it often in an equal situation, this isn’t bullying.

3. “They’re just being children”

How many parents and teachers have uttered this phrase on learning about a case of bullying? But, this kind of statement reduces the importance of what’s happening. Furthermore, it diminishes the responsibility of the aggressor and leaves the victim unprotected. They’re not just “being children”.

As a matter of fact, the consequences of these attacks are severe and long-lasting. This includes serious damage to the victim’s self-esteem, increased risk of anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and difficulties relating to others in the future. Something that generates injuries of such magnitude in psychological health can’t possibly be considered childish.

4. Victims are weak, especially if they complain

One of the worst mistakes made when addressing this issue is to re-victimize the sufferer. When this happens, they’re not only the target of beatings, ridicule, or exclusion by their peers, they’re also forced to listen (from the adults who should be helping them) to the idea that they’re bullied because they’re weak or because they don’t know how to defend themselves.

Bullying is a cruel and uncertain situation. And, any child can be a victim of bullying. It can be caused by them being different in some way (eg. physical image, attitude, behavior) from the rest of the group. This often makes them a target for ridicule. They must be encouraged to raise their voice and ask for help.

Sometimes, if victims of bullying complain, ask for help, or talk about their situation, they’re labeled as snitches, whiners, or babies.

5. It’s better not to take sides and let those involved sort it out

It isn’t correct that the students involved should necessarily be the ones to solve the problem, while the rest remain on the sidelines. In fact, it’s been found that the involvement and collaboration of other relevant figures are crucial in the fight against bullying.

This is demonstrated by a randomized trial conducted in Finland and published in The European Psychologist. It tested the effectiveness of the KiVa method against bullying. The study claims that, by encouraging teachers and students to take sides, bullying was eradicated in almost 80 percent of schools.

6. It only occurs in poor areas

Another great myth about bullying that needs to be disproved is the one that claims that this phenomenon is typical of poor children, and only occurs in schools and places with few resources. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Bullying occurs in all socioeconomic contexts.

In 2011, a study was published in Uaricha, Revista de Psicología. It claims that bullying prevails in similar percentages at different social levels, the only difference being in the ways the aggressions are perpetrated.

7. It’s inevitable

Finally, the idea that bullying is inevitable and inherent to school or certain ages must be forgotten. No child or adolescent should be exposed to constant aggression during their school years. There are effective strategies and resources to prevent students from being bullied at school.

Nor is bullying a situation that makes children more resilient or helps them adopt effective strategies to get out of compromising situations. On the contrary, it damages their self-esteem, making them far more vulnerable to attack by outsiders. It simply teaches them that they’ll continue to receive only contempt from their environment.

Teacher and students in classes promoting campaigns to disprove myths about bullying
It’s essential to involve teachers, managers, classmates, and parents to stop bullying.

Disproving the myths about bullying and raising awareness

At some point, you may have shared affirmations like the ones above. Indeed, these myths about bullying are deeply rooted in society.

Having the correct information allows us to understand the importance of raising awareness, and preventing and intervening in these cases. In fact, fighting bullying is everyone’s job.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.