What is, and How Can We Stop, Unintentional Bullying? | Teen Ink

What is, and How Can We Stop, Unintentional Bullying?

April 22, 2014
By Anonymous

My journey started with a simple question: “What is one injustice that I truly care about?” The answer came immediately. It was bullying. Why? I have always enjoyed watching people, and how they interact. While my friends may consider me to be really talkative and a bit crazy, I do enjoy staying quiet occasionally and do some serious people watching. One of the things that I notice frequently is unintentional bullying. According to most sources, bullying is defined as the intentional and continuous mistreatment of others, by words or physical action. This is mainly done to help prevent legal action against those who may have accidentally hurt others through their words or actions. I’ll define unintentional bullying as when a person hurts another through words or actions without the instigator’s knowledge.
Unintentional bullying rarely gets as much attention as ‘normal’ bullying because it happens so often, and the consequences seem to be much less serious. After all, everyone, including myself, could be accused of unintentional bullying. We have all let off a snide comment about how that person looks strange, or that joking “You’re so dumb!” The person on the receiving end may just laugh it off, but on the inside, it hurts! Personal issues, such as intelligence or looks, are generally the weapons of choice.
I have seen unintentional bullying, but I wanted to learn more about it. Naturally, I turned to the Internet for more information. Much to my surprise, there were not that many articles talking about this important and pervasive issue. Most of my searches brought up articles talking about how to deal with a bully (Tell an adult!), or “My child gets bullied! How do I help him/her?”
One source that I found in my quest was from http://cyberbullying.us/. Cyberbullying.us is a website devoted to informing people about the ‘nature, extent, causes, and consequences of cyberbullying among adolescents.’ I learned a lot after reading its article on unintentional bullying. The writer, Justin Patchin, who has a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice and a B.S. in Sociology, explains his views on unintentional bullying, and how it should be dealt with. He states that first of all, the term bullying is really broad and vague. Then he goes on to bring up different situations, and considers whether it is bullying or not. He found that in the end, even if the intentions were non-malignant, it is still bullying. However, he explains that if the intentions behind the bullying were innocent, than the person responsible should be shown that they were at fault. If they persist in their actions, then further actions would be necessary.
According to Preparing for Adolescence, an educational CD by Dr. James Dobson, who is a psychologist specialized in child development, teachers can unintentionally bully a student. He recalled an experience where a teacher was trying to teach his students the concept of large and small. This teacher brought a tall girl and a short boy up to the front of the class room. He then showed the class that the girl is large, and the boy is small (Dobson). While the teacher probably had no intention to hurt his students’ feelings, his insensitivity to their feelings may have hurt them. We commonly associate bullying as something that happens between peers. Many times teachers mean no harm, or are just trying to be funny, but they end up hurting their student’s feelings.
Being a teenage guy in public high school, I also have some personal experience in this area. When talking with friends, it is very easy to jokingly chide each other. While I, or my friends, may have perfectly innocent intentions, it is very easy to take the jokes too far. All my friends and I have soft spots where we do not feel entirely secure. Pointing those faults out, no matter how jokingly, can be hurtful. I have also witnessed unintentional bullying in the form of silence. I have a friend that I sit with on the bus. He has a hard time making friends because he is socially awkward and has physical deformities. He always tries to say hello to people, but he often get ignored. It seems like the only ones who are willing to make an effort to converse with him are the bus drivers. Even though the students who ignore him may have meant no harm, they hurt his feelings by not letting him feel like he is significant.
So how can we stop unintentional bullying? Awareness and empathy are important factors. Whenever we speak or stay silent, keep in mind how others feel. Behind the cover of shrugs and smiles may be hidden hurt. If we witness unintentional bullying, we should let the instigators know that their actions may have hurt others. It was disturbing to find that there was a lack of information on the Internet on this topic. More education and emphasis should be made available to teens, because if there are more studies and articles on this topic, awareness will increase. In the end, just standing in someone’s shoes can make all the difference.

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This article has 1 comment.

Turtle221 said...
on Nov. 29 2017 at 6:13 am
Turtle221, Attica, Indiana
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
I am not sure if my (we'll put friend in quotations here because ti's an iffy relationship) "friend" is bullying me or if I am just misinterpreting her everyday cutting remarks. Like I said, in the beginning of the schoolyear it doesn't appear so much, but after week three... I have tried several things to get away from this, unfortunatly I have four classes with this person and that doesn't make it any easier. Because I am not sure about the intents here, does this count as bullying or accidental bullying? If it is accidental bullying then are there measures past moving spots in the classroom and ignoring this person that I can take?