What is bullying? 

Bullying is a serious problem that can cause real damage. Many people may be impacted by the negative effects of being bullied for long periods in their lives. A commonly cited definition of bullying is “repeated behaviour which is intended to hurt someone either emotionally or physically, and is often aimed at certain people because of their race, religion, gender or sexual orientation or any other aspect such as appearance or disability” (Bullying UK). 

It can take place in schools, online (through texts, Snapchat, Instagram posts or comments, YouTube videos, etc.), in the workplace, at home, and can come in various forms, be it physical, verbal and/or emotional. 

Types of bullying

Physical Bullying

  • Aggressive contact
  • Hitting
  • Kicking
  • Pinching
  • Property damage / stealing personal items from someone 

Verbal Bullying

  • Taunting
  • Name-calling
  • Threatening
  • Racial slurs and homophobic remarks

Social Bullying

  • When a group of people work together to make someone feel like an outsider
  • Ignoring or laughing at someone
  • Making rude or menacing gestures, 
  • Excluding someone from games and other important events
  • Encouraging others to engage in ostracizing behaviour 

Cyber Bullying

  • Harassing someone using digital technologies such as phones or the internet
  • Can be overt, covert, social, verbal, written, and more
  • Includes the spreading of explicit photos or information to taunt or extort 

(Source: Open Colleges)

Common examples of bullying can be found on ReachOut’s website and include:

  • excluding someone from a group (online or offline)
  • giving someone nasty looks, making rude gestures, calling them names, being impolite or constantly teasing them
  • repeatedly saying nasty things about someone behind their back
  • spreading rumours or lies, or misrepresenting someone (e.g. using a person’s Facebook account to post messages as if it were them)
  • harassing someone based on their race, sex, religion, gender or a disability
  • repeatedly hurting someone physically by pushing, hitting, slapping, ganging up on or restraining them
  • stalking someone.

(Source: ReachOut)

Why do bullies bully?

There are many reasons why someone might turn to bullying behaviour, and it might be a combination of multiple underlying factors. Bullying may be a result of peer pressure – the desire to “look cool” in front of your friends, to “prove” yourself to someone, or to feel in power or in control of a situation. Bullies may have been bullied in the past. It can also be a way to express unresolved feelings like anger and frustration. Bullies may be facing many personal issues that need to be resolved or confronted, and could benefit from receiving help themselves. However, it is important to stress that no matter what the reason, bullying behaviour should not be tolerated.

How common is bullying?

Unfortunately, bullying is very common in Hong Kong. A 2018 survey by Hong Kong’s Agent of Change Foundation found that one in three Hong Kong students have experienced bullying in the past six months (Young Post, 2018), with one in four experiencing cyber-bullying. More than half of those interviewed felt sadness or fear. Results from the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment showed that Hong Kong students reported the most bullying out of all 53 countries that participated in the study (SCMP, 2018).

Looking after yourself: Three things to try

It feels terrible to be bullied. You might be made to feel completely out of control, ashamed, afraid, and lonely. However, as isolating as it may seem, you do not have to go through this experience alone. While being bullied is never your fault, coping strategies may help you to better deal with the situation.

  1. Tell someone about it

Tell a trusted friend, teacher, parent, counsellor, or someone else you trust about what’s been going on and how you’re feeling. It is relieving to know that you can lean on others for support, and it might be the first step to help you understand that things will be okay. Those who are able to support you can reassure you of your self-worth and help you regain your confidence after being bullied.

Opening up to someone can be really hard. If this is the case, following the steps outlined in this infographic might make it a little easier: 

  1. Do something you enjoy 

After sharing your experiences with someone, you might feel better because you no longer have to carry the burden of being bullied by yourself. However, there might be a brief period of time after you’ve told someone, before they can help you with standing up to the bully or and get involved in the situation, where you might feel overwhelmed with negative thoughts or hurtful comments from the bully. 

During this period of vulnerability, one coping mechanism is to do things that bring you joy – either by going for a walk outside, reading a book, listening to music, or watching your favourite shows. You could also try to counter those thoughts with examples of how they aren’t true, or by finding reasons to disprove them.

3) Don’t react to them – breathe and stay calm

It can be really, really hard to not react immediately, such as lashing out in annoyance or anger when someone has been bullying you. Sometimes this can make the situation worse – for example, the person genuinely did not realise that  what they were doing constitutes as bullying, and you could say something you might later regret. Or, you could just be giving the bully exactly what he or she wants. A lot of the time, bullies try to taunt you in order to get an emotional reaction from you; by not responding, you are not giving in to what they are trying to elicit. 

Other Ways to Respond to Bullies

Both Kids Health and Open Colleges outline several ways to handle being bullied, which can be found here:

Dealing with Cyberbullies 

If someone has been spreading negativity on the internet or on social media, it can be helpful to get some emotional distance from the situation first. You can put your phone down and disconnect from it for at least an hour, until you are able to think more clearly. Responding to bullies after you feel calmer, or have had a chance to reach out to someone so that you can follow up together, can help you feel more prepared and empowered to address the situation in an assertive and healthy manner.

If you are being cyberbullied it is also useful to take screenshots of evidence so that you can report it to your school or university later on. Since comments or posts on the internet can be deleted, this can help you keep a record of what has been said and done.

In addition, many social media sites have ways for you to report or block users who are causing you distress. Above all, it is important that you feel safe and protected online.

You can read more about cyberbullying on the following HK websites:

References and Further Reading

Editor’s note: There is no reason for you to suffer from bullying, click here if you need to seek help.