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How Do You Define Bullying?

How do you define bullying?

“Well, I know it when I see it.”

For many years, that’s the response you might have gotten if you asked staff at a school how they defined bullying.

That might work for a while for a single teacher, maybe even for a school, but when you look at bullying prevention on a more macro level, without a concrete definition of what bullying is, you might be comparing apples to oranges.

From a research perspective, ensuring that what we are calling bullying in one school district is the same as what we call it in another and another and another school district helps build the case that an effective intervention in one school can also be effective in another. This is called external validity.

To help maximize the external validity of future bullying prevention research, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) partnered with the US National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and the US Department of Education to develop a single definition [PDF] that could be used across disciplines to define bullying.

The document helps school leaders and researchers differentiate bullying from other forms of aggression, and discusses a public health approach to reduce bullying, mostly by preventing it before it can happen.
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“When you change how you look at a challenge, you unlock its positive potential. If you remain mindful about your ability to control your own behavior, you can make constructive choices that can promote the best possible outcome instead of the worst-case scenario.”

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