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Verbal Bullying Guide

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Recognize Bullying

To stop bullying, you have to know what it looks like.

While verbal bullying is the most common type of bullying, you might not recognize it because it can be played off as a joke or harmless teasing. To stop verbal bullying, you have to know what it looks like. It can be a name whispered in someone’s ear or a putdown yelled loud enough for an entire class to hear

Verbal bullying can be:

Place your mouse here to see other examples of verbal bullying.
  • Calling someone a mean name
  • Teasing someone to make them feel bad
  • Criticizing
  • Threatening
  • Swearing at someone
  • Using put-downs
  • Spreading rumors
  • Making repeated abusive phone calls
  • Making offensive remarks or joking about a person's religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or the way they look
  • Using sarcasm to be mean

Let’s give you an example of what verbal bullying looks like. Watch as Alex is verbally bullied by Sam in front of the entire class.

Think you know?

The following questions are to help you better understand verbal bullying. Work by yourself or with a friend and try to come up with your own answers before looking at our answers.

Questions about the video:

Why does Sam say “Can’t you take a joke?”

  • Phrases like “can’t you take a joke” or “just kidding” are used by bullies to get away with what they are saying to the victim.
  • Although the bully’s comments cross the line from good teasing into bullying, using the phrase “can’t you take a joke” makes the victim feel bad for not liking the “joke.”
  • By saying “Can’t you take a joke?” Sam takes the spotlight off him and puts it on Alex. Now Alex feels like he has no right to feel bad about Sam’s mean comments.

Why do teens like Sam use verbal bullying?

  • Verbal bullying is easy to get away with because it can be done in a way that adults or others may not hear or notice, such as whispering or “joking”.
  • Verbal bullying can be done quickly. Because it can be a single word or phrase it can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time.
  • Verbal bullying doesn’t take much thought. All the bully needs to do is think of a mean name or point out something different about the victim and they have succeeded in making the victim feel bad.

Can you think of other examples of obvious or not so obvious ways teens can be verbally bullied?

  • Making fun of the way someone dresses
  • Pointing out cultural differences and making the victim feel bad about them
  • Swearing at someone
  • Making repeated mean phone calls
  • Taunting someone
  • Belittling
  • Making racial slurs

How do you feel when someone uses “just kidding” after making a negative comment about you?

  • Hearing a negative comment about ourselves, even in a joking way, almost always makes us feel bad.
  • When people, even friends, use the phrase “just kidding” the hurt does not go away. It can actually make us feel worse because the bully is trying to play it off as a joke.

Are there times when teasing and negative comments would not be considered verbal bullying?


Teasing can be a positive part of friendship

  • It can be fun, can make people feel good, and can strengthen friendships.

Teasing is okay when:

  • The person isn’t trying to put you down or hurt your feelings.
  • You know the person well and can joke with him.
  • If you ask the person to stop, he will.

Let's take a look at what happens next in After The Bullying →