Am I Not Good Enough? Ask Kids Targeted By Quiet Bullying

As kids grow up things around them change. Friends go into new groups and some kids are left out. Here’s all you need to know about quiet bullying.
quiet bullying

Quiet bullying. Passive-aggressive bullying. Silent Bullying.

So many names for it.

This type of bullying came to my attention when my daughter was 12 years old. I remember that phase so clearly. She came home one day saying her friends had all made a plan to go out but they had not invited her. She mentioned this casually at the lunch table but I could see what she was going through with emotion flitting across her face as she tried to keep calm ad act indifferent.

My first reaction was to tell her ‘just ignore them. It’s OK’. But then I thought to myself is that what I should do? Just dismiss it? Then I asked her why they hadn’t invited her. Had she had a fight? She had no idea why they had suddenly decided to exclude her from the group. The pain and hurt I saw in her eyes was truly heartbreaking. It was a very tough phase in our lives and our first experience with bullying. No fights, no arguments just silent exclusion.

Fast forward to recent times when 2 years of our lives have been mostly online.. this type of exclusion still continues and it’s happening online, more than ever.

Experts say they’ve been seeing more of this since the pandemic, as more of kids’ lives shifted online. Digital exclusion can be more subtle than obvious forms of bullying that involve teasing and threatening, they say.

What Is Quiet Bullying?

As kids grow up things around them change – friends splinter into new social groups and sometimes kids are left out.

Now rather than sending a mean message, what teens are doing more now is excluding people from groups and conversations by creating alternate group chats without that person in them. With group chats and kids posting on social media constantly, everyone can more easily see when they’re not part of the crowd. This is called quiet bullying.

The Psychological Impact On The Kids

Exclusion can result in hurt feelings, even when there’s no malicious intent behind it. Being left out of a text chain or group chat can freeze kids out of online conversations that help cement social bonds. Seeing friends post that they went out for lunch without them or overhearing them talk about a party that they have not been invited to, can seriously impact the child. They end up wondering if something is wrong with them or if are they not good enough to hang out with.

Psychologist Shwetambhara Sabharwal says

A lack of safe space and disregard for any individual is unacceptable. Be it active or passive bullying, it must not be ignored. Steps to minimise can range from creating awareness, repeated communication of non-tolerance, and proactively addressing concerns to consistent modelling of empathy and acceptance by adults.

Both adults and children need to understand the “why” behind not bullying. Besides the fact that it causes pain to the victim, it must be acknowledged that the bully is suffering too, which is why she/he is acting this way. Furthermore, acts of bullying and being bullied impact the personality, emotions and sense of self of the people involved, leaving them vulnerable to long-term damage. Taking responsibility and being accountable for collective health and safety helps reduce such unwanted actions.

I was recently talking to a friend’s teenage daughter about school life. That’s when she mentioned that exclusion from group chats became more apparent during the pandemic. There were times when she was chatting with her friend on Zoom or Whatsapp after school and felt everything was alright. But then noticed at other times that her friends’ contact status indicated they were on Zoom calls without her.

“It’s very easy to be left out,” she said

Physical bullying is easier to spot and flag. But this kind of passive-aggressive bullying is not verbal. No insults are exchanged. How does an adult catch it?

How Can A Parent Help Their Kids With This Passive-Agressive Bullying?

  • You can explain to your kids that sometimes friendship dynamics change and that could be the reason old friends choose not to hang with them anymore
  • You should also take this chance to simply talk to them about the different forms of bullying – physical form, cyberbullying, and quiet bullying – so they are aware and can spot it if they are targeted.
  • Help them find their true friends. Discuss with them what friends and friendship really mean to them. Would a real friend behave this way? Suggest they try to make friends with other people.
  • Educate your kids to intervene if they see a child being a victim of any form of bullying and to report it.
  • Their self-esteem is very low at this point. Help them focus on hobbies like chess and music where they can put their energy and be in a situation where they have control over what makes them happy.
  • Talk about it. It may help to talk to a guidance counsellor, teacher, or friend — anyone who can give them the support they need. Talking can be a good outlet for the fears and frustrations that can build when they are being bullied.

Bullying Helplines You Can Contact

Phone CHILDLINE 1098 is India’s 1st 24-hour toll-free number for children. It s a free emergency phone service for children who are in need of assistance. A child or an adult can call 1098 at any time to seek help in case of an emergency.

Aarambhindia has a hotline hosted on where you can report child sexual abuse material. It is not necessary for the person who is reporting to identify themselves if they don’t want to.

National Commission For Protection of Child Rights has the POSCO E-Box to report any such offence directly to them online. – National Commission has carefully outlined areas that need attention and focus and a well-documented guide for adults – both educators and parents

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