Bullying, Hazing, Mobbing: What's the difference?

What is hazing? “The imposition of strenuous, often humiliating, tasks as part of a program of rigorous physical training and initiation.” Or, “Humiliating and sometimes dangerous initiation rituals, especially as imposed on college students seeking membership to a fraternity or sorority.”

What is bullying? “An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.” Or, “Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.”

What is Mobbing? “When a group of people (friends, family, team, coworkers, social media or online) bully an individual person.”

What the difference between the three? Not much because they are all infractions against the protection and well being of the victim.

A New Jersey high school cancelled the remaining football season due to a hazing incident. The school superintendent for the Sayreville War Memorial High School, along with a unanimous vote of the school board, decided that the alleged bullying incident was serious enough to punish the team (and all students) by cancelling the season.

The brutal hazing and bullying became commonplace in the locker room after practice, according to a parent of a freshman football player. According to NJ Advance Media, “It would start with a howling noise from a senior football player at Sayreville War Memorial High School, and then the locker room lights were abruptly shut off. In the darkness, a freshman football player would be pinned to the locker-room floor, his arms and feet held down by multiple upperclassmen. Then, the victim would be lifted to his feet while a finger was forced into his rectum. Sometimes, the same finger was then shoved into the freshman player’s mouth.”

Could this be considered a criminal act? Well, the school board president, Kevin Ciak that there is an ongoing investigation and the assistant prosecutor stated that the crimes are sexual in nature with the possibility of a first-degree charge.

So, how can parents and schools protect children from bullying, hazing and/or mobbing? Here are tips to help:

EDUCATE: It is important to educate students, parents and the community about the seriousness of bullying. There are various forms of bullying and oftentimes it is difficult to identify the source of the violation. Talking about the types of bullying (Physical, Emotional/Relational, Cyber/Online, Verbal) may help identify an attack easier. Remember, even older children are at risk for bully attacks.

ENCOURAGE: It is necessary to encourage your child to talk to someone they can trust if they are being bullied. Oftentimes the victim may experience an extreme sense of shame, however, be alert to changes in your child’s behavior. Here are symptoms to look for: isolation/withdrawal, sadness, irritability, changes in eating or sleeping habits, fear of going to certain places, unexplained injuries, loss of friends, somatic symptoms.

SUPPORT: Remember, many victims of bullying may not seek help because they believe it may make the situation worse. Therefore, provide an alliance for the victim and discuss ways you can help without making things worse. The victim may fear a greater retaliation if adults get involved. A strategy must be put in place to protect the victim, advocate for the victim and support the victim without causing additional harm.

The Sayreville War Memorial High School football season was cancelled and it is unfortunate that the innocent had to pay the price with the guilty. However, the superintendent made a decision to protect the victims of what appears to be a serious crime, and with the act of moral responsibility comes collateral damage. A strong “zero tolerance” message was sent to those that believed that bullying, hazing, and/or mobbing were acceptable.


Sincerely Be-You-Tiful,

Jada Jackson, M.S., M.A., LMHC, NCC

Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Talk Show Host of Emotional Mojo

Author of Be-You-Tiful: The Threefold Process to Becoming You

Blogger and Author of Jada Jackson: My Story, My Life