Bullying Info and Facts

What is Bullying?

Bullying is different from the typical disagreements or conflict that occur between friends or classmates. What’s the difference?

It’s bullying if:

  • The person is being hurt, harmed or humiliated with words or behavior.
  • The behavior is repeated, though it can be a single incident.
  • It is being done intentionally.
  • The person being hurt has a hard time defending themselves from the behavior.
  • The student(s) who are doing it have more power.*

* ”Power” can include such things as being older, being physically bigger or stronger, having more social status, or when a group of students “gang up” on someone.

A lot of teens describe bullying as, “When someone tries to make you feel less about who you are as a person, and you aren’t able to make it stop.”

How is someone bullied?


This one’s easy to recognize. This type of bullying includes perceived intent to harm, such as threats or “pretending” to physically harm the target (e.g., flicking fingers or extending hands close to the target’s eyes or face to cause a withdrawal reaction).

Taking or damaging property
Forced or unwelcomed contact


It’s really common because it is quick, direct, and easy to do. Verbal bullying is the most common type of bullying and the easiest to inflict on other children. It is quick and direct. Children learn at a very early age how to bully other children verbally. It begins with unsophisticated name calling, usually using words that adults tells children are forbidden or unacceptable.  Here is a video about verbal bullying.

Name calling
Making threats against the target
Making demeaning jokes about someone’s differences
Spreading rumors
Slandering (spreading false, negative information)


This one is something that not everyone thinks of as bullying. It can include using words that demean someone about their gender or sexuality, inappropriate touching of body parts, unwelcome physical contact, or even posting inappropriate photos online.  Students need to be provided with the appropriate social rules and norms for dating and flirting so they can act with respect toward their peers and recognize when someone is not respecting them sexually.

Sexually charged comments
Inappropriate or lewd glances
Inappropriate physical contact
Targeted sexual jokes


This type of bullying is more sophisticated. It’s calculated and often done by a group. It can be the most difficult behavior for children to define as bullying because they may feel as if they did something to deserve it. They may not recognize the behavior as bullying because it is typically not physical, or they may not understand why it is happening to them. This is nasty stuff. It hurts people on the inside and makes them feel bad about themselves.

Social manipulation
Telling someone who they can and cannot be friends with
Spreading rumors


Using technology is the newest way to bully.  Cyberbullying is when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.  Here is a video about cyberbullying.

Sending harassing, embarrassing, or otherwise unwelcome emails or text messages
Sexual harassment
Hate speech
Ridiculing someone publically in online forums
Posting lies, rumors or gossip about the target and encouraging others to distribute that information

Who is involved?

Bullying can happen to ANYONE. Bullying is about someone’s behavior. That behavior could be directed at the shy, quiet student, or the class tough guy. Girls bully, boys bully, preschool kids bully, and high school kids bully – there is no one characteristic or aspect that indicates who gets bullied. The one sure thing is that no one EVER deserves to be bullied, it is NEVER their fault, and if someone is being bullied, they have a RIGHT to be safe.

So who bullies? Think the person bullying is the big guy who wears black, has low self-esteem, and gets mad a lot? Could be, but it can also be the petite cheerleader or the quiet honor student. It’s not appearance that defines someone who bullies; it is behavior. Students who bully can be any size, age, grade, or gender.

Then there is the group who sees the bullying and this group is really important. They may not be getting bullied, they may not be bullying, but their reaction has a direct impact on the situation. Think about it: Have you ever seen a group watching a fight? There are some who look, then walk away; there are others who watch and say nothing; and then there are those who cheer it on. These responses make a huge difference in the outcome of every bullying situation. This group is called the bystanders or witnesses.

And to add to it all, the role that any student plays in a bullying situation often shifts and changes from day to day. Somebody who was bullied on the bus in the morning, might be the one who makes fun of a younger kid that afternoon. The kid who laughed with other kids at a fight yesterday, might ask the new kid with no friends to sit with him at lunch today.

Those who witness bullying often express that they feel less safe at school. Their feelings about seeing the bullying range from anger to guilt to fear, and they often wish they could help but don’t know how.

Bullying is a fact of life for many kids and teens; research suggests almost half of teens have experienced bullying online or on their cell phone in the past year. But by standing up, instead of standing by, kids and teens can help end bullying.  Here is a video Bullies and Bystanders:  What Teens Say!

Why does bullying prevention matter?

This year in the United States, 13 million students will be bullied, that’s almost one of out every four students. They are often scared to go to school. That means those students lose the opportunity to learn. It is every student’s right to feel safe – and be safe – in school.

Students who are bullied may also have lower self-esteem, less self-confidence, increased fear and anxiety, depression, lower grades, and even suicidal thoughts.

It’s not just the targets of bullying who affected. Students who bully grow up to have a greater risk of getting in trouble with the law. By the age of 25, one in four who have bullied will have spent time in jail.

What do I do if I am being bullied?

Drama. Bullying. Teasing. Harassment. No matter what you call it, it hurts. If you’re pushed, hit, or your things are ripped off or trashed, it can hurt physically. If you’re ignored by friends or cruel things are posted about you online, it can hurt emotionally. If it happens to you, you’ve probably asked yourself, “Why me?” You know how painful it is to be treated this way.

So seriously, what can you do? A lot!

You can take back control, but you don’t have to do it on your own. Remember, bullying is never your fault and you have the right to make it stop. Begin taking back control by talking to your parent or an adult you can trust. Then check out these three steps for handling the situation at school.

1.  Know That You Are Not Alone

“When I walk into the classroom, all the girls start whispering with each other and laughing.” -Jenny, 7th grade

Ever feel like this only happens to you? It doesn’t. Unfortunately, bullying happens to a lot of kids. It happens in small schools, large schools, rural schools, and city schools. It can happen in preschool, high school, and every school in between. It happens in Australia, Argentina, and all around the globe. Sometimes people say that bullying is just part of growing up or that you should just “deal with it” and it will go away. This is NOT true. Even though bullying happens to a lot of kids, that doesn’t ever make it right. No one deserves to be bullied, everyone deserves respect, and everyone has a right to feel safe at school.

2.  Be a Self-advocate

“Self-Advocate? Seriously, what does that even mean?” -Nick, 6th grade

Being a “self-advocate” means speaking up for yourself, telling people what you need, and taking action. Bullying can be stopped, but you need a plan. First, think about what you can do to change your situation, and then make an action plan.

In the plan:

  • Write down what is happening to you, when and where it takes place, and who is involved.
  • List your role in this action plan, who else should be involved, and what they could do.

Share this information with your parents and an adult you trust at school.

3.  Assert Your Rights

“We are told over and over again to tell an adult. I tried that at my school and was told that’s just how kids in middle school act.” -Jack, 8th grade student with ASPERGERS

Every student has the right to feel safe at school. If one adult isn’t able to help you, don’t give up! It is your right to talk with another adult, such as a parent. When you do speak to a teacher, an administrator, or a person you trust at school:

  • Share all of the information in your action plan.
  • Ask: “What can be done so I feel safe and other kids do, too?”
  • Tell adults that there are laws outlining the school’s responsibility in handling bullying situations.

You may have additional protections under federal law when the bullying is about:

  • Race, color, or national origin
  • Sex
  • Religion
  • Disability

State and local laws may provide additional protections on other bases, including sexual orientation.

Some adults may not know this, so clue them in and keep talking until someone understands. Visit stopbullying.gov for an interactive map leading to each state law.

No matter what you call it, bullying is painful. But you don’t have go through it alone! There are people who will help you, and it is your right to be safe.


Know the Laws

Many states have laws that address bullying. The content of each law varies considerably. This interactive map from the STOP BULLYING.gov website contains information on each state’s bullying and harassment laws.

The above information was adapted from PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center.  To visit their webpage, please click here.