Bullying

life stories to help us all.SM

Follow Us: 

Bullying: What Is It?

What is bullying? Bullying is all about power, and one person or group of people using their power—whether it’s physical strength, popularity or sharing embarrassing photos or information—to control or harm someone else. It can take place in person or online. The key is that the behavior is repeated over time, rather than a one-time conflict.

Unfortunately, bullying and cyberbullying are a fact of life for many kids and teens; research suggests almost half of teens have experienced cyberbullying in the past year.

Teens talk about their personal experiences, and how bystanders can help prevent bullying.

Bullying facts

Julie HertzogBullying can take many forms, including verbal, physical and social. It may involve calling someone names, taunting or making inappropriate sexual comments. Bullying can be hitting, kicking or pushing someone. It can also be excluding someone, spreading false rumors about someone, or embarrassing him or her—in person or online.

“Bullying is about an imbalance of power. That can be one person is physically larger than the other person, but it can also be about social status, so that one person is part of a group and the other person isn't,” says Julie Hertzog, director of PACER’S National Bullying Prevention Center.

Cyberbullying facts

Cyberbullying is tormenting, harassing, insulting or embarrassing someone using the internet or other technology. Cyberbullying can include sending mean or insulting text messages or emails, spreading rumors on social media sites, and posting embarrassing pictures or videos on social media sites or in chat rooms.

“I see kids being bullied online more than anything else, ‘cause people are able to use more of an anonymous voice online,” says Michael, a high school senior who appears in the above video.

“I’ve seen people call people ugly, stupid, dumb, worthless,” another student told Be Smart. Be Well. “On Facebook, I’ve seen people be like, ‘You’re ugly. Why do you even have Facebook? Nobody cares about you.’”

Cyberbullying can be especially damaging because there is no escape from the bullying. It can occur 24 hours a day, and even when the person is alone or nowhere near the bully.

Cyberbullying also offers bullies a much wider audience. When bullying takes place in person, the audience is limited to the people who happen to be physically present in the school hallway, or wherever the bullying occurs. But an insulting post or embarrassing photo can reach hundreds when posted online.

“A freshman at my school was beat up and the video of it was put on Facebook and a page was made and a lot of people were liking it and commenting on it and sharing it,” says Meghan, a high school sophomore. “I thought it was worse than the original incident because there were so many more people.”

Charles F. Hollendoner“What used to be one-on-one bullying now is one-on-100 because it’s just within seconds that many people can see what was talked about, and that many people can respond or agree or disagree or whatever happens,” says Charles F. Hollendoner, a Chicago Police Department detective. “If you have one person calling you an idiot, you can probably handle that. But if one person calls you an idiot and then 300 people agree, you feel a little lonesome.”

How common is bullying?

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), a nationwide survey of high school students, 20 percent of high school students have been bullied on school property during the last year. When middle-schoolers are included, the number increases: Nearly 30 percent of 12 to 18 year olds report experiencing bullying at school or online, according to research by the U.S. Department of Education.

Other sources estimate even higher rates of bullying. According to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive for the National Crime Prevention Council, 43 percent of teens report that they have experienced some form of cyberbullying in the past year.

“You could have hundreds of people telling you how beautiful you are but you only remember the one person who tells you to go kill yourself,” Lauren, a high school junior told us. “No one knows how isolated you feel.”

Bullying bystanders

Not all kids and teens experience bullying personally, but many witness it, either in person or online. And 68 percent of teens agree that online bullying is a serious problem, according to a survey conducted by Cox Communications for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“It’s really easy for anyone to be a bystander, especially in high school,” says Dalton, a high school sophomore, “It’s easy to hear one of your friends say something bad about your classmates or see something that scares you or intimidates you, and you just keep on walking.”

Unfortunately, bullying and cyberbullying are a fact of life for many kids and teens; research suggests almost half of teens have experienced cyberbullying in the past year.

“Teens and Cyberbullying.” National Crime Prevention Council, survey conducted by Harris Interactive. February 28, 2007.
http://www.ncpc.org/resources/files/pdf/bullying/Teens%20and%20Cyberbullying%20Rese arch%20Study.pdf

Bullying can take many forms, including verbal, physical, social and cyberbullying.

“Bullying Definition.” Stopbullying.gov: U.S. Department of Education. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Resources and Services Administration, Substance Abuse and Medical Health Services Administration, Department of Justice.
http://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/index.html

Cyberbullying is tormenting, harassing, insulting or embarrassing someone using the internet or other technology.

“What is Cyberbulling?” Stopbullying.gov: U.S. Department of Education. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Resources and Services Administration, Substance Abuse and Medical Health Services Administration, Department of Justice.
http://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it/index.html

According to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), a nationwide survey of high school students, 20 percent of high school students have been bullied on school property during the last year.

“Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, United States 2013.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 63, no. 4, June 13, 2014.
http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6304.pdf

When middle-schoolers are included, the number increases: Nearly 30 percent of 12 to 18 year olds report experiencing bullying at school or online, according to research by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Indicators of School Crime and Safety; 2012.” U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement (SCS) to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 2011.
http://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/crimeindicators2012/tables/table_11_1.asp

According to a poll conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by the National Crime Prevention Council, 43 percent of teens report that they have experienced some form of cyberbullying in the past year.

“Teens and Cyberbullying.” National Crime Prevention Council, survey conducted by Harris Interactive. February 28, 2007.
http://www.ncpc.org/resources/files/pdf/bullying/Teens%20and%20Cyberbullying%20Rese arch%20Study.pdf

And 68 percent of teens agree that online bullying is a serious problem, according to a survey conducted by Cox Communications for the National Center for Missing and Exploited children.

“Technology, Teen Dating Violence and Abuse and Bullying.” J. Zweig, M. Dank, P. Lachman, J. Yahner. Urban Institute. July 2013.
http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/243296.pdf

Read Video Transcript

Next: Why Does It Matter?

Subscribe

Newsletter

Sign up for a bimonthly newsletter and biweekly health news alerts.

 Sign Up
 See Sample

Staff Pick Video

Mental Health

Mental Health

It took 30 years for a diagnosis.

Video and More