Bullying is a problem that affects all of our children—those who bully, those who are victimized, and those who are witnesses to interpersonal violence.
Statistics on the rates of bullying and cyber bullying vary between studies due to the measures used, the questions asked, and the population studied. However, the general consensus is that one out of three children are bullied at school, in the neighborhood, or online and that one out of three children bully others.

What is bullying?

Bullying is when someone intentionally and repeatedly inflicts physical or mental cruelty or intimidation on someone else. A fight between two kids of equal power is not bullying; bullying is a fight where the child who bullies has some advantage or power over the child who is victimized.

Types of bullying include:

  • Physical: hitting, kicking, beating up, pushing, spitting, property damage, and/or theft.
  • Verbal: teasing, mocking, name calling, verbal humiliation, verbal intimidation, threats, coercion, extortion, and/or racist, sexist or homophobic taunts.
  • Social: gossip, rumor spreading, embarrassment, alienation or exclusion from the group, and/or setting the other up to take the blame.
  • Cyber or electronic: using the Internet, email or text messaging to threaten, hurt, single out, embarrass, spread rumors, and/or reveal secrets about others. For information on cyber bullying, visit www.cyberbully411.com.

Why do kids bully?

There is no one single cause of bullying among children; individual, family, peer, school, and community factors can place a child or youth at risk for bullying. These factors work individually, or collectively, to contribute to a child’s likelihood of bullying.

  • Family risk factors for bullying:
    • A lack of warmth and involvement on the part of parents
    • Overly-permissive parenting (including a lack of limits for children’s behavior)
    • A lack of supervision by parents
    • Harsh, physical discipline
    • Parent modeling of bullying behavior
    • Victimization by older brothers
  • Peer risk factors for bullying:
    • Friends who bully
    • Friends who have positive attitudes about violence
    • Some aggressive children who take on high status roles may use bullying as a way to enhance their social power and protect their prestige with peers.
    • Some children with low social status may use bullying as a way to deflect taunting and aggression that is directed towards them, or to enhance their social position with higher status peers.
  • Other Factors:
    • Bullying thrives in schools where faculty and staff do not address bullying, where there is no policy against bullying, and where there is little supervision of students—especially during lunch, bathroom breaks, and recess.
    • Models of bullying behavior are prevalent throughout society, especially in television, movies, and video games.
    • When children are aggregated together, they associate with others who are similar to them or who have qualities or characteristics that in some way support their own behaviors.
    • For teenage girls, social aggression can be a way of creating excitement or alleviating boredom. It is also used as a method of gaining attention from other girls in order to secure friendships.

What are the signs that a child is being bullied?

The pain and embarrassment of being bullied often causes victims to hide what is going on. But, there are a variety of ways to tell if your child is being bullied. Symptoms include: depression, anxiety, safety concerns, sadness, aggression, academic issues, low self-esteem, deficits in peer relations, and substance use.
Other possible warning signs may include:

  • Numerous lost belongings
  • Frequent injuries or damage to clothes or property
  • Spends time primarily with younger students (may indicate a problem with peers)
  • Avoids recess (i.e., playground) before, during and/or after school
  • Arrives to school late or just at the starting bell
  • Appears to be alone most of the time at school
  • Obtains an excessive or insufficient amount of sleep
  • Somatic complaints (i.e., headaches, stomachaches, etc.)

What are the signs that a child is bullying others?

It is difficult to come to terms with the fact that children so young can display such acts of violence. It can sometimes be difficult to tell if a child bullies. Here are some common signs. Children who bully tend to have:

  • Average or above average self-esteem.
  • Impulsive personalities.
  • Lack of empathy.
  • Difficulty conforming to rules.
  • Positive attitudes toward violence.

Some bullies are quite popular, enjoying high status and esteem from their peers, and even teachers. These are called “hidden bullies”—popular children who exhibit aggression (persistent arguing, fighting, getting in trouble).

For more information on bullying, visit the website listed below under “Sources”.
For an article on bullying written for kids, click here.