Bullying occurs when a person is exposed repeatedly and over time to negative actions on the part of one or more persons. In the most accepted definition, bullying has four elements: (a) there is an imbalance of power (physical, intellectual, or emotional), (b) the action is repeated over time, (c) the action is intentional—that is, the bully is trying to hurt or intimidate the targeted victim, and (d) there is an unequal display of emotion—that is, the bully experiences a positive emotion while the victim experiences emotional distress (Olweus, 1993).

Surprisingly many children in schools are involved in bullying. In a large-scale national survey (Nasel et al., 2001), 30% of children reported being involved in bullying: 13% as bullies, 11% as victims, and 6% as both. Nearly 10% said they were involved in bullying once a week or more; 70% experienced bullying at some point in their schooling. As many as 7% of eighth graders reported staying home at least once a month due to fear of being bullied, and 14% of students said that exposure to bullying has had a negative impact on their lives.

Types of Bullying:

There are three types and can happen in person or online:

  1. Verbal: includes teasing, name-calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, and threatening to cause harm
  2. Social or Relational: includes leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors about someone, and embarrassing someone in public
  3. Physical: includes hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping, pushing, taking or breaking someone’s things, making mean or rude hand gestures

Who is at Risk?

Children who are bullied have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, being new to a school, or unable to afford what kids consider “cool”
  • are perceived as weak or unable to defend themselves
  • are depressed, anxious, or have low self-esteem
  • are less popular than others and have few friends
  • do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonizing others for attention

Children Who are More Likely to Bully display the following:

  • are aggressive or easily frustrated
  • have less parental involvement or having issues at home
  • think badly of others
  • have difficulty following rules
  • view violence in a positive way
  • have friends who bully others

Warning Signs:

  • unexplainable injuries
  • lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch
  • difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
  • self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide