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Bullying is a widespread and serious problem that can happen anywhere. It is not a phase children have to go through, it is not "just messing around", and it is not something to grow out of. Bullying can cause serious and lasting harm.
Although definitions of bullying vary, most agree that bullying involves
Imbalance of Power: people who bully use their power to control or harm and the people being bullied may have a hard time defending themselves
Intent to Cause Harm: actions done by accident are not bullying; the person bullying has a goal to cause harm
Repetition: incidents of bullying happen to the same the person over and over by the same person or group
Types of Bullying
Bullying can take many forms. Examples include:
Verbal: name-calling, teasing
Social:spreading rumors, leaving people out on purpose, breaking up friendships
Physical: hitting, punching, shoving
Cyberbullying: using the Internet, mobile phones or other digital technologies to harm others
An act of bullying may fit into more than one of these groups.
There are many warning signs that could indicate that someone is involved in bullying, either by bullying others or by being bullied. However, these warning signs may indicate other issues or problems, as well. If you are a parent or educator, learn more about talking to someone about bullying.
Comes home with damaged or missing clothing or other belongings
Reports losing items such as books, electronics, clothing, or jewelry
Has unexplained injuries
Complains frequently of headaches, stomachaches, or feeling sick
Has trouble sleeping or has frequent bad dreams
Has changes in eating habits
Are very hungry after school from not eating their lunch
Runs away from home
Loses interest in visiting or talking with friends
Is afraid of going to school or other activities with peers
Loses interest in school work or begins to do poorly in school
Appears sad, moody, angry, anxious or depressed when they come home
Talks about suicide
Often feels like they are not good enough
Blames themselves for their problems
Suddenly has fewer friends
Avoids certain places
Acts differently than usual
Becomes violent with others
Gets into physical or verbal fights with others
Gets sent to the principal’s office or detention a lot
Has extra money or new belongings that cannot be explained
Is quick to blame others
Will not accept responsibility for their actions
Has friends who bully others
Needs to win or be best at everything
Bullying has serious and lasting effects. While these effects may also be caused by other factors, research has found bullying has significant effects for those who are bullied, those who bully others, and those who witness bullying.
People Who are Bullied
Have higher risk of depression and anxiety, including the following symptoms, that may persist into adulthood:
Increased feelings of sadness and loneliness
Changes in sleep and eating patterns
Loss of interest in activities
Have increased thoughts about suicide that may persist into adulthood. In one study, adults who recalled being bullied in youth were 3 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts or inclinations.
Are more likely to have health complaints. In one study, being bullied was associated with physical health status 3 years later.
Have decreased academic achievement (GPA and standardized test scores) and school participation.
Are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
Are more likely to retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.
People Who Bully Others
Have a higher risk of abusing alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults.
Are more likely to get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school.
Are more likely to engage in early sexual activity.
Are more likely to have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults. In one study, 60% of boys who bullied others in middle school had a criminal conviction by age 24.
Are more likely to be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses or children as adults.
People Who Witness Bullying
Have increased use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.
Have increased mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
Are more likely to miss or skip school.
How Do I Get Help?
There are things you can do to stop the bullying. Visit pages that apply directly to you: