School Bullying

This article will help define school bullying, offer statistics on teenage bullying, causes of teens becoming bullies, what youth are more likely to bully others, the effects of bullying on the victim, warning signs of a child being bullied, and tips on what to do if you are being bullied.

Bullying has long been a problem among children and teenagers, but new technology has increased the types of bullying that occur, making it harder to recognize or prevent. School bullying is still a serious problem with consequences for the victim and the bully. Adults need to intervene to help the bully and the victim. The victim should not be encouraged to fight the bully or to try to work it out with the bully; both need independent counseling from adults.

Bullying is when one teen hurts or scares another. It happens when one teen has perceived power over another, making the victim feel helpless. The power can include strength, verbal wit, wealth, or social standing. The bullying can happen once or over and over. Bullying can occur at school or outside of it. With modern technology, bullying does not only take place in person. Teens may bully each other on the Internet in chat rooms (cyberbullying) or on web pages, or through cell phones, via calling or texting. Fifteen to 25 percent of young people are frequent victims of bullying, and about 15 to 20 percent bully others.

School Bullying can include:

  • Physically hurting others
  • Spreading rumors in person or through technology
  • Excluding others or ganging up on them
  • Threatening others
  • Mean teasing
  • Name calling
  • Destroying or stealing belongings
  • Sending emails, texts, or instant messages that are hurtful or threatening
  • Posting hurtful messages or pictures of someone on the internet

Teen bullies come from a variety of backgrounds, and have different reasons for bullying. Teens may bully because

  • It makes them feel like they are in control or that they are smart, strong, or better than others.
  • They want to fit in with a crowd.
  • They are afraid others will bully them if they aren’t bullies.
  • They see other people bullying.

School bullying can have serious consequences for the teens who bully. Teens who bully are more likely to:

  • Drop out of school
  • Use drugs, tobacco, or alcohol
  • Get into fights
  • Vandalize property
  • Be convicted of a crime, especially if they are male
  • Abuse their spouse or children

The victims of school bulling may also suffer long-term negative effects from being bullied. The effects of bullying on the victim can be serious:

  • Physical injury
  • Feeling unsafe
  • Lower feelings of self worth
  • Increased risk for depression, self injury, or suicide lasting into adulthood
  • Negative coping behavior, such as acting out in violent ways or withdrawing
  • Poor performance in school
  • Up to 160,000 young people skip school each day to avoid being bullied at school.

Teens may not always tell parents or other adults that they are being bullied. Some signs that a teen is being bullied include:

  • Unexplained injuries
  • Coming home with clothing or belongings damaged or missing
  • Seeming afraid of going to school or of taking certain routes to school or other destinations
  • Unexplained aches or illnesses that keeps them from school
  • Loss of interest in school or other activities
  • Changes in sleep patterns or appetite
  • Being socially isolated
  • Talking about needed protection, such as a weapon
  • Becoming moody, depressed, or withdrawn, or having a low self esteem

Preventing or stopping school bullying can be difficult, especially if adults do not take it seriously. Bullying usually requires an adult to intervene. The victim should understand that it is not his or her fault that he or she is being bullied. Teens who are bullied should:

  • Tell an adult exactly what is happening and how they feel about it
  • Try to be with a friend or a group of friends when the bullies are around; bullies usually leave groups of people alone
  • Not let the bully make them angry; bullies often want a reaction. If it feels safe, calmly telling the bully to stop and walking away may discourage some bullies. Never react with violence or by bullying back; this usually makes the problem worse.
  • Ignore or block any electronic messages sent by a bully; consider only opening messages from people you know. If you do read a bullying message, you may want to keep a copy of it to show to an adult so they know what’s going on.
  • Get involved in school activities or clubs that are a positive environment
  • Remember that it’s not your fault you’re being bullied and that everyone has the right to feel safe and enjoy school

Parents can help their children by taking the time to talk to them every day for at least fifteen minutes. Parents should listen to what their child has to say, and take school bullying seriously if it is occurring. They should not encourage the teen to fight the bully or try to work it out with the bully; instead, adults should try to help the bully and the victim separately.

If a teen has a friend who is being bullied they can help by being there for the friend, not letting the friend be alone around the bully, and, if it is safe, telling the bully to stop. If the bullying continues, they should tell an adult who will listen to them.

Teens who have been bullies or the victims of school bullying should talk to a counselor or other professional to receive help coping with the effects of bullying.


United States Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Stop Bullying Now! [available online]

United States Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Mental Health Information Center, About Bullying [online]

Related Article: Violent Children Overview >>