8 Facts About Bullying Everyone Should Know

Boy upset in bleachers at school

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Most people feel like they have a good understanding of bullying. But sometimes they have an incomplete picture of the problem. This is especially true when it comes to understanding bullies and identifying the types of bullying. Here are eight facts that everyone should know about bullying.

There Are Many Reasons for Bullying

It is a mistake to assume that all bullies are loners or have low self-esteem. In fact, there are at least six common types of bullying. While some bullies do suffer from self-esteem issues, there are others who bully because they feel entitled.

In fact, many times kids who bully are the popular kids who want to rule the school. Meanwhile, other kids bully because they too have been victims of bullying and some bully in an attempt to climb the social ladder. Some kids even bully due to peer pressure.

Bullying involves having power over someone. As a result, many kids who bully crave power. In other words, the bully is looking to improve his status. Meanwhile, other kids participate in bullying because they view it as an effective method for controlling and manipulating the social hierarchy at school.

Anyone Can Be Bullied

While there are certain characteristics that often lead bullies to target someone, it’s a mistake to assume there is one type of target. In fact, even the most popular kids at school can be victims of bullying. It’s important to remember that kids are bullied because the bully made a choice to target them.

It's also wrong to assume that some kids are bullied because they did something to cause the bullying or that they have a victim personality. When this idea is embraced, it removes the blame from the bully and places it on the victim. The responsibility for bullying always falls on the kids doing the bullying. They are the only ones with a choice in the matter. Likewise, labeling kids who are bullied let the bully off the hook and implies the victim deserves to be victimized.

Bullying Can Happen at Any Age

While bullying often starts in late elementary school and peaks in middle school, it’s important to point out that bullying can start as young as preschool. While the majority of school bullying takes place in middle school, some bullying carries over into adulthood. In fact, workplace bullying is a growing problem.

It really doesn’t matter what age a person is, bullies target anyone who doesn’t fit the accepted norm and focus on that. They also will bully others they feel threatened by or those that have something they want. People also are bullied because they look, act, talk, or dress differently.

There Are Six Types of Bullying

When most people picture bullying, they imagine a group of boys punching and kicking another boy. But physical bullying is not the only type of bullying. There are in fact six different types of bullying including physical bullying, verbal bullying, relational aggression, cyberbullying, prejudicial bullying, and sexual bullying.

Knowing how to spot all types of bullying helps parents and educators respond more effectively to bullying situations. For instance, be sure you can recognize relational aggression and cyberbullying just as easily as you can spot physical bullying.

Boys and Girls Bully Differently

When it comes to bullying, boys and girls tend to bully differently. For instance, female bullies tend to be “mean girls” who use relational aggression and cyberbullying to control and manipulate situations. Girls also resort to more name-calling and tend to bully only other girls.

Boys, on the other hand, tend to be more physically aggressive. This is not to say that they don’t call others names and cyberbully, but when it comes down to it, boys tend to punch and hit much more than female bullies. Additionally, male bullies will bully both girls and boys. They also are impulsive, menacing and enjoy the status they get from a fight.

It's Underreported

Despite the number of negative emotions and consequences of bullying, many targets of bullying do not tell anyone what is happening. The reasons for remaining silent vary from person to person. But for some tweens and teens, they are embarrassed, confused or feel they can handle it on their own.

A number of young people also question whether or not telling will do any good. Unfortunately, some adults and school systems have established a pattern of not addressing bullying and young people feel that telling will not change the situation.

Bystanders Are Often Present

Frequently, when bullying occurs, other kids are present. Yet, the common reaction for these bystanders is to simply stand by and do nothing. For this reason, bullying prevention efforts should include ideas on how to empower bystanders to take action. Included in those programs should be ideas on what bystanders can do if they witness bullying.

Many times, kids remain silent because they are unsure of what they should do or they feel it is none of their business. But the goal in bullying prevention is to capitalize on the audience a bully has and turn it toward helping the victim rather than silently supporting bullies.

It Has Serious Consequences

Being targeted by a bully can have significant consequences. In fact, many victims feel alone, isolated and humiliated. And if bullying is left unaddressed a number of other issues can crop up including depression, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even thoughts of suicide.

For this reason, it is important that parents and teachers realize that bullying is not a rite of passage and it won’t make victims stronger. Instead, it has lasting consequences and should be dealt with swiftly and effectively.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

A Word From Verywell

If your child is being bullied, it is important to address it right away. Start by listening and empathizing with what they are going through. Then, brainstorm ideas on how to best address the situation. Of course, reporting bullying that occurs at school is always the best option, but you want to be sure your child is on board with that decision.

The key is to empower your child to take an active role in addressing the situation rather than swooping in and trying to fix everything. Remember, bullying makes a child feel powerless. So, any way that you can restore a sense of power and self-confidence will go a long way in healing the effects of bullying.

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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. StopBullying.gov. The Roles Kids Play in Bullying. Updated September 2017.

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. StopBullying.gov. Who Is at Risk. Updated February 2018.

  3. Eslea M, Rees J. At what age are children most likely to be bullied at school?. Aggr. Behav. 2001;27: 419-429. doi:10.1002/ab.1027

  4. Silva MA, Pereira B, Mendonça D, Nunes B, De oliveira WA. The involvement of girls and boys with bullying: an analysis of gender differences. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2013;10(12):6820-31. doi:10.3390/ijerph10126820

  5. Kaltiala-heino R, Rimpelä M, Rantanen P, Rimpelä A. Bullying at school--an indicator of adolescents at risk for mental disorders. J Adolesc. 2000;23(6):661-74. doi:10.1006/jado.2000.0351

Additional Reading
  • "Bullying Facts." Pacer's National Bullying Prevention Center. http://www.pacer.org/bullying/resources/facts.asp