8 Facts About Bullying Everyone Should Know

Boy upset in bleachers at school

Laurence Mouton / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images

Until it happens to your kid, bullying can seem like something that's just on TV shows and in the movies. It's easy for this behavior to stay under the radar because many people don't have a full understanding or awareness of bullying

Plus, kids don't always speak up to ask for help. But, unfortunately, bullying is a pervasive, complex problem that many kids encounter at school or in their daily lives.

Bullying can occur just about anywhere, from the lunchroom to social media platforms to a child's own home. And bullying stereotypes can blind us to the many forms of bullying that can occur.

In order to stop or prevent bullying, it's key to understand bullies and victims of bullying, cut through the misconceptions, and identify the diverse ways bullying can take place. Here are eight facts about bullying that everyone should know.

There Are Many Reasons for Bullying

A common misconception is that all bullying (and bullies) are the same. But there are many reasons why bullying occurs and just as many different types of kids that become bullies.

It is a mistake to assume that all bullies are loners or have low self-esteem. While some bullies do suffer from self-esteem issues, others bully because they feel entitled.

Sometimes, kids who bully are the popular kids who want to rule the school. Other kids bully because they too have been victims of bullying. Some bully in an attempt to climb the social ladder. Others bully due to peer pressure.

Bullying involves having power over someone. Many kids who bully crave power, particularly if they don't have it in other areas of their lives. In other words, the bully is looking to improve their status and/or feel more important or powerful.

Other kids participate in (or tolerate) bullying because they view it as an effective method for controlling and manipulating the social hierarchy at school.

Bullying Can Happen to Anyone

While certain characteristics often lead bullies to target someone, it’s a mistake to assume there is one type of target. Often, bullies pick on kids who seem least capable or willing to stand up for themselves, but that's not always the case. Even the most popular kids at school can be victims of bullying.

It’s important to remember that kids are bullied because the bully chose to target them. It's not because of anything they did or who they are.

It's also wrong to assume that kids are bullied because they have a victim personality. This removes the blame from the bully and places it on the victim.

The responsibility for bullying should always fall on the kids doing the bullying. They are the only ones with a choice in the matter. Likewise, labeling kids who are bullied lets 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 and high school, it can start as early as preschool. In addition, while the majority of school bullying takes place in middle school, some bullying carries over into adulthood. 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 anyone they feel threatened by or those who have something they want. People also are bullied because they look, act, talk, or dress differently.

There Are 6 Types of Bullying

When most people picture bullying, they likely imagine a group of kids punching and kicking another kid. But physical bullying is not the only type of bullying. Researchers have identified six unique types of bullying:

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

There Are Gendered Differences

Different genders tend to bully differently, although there are always exceptions. Girl bullies often fall into the category of so-called “mean girls” who use relational aggression and cyberbullying to control and manipulate situations. Girls also 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 boys tend to punch and hit much more than girl bullies. Additionally, boys will bully any gender. They also tend to be more impulsive and menacing and enjoy the status they get from a fight.

Bullying Is Underreported

Despite the negative emotions they feel and the 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 some tweens and teens are embarrassed, confused, or feel they can handle it independently. They may also hope that if they ignore it, the bullying will go away.

Some 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. They may also fear that they will be further targeted if the bully finds out that they have reported the bullying.

Bystanders Are Often Present

Frequently, when bullying occurs, other kids are present. Yet, the common reaction is to stand by and do nothing. For this reason, bullying prevention efforts should include ideas on how to empower bystanders to take action. Programs should include specific suggestions on what bystanders can do if they witness bullying.

Often, kids remain silent because they are unsure of what they should do or feel it is none of their business. Additionally, they may fear becoming a target themselves. The goal of bullying prevention is to capitalize on the audience a bully has and turn it toward helping the victim rather than silently supporting bullies.

Bullying Has Serious Consequences

Being targeted by a bully can have significant consequences. Many victims feel alone, isolated, embarrassed, and humiliated.

If bullying is left unaddressed, other issues can crop up, including low self-esteem, academic problems, depression, and other mental health conditions. Research shows a strong link between being a victim of bullying and developing mental health concerns, including suicidal ideation.

Parents and teachers must realize that bullying is not a rite of passage and experiencing it won’t make victims stronger. It can have lasting adverse impacts and should be dealt with swiftly and effectively.

If your child has suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 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. Restoring a sense of power and self-confidence will go a long way in healing the effects of bullying.

10 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, StopBullying.gov. The roles kids play in bullying.

  2. Shetgiri R. Bullying and victimization among childrenAdv Pediatr. 2013;60(1):33-51. doi:10.1016/j.yapd.2013.04.004

  3. National Institutes of Health. How does bullying affect health and well-being?.

  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, StopBullying.gov. Who is at risk.

  5. 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

  6. Wu M, He Q, Imran M, Fu J. Workplace bullying, anxiety, and job performance: choosing between "passive resistance" or "swallowing the insult"?Front Psychol. 2020;10:2953. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02953

  7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Stopbullying.gov. What is bullying?.

  8. 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

  9. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Stopbullying.gov. Bystanders to bullying.

  10. Alavi N, Reshetukha T, Prost E, et al. Relationship between bullying and suicidal behaviour in youth presenting to the emergency department. J Can Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2017;26(2):70-77.

Additional Reading

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon is a published author and a bullying prevention expert.