What is bullying?
Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.
Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things. This includes:
- Teasing, taunting, or name-calling
- Inappropriate sexual comments
- Threatening to cause harm
Social bullying involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. This includes:
- Leaving someone out on purpose
- Telling others not to be friends with someone
- Spreading rumors about someone
- Purposefully embarrassing someone in public
Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions. This includes:
- Hitting, kicking, or pinching
- Tripping or pushing
- Taking or breaking someone’s things
Cyberbullying is bullying that happens online through social media, text messages, chat, and websites. This includes:
- Unwanted or mean text messages or emails
- Rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites
- Posting embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles
- Cyberbullying is unique because messages and images can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly to a very wide audience
How do I know if someone is being bullied?
Not everyone who is bullied will ask for help. However, there are many signs someone can display through their behavior and mood that that can help you recognize if they are being bullied.
- 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
- Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
- Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
- Sudden loss of friends or avoiding social situations
- Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
- Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
What should I do if I’m being bullied?
There are many ways you can get help.
- Tell a trusted adult. If you’re being bullied, you should share this with your parents, teachers, school counselors, school principal, or another trusted adult.
- Write down what happened, who was involved and when and where you were bullied. If you are being cyberbullied, take screen shots and save images (with time stamps whenever possible) of what has happened.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up. Find support in your classroom, home and community by talking about your experiences.
- Consider filing a formal complaint.
- If your school knows that you are being bullied because of your race, national origin, sex, disability or religion, the school must take immediate action to investigate what happened.
- Your school must inform you of the steps that they will take to end the harassment, and they must follow up with you to make sure the bullying has stopped.
- If your school doesn’t take these steps, you should consider filing a formal complaint with your:
For more information, see the StopBullying.gov’s webpage on “Get Help Now”.
What should I do if I see someone being bullied?
There are many ways you can help if you see someone being bullied:
Be a friend:
- Talk to the person being bullied
- Be friendly and supportive
- Let them know that what happened to them is not funny and that you’re there for them
- Ask them how you can help
Help them get away:
- If you feel safe getting involved, help the person being bullied get away from the situation by creating a distraction of offering them an excuse to leave
- For example, you can say something like “Mrs. Lee wants to see you right now,” or “Let’s go, we’re late for our (class, club, or game).”
Don’t give bullying an audience:
- Instead of watching, laughing, or supporting bullying behavior, let the person who is bullying know that what they’re doing is not funny or acceptable
- You can walk away or ignore the behavior so the person who is bullying doesn’t have an audience
Set a good example:
- Help fight bullying at your school by participating in anti-bullying activities and projects
- Build awareness and support for anti-bullying through school clubs and organizations
- Start an anti-bullying poster campaign, share stories of show presentations that promote respect and diversity
- Mentor younger students to help prevent bullying
Tell trusted adults:
- Report the bullying to trusted adults or leave them a note about what you saw or heard
- Share the story with your parents, teachers, counselors, school principals, and other trusted adults.
For more information, see the StopBullying.gov’s webpage on “Be more than a Bystander.”
What can I do about bullying at my school?
I think I am being bullied
- SPEAK UP: If you feel uncomfortable with someone’s comments or actions –tell someone! It is better to let a trusted adult know than to let the problem continue or escalate.
- Get familiar with what bullying is and what it is not. If you recognize any of the descriptions, you should stay calm, stay respectful, and tell an adult as soon as possible.
- If you feel like you’re at risk of harming yourself or others get help now!
Someone is bullying me online or through text messages
- Because cyberbullying can be posted anonymously and distributed quickly, it is very important to speak up and talk to a trusted adult, even if it may be embarrassing to do so.
- Take screen shots and save images (with time stamps whenever possible) of what has happened.
I don’t get bullied, but my friend or classmate does
- Don’t give bullies an audience. Learn how you can be more than a bystander.
I want to help stop bullying in my school or community
Check out our Act To Change toolkit and take the pledge to stand up against bullying.
Other resources include:
- Download the Youth Engagement Toolkit for teens.
- Use tools like the youth leaders toolkit if you’re a teen who wants to work with younger kids.
- Read about how other teens have gotten involved.
- Work with your school to contribute your views on bullying.
For more information, see the StopBullying.gov’s webpage on “What You Can Do”.
Who might be a target for bullying?
Bullying can happen anywhere—cities, suburbs, or rural towns. Depending on the environment, some groups—such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) youth, youth with disabilities, youth with limited English proficiency, and socially isolated youth including those from recent immigrant communities—may be targets of being bullied.
Generally, bullies target those who:
- Are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing including religious and cultural symbols, being new to a school, or being 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
- Don’t get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention
Even if someone falls under these categories, it doesn’t mean that they will be bullied. That is why it’s important to talk about bullying at school.
For more information, see the StopBullying.gov’s webpage on “Who is at Risk?”
How can someone be affected by bullying?
Bullying can affect everyone including those who are bullied, those who bully, and those who witness bullying. Bullying is linked to mental health issues, substance use, and suicide.
Those who are bullied are more likely to experience:
- Depression and anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, changes in sleep and eating patterns, and loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy — these issues may persist into adulthood
- Health complaints
- Decreased academic achievement—grades and standardized test scores—and school participation
- Students being bullied are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school
For more information, see the StopBullying.gov’s webpage on “Effects of Bullying”.
I am a parent or supportive adult. How do I talk about bullying and what can I do?
Parents, family members, and other caring adults play a key role in preventing and responding to bullying. Here are some tips on how to talk to kids and teens about bullying:
- Help the kids understand bullying. Talk about what bullying is and how to stand up to it safely.
- Cyberbullying often requires different strategies than in-person bullying. Learn how to work with kids to prevent cyberbullying and how to respond when it occurs.
- Encourage kids to speak to a trusted adult at school if they’re being bullied or see others being bullied. Adults can give comfort, support, and advice, even if they can’t solve the problem directly. Encourage kids to report bullying if it happens.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Talk regularly with kids. Listen to them. Know their friends, ask about school, and understand their concerns.
- Use available tips and tools to help you frame the conversation when talking to kids about bullying. Opening up the lines of communication before kids are involved in bullying makes it easier for them to tell you when something happens.
- If you have worked with your kids and school and need additional assistance, find resources to help address the situation.
For more information, see the StopBullying.gov’s webpage on “How to Talk About Bullying?”
What is #ActToChange?
#ActToChange is a public awareness campaign working to address bullying, including in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
Kids and teens are bullied in schools all across the country. Unfortunately, many AAPI youth who are bullied face various cultural, religious, and/or linguistic barriers that prevent them from getting help when bullied.
But it’s important to know that:
- You are not alone.
- Bullying is not acceptable.
- You – as a student, friend, parent, teacher – can do something to stop bullying in your community.
Learn about it. Talk about it. Stop it. #ActToChange.