What Is Bullying?

The Definition of Bullying

A lot of young people have a good idea of what bullying is because they see it every day! Bullying happens when someone hurts or scares another person on purpose and the person being bullied has a hard time defending himself or herself. Usually, bullying happens over and over.
  • Punching, shoving, and other acts that hurt people physically
  • Spreading bad rumors about people
  • Keeping certain people out of a "group"
  • Teasing people in a mean way
  • Getting certain people to "gang up" on others
Bullying also can happen online or electronically. Cyberbullying is when children or teens bully each other using the Internet, mobile phones or other cyber technology. This can include:
  • Sending mean text, email, or instant messages
  • Posting nasty pictures or messages about others in blogs or on Web sites
  • Using someone else's user name to spread rumors or lies about someone

Take a look at Webisode 5 to see an example of cyberbullying. There are many ways that young people bully each other, even if they don't realize it at the time.

Why Do Kids Bully?

There are all kinds of reasons why young people bully others, either occasionally or often. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
  • Because I see others doing it
  • Because it's what you do if you want to hang out with the right crowd
  • Because it makes me feel, stronger, smarter, or better than the person I'm bullying
  • Because it's one of the best ways to keep others from bullying me
Whatever the reason, bullying is something we all need to think about. Whether we've done it ourselves ... or whether friends or other people we know are doing it ... we all need to recognize that bullying has a terrible effect on the lives of young people. It may not be happening to you today, but it could tomorrow. Working together, we can stop bullying.

What Should You Do If You Are Being Bullied?

Bullying happens when someone hurts or scares another person on purpose. The person being bullied has a hard time defending himself or herself. Ususally, bullying happens over and over. Sometimes bullying is easy to notice, such as with hitting or name calling, and other times it's hard to see, like with leaving a person out or saying mean things behind someone's back. Both boys and girls bully, and both boys and girls get bullied. Bullying is not fair, and it hurts. You should always tell an adult if you are being bullied. If you are at school, tell a teacher right away.

How to deal with bullying:

  • Tell your parents or other trusted adults. They can help stop the bullying.
  • If you are bullied at school, tell your teacher, school counselor, or principal. Telling is not tattling.
  • Don't fight back. Don't try to bully those who bully you.
  • Try not to show anger or fear. Students who bully like to see that they can upset you.
  • Calmly tell the student to stop...or say nothing and then walk away.
  • Use humor, if this is easy for you to do.
  • Try to avoid situations in which bullying is likely to happen. You might want to
    • Avoid areas of the school where there are not many students or teachers around.
    • Make sure you aren't alone in the bathroom or locker room.
    • Sit near the front of the bus.
    • Don't bring expensive things or lots of money to school.
    • Sit with a group of friends at lunch.
    • Take a different route through hallways or walk with friends or a teacher to your classes.

What Can YOU Do If You See Someone Being Bullied At School?

Ask yourself, “Is it my job to help?”
Think about how YOU might feel if the bullying was happening to you. You and other kids can lend a hand, even when you aren't close friends with the kids who are bullied. Your school will be a better place if you help stop bullying. And making your school a better place is EVERYONE'S job!
Then -
  • Think about what may work for you:
    • Don't just stand there. . . SAY SOMETHING!
    • Kids who bully may think they're being funny or “cool.” If you feel safe, tell the person to STOP the bullying behavior. Say you don't like it and that it isn't funny.
    • DON'T BULLY BACK! It won't help if you use mean names or actions, and it could make things worse.

What if I don't feel safe telling a bully to stop?

That's okay. No one should put themselves in an unsafe situation. How ELSE can you lend a hand when bullying happens?
  • Say kind words to the child who is being bullied, such as “I'm sorry about what happened,” and “I don't like it!” Help them understand that it's not his or her fault. Be a friend. Invite that student to do things with you, such as sit together at lunch or work together on a project. EVERYONE NEEDS A FRIEND!
  • Tell the student who is being bullied to talk to someone about what happened. Offer to help by going along.
  • Pay attention to the other kids who see the bullying. (These people are called bystanders.”) Are any of them laughing or joining in with the bullying? If yes, these kids are part of the problem. Let those students know that they're not helping! DON'T be one of them!

Tell an adult. (This is IMPORTANT!!)

  • Chances are, the kid who is being bullied needs help from an adult. The kid who is doing the bullying probably does, too. Often, the bullying does not get reported. But, who should you tell? Think about who you could tell in your school:
    • Teacher (which one would you talk to?),
    • School counselor,
    • Cafeteria or Playground Aide,
    • School nurse,
    • Principal,
    • Bus driver, or
    • Other adults you feel comfortable telling.
    • If you need help telling, take a friend along.

Why don't some kids tell when they see bullying?

  • They may not want others to think they are “tattling.”
  • They may be afraid that the kids who bully will pick on them next.
  • They may think that their friends will make fun of them for trying to help.
Telling is very important! Reporting that someone is getting bullied or hurt in some other way is NOT “tattling.” Adults at school can help. Ask them to help keep you safe after telling. Explain to your friends that bullying is NOT fair and encourage them to join in helping!

What if the bullying doesn't happen at school?

If there is an adult around, report the bullying to an adult (your youth group leader, minister, or sports coach).
No matter where the bullying happens, you should talk to your parents about bullying that you see or know about. Ask them for their ideas about how to help.
We ALL must do our part! Kids who are bullied deserve to feel safe and welcome at school and in their neighborhoods. All kids do! TAKE A STAND. LEND A HAND. STOP BULLYING NOW!

Some information and resources on this page are from Stop Bullying Now! http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov.