You are here

Bullying: What To Do About It

Although it’s always been around, bullying should never be accepted as normal behavior. The feelings experienced by victims of bullying are painful and lasting. Bullies, if not stopped, can progress to more serious, antisocial behavior. Recent incidents of school violence show that bullying can have tragic consequences for individuals, families, schools, and entire communities.

Recognize It (for what it is)

Bullying is aggressive behavior. A child is targeted by one or more youths with repeated negative actions over a period of time. These are intentional attempts to cause discomfort or injury and can include name-calling, making faces, obscene gesturing, malicious teasing, exclusion, threats, rumors, physical hitting, kicking, pushing, and choking. Cyber-bullying is also a real and growing problem today.  Make no mistake, bullying of any kind is a form of violence that should not be tolerated.

See the Scope of the Problem

  • The Journal of the American Medical Association and others report that one-third of U.S. students experience bullying, either as a target or a perpetrator.
  • More than 70 percent of teachers and students have seen bullying in their schools. [1]
  • 28 percent of students in grades 6 through 12 report being bullied. [2]
  • Only a small percentage of children who are bullied report it.  The reason is often because they do not believe adults will help them.  [3]

Spot the Bullies

  • Both boys and girls bully. Boys bully more often and more physically than girls. Girls are more likely to use rejection and slander.
  • Bullies usually pick on others out of frustration with their own lives. They target other children because they need a victim who is weaker than them.
  • While they may feel uneasy about it, many children tease their peers simply to go along with the crowd.
  • Bullying is linked to depression. [4] Bullies are also more likely to have social power and be overly concerned with popularity.  They are also more like to have low self-esteem, be easily pressured by others, be less able to identify with the feelings of others, view violence in a positive way, and have difficulty in following rules. [5]

Know Their Targets

  • Those who are seen as being different from their peers, weak, depressed, less popular, or unable to get along with peers are more likely to become victims of bullying. [6]
  • High School females (22 percent) are twice as likely as high school males (11 percent) to report being cyberbullied.  They are also more likely to report being bullied on school property (22 percent to 18 percent). [7] 
  • LGBTQ youth are at special risk of being bullied; up to 85 percent report having been verbally harassed, and 40 percent physically assaulted. [8]

Take Steps to Stop It

  • Start early. Parent/child talks are critical. Teach kids to respect others before they start school and continue to talk about this topic on an ongoing basis. Even small acts of teasing should be stopped in their tracks. Don’t fail to correct this kind of behavior due to a child’s young age. This is exactly when to stop it.
  • Teach your children how to be assertive. Encourage your children to express their feelings clearly, say no when they feel uncomfortable or pressured, stand up for themselves without fighting, and walk away in dangerous situations.
  • Stop bullying when you see it. Adults who remain silent when children are bullying others give permission to the behavior and thereby encourage it.
  • Tell your children to take action when they see bullying behavior. Tell them to speak out against the bully and inform a teacher if the behavior doesn’t stop. Bullying continues only when we allow it to.
  • Communicate clear policies and consequences. Bullying is less likely in schools where adults are involved and firm about stopping bullying behaviors. Send out a clear message at your school that bullying will have negative consequences.
  • Team up. Work with your PTA or local MHA affiliate to make sure that schools treat bullying as violence. Help them develop programs to prevent bullying and promote safe school environments.

Other Resources

You can find more helpful information about bullying at the following website:


[1] Bradshaw, C.P., Sawyer, A.L., & O’Brennan, L.M. (2007). Bullying and peer victimization at school: Perceptual differences between students and school staff. School Psychology Review, 36 (3), 361-382.

[2] National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement Site exit disclaimer, 2008–2009

[3], 2009


[5], 2014


[7], 2011 data



2000 N. Beauregard Street,
6th Floor Alexandria, VA 22311

Phone (703) 684.7722

Toll Free (800) 969.6642

Fax (703) 684.5968

Text Resize

-A +A

The links on this page may contain document data that requires additional software to open: