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Bullying and Cyberbullying

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What is bullying?

Bullying is when a person or group repeatedly harms someone on purpose. It can be physical, social, and/or verbal. It is harmful to both the victims and the bullies, and it always involves:

  • Aggressive behavior.
  • A difference in power, meaning that the victim is weaker or is seen as weaker. For example, bullies may try to use physical strength, embarrassing information, or popularity to harm others.
  • Repetition, meaning it happens more than once or that it probably will happen again

What are the types of bullying?

There are three types of bullying:

  • Physical bullying involves hurting a person's body or belongings. Examples include hitting, kicking, and stealing or breaking someone's stuff.
  • Social bullying (also called relational bullying) hurts someone's reputation or relationships. Some examples are spreading rumors, embarrassing someone in public, and making someone feel left out.
  • Verbal bullying is saying or writing mean things, including name-calling, taunting, and threatening

What is cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is bullying that happens through text messages or online. It could be through emails, social media, forums, or gaming. Some examples are:

  • Posting rumors on social media
  • Sharing embarrassing pictures or videos online
  • Sharing someone else's private information online (doxing)
  • Making threats against someone online
  • Creating fake accounts and posting information to embarrass someone

Certain types of cyberbullying can be illegal. The laws on cyberbullying are different from state to state.

How is cyberbullying different from bullying?

Cyberbullying is a type of bullying, but there are some differences between the two. Cyberbullying can be:

  • Anonymous - people can hide their identities when they are online or using a cell phone
  • Persistent - people can send messages instantly, at any time of the day or night
  • Permanent - a lot of electronic communication is permanent and public, unless it's reported and removed. A bad online reputation can affect getting into college, getting a job, and other areas of life. This applies to the bully as well.
  • Hard to notice - teachers and parents may not overhear or see cyberbullying taking place

Which children are more likely to be bullied?

Children are more likely to be bullied if they:

  • Are seen as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, dressing differently, or being of a different race/ethnicity
  • Are seen as weak
  • Have depression, anxiety, or low self-esteem
  • Don't have many friends or are less popular
  • Don't socialize well with others
  • Have an intellectual or developmental disability

Which children are more likely to be bullies?

There are two types of children who are more likely to bully others:

  • Children who are well-connected to peers, have social power, are overly worried about popularity, and like to be in charge of others
  • Children who are more isolated from peers, may be depressed or anxious, have low self-esteem, are easily pressured by peers, and have trouble understanding other people's feelings

There are certain factors that make someone more likely to be a bully. They include:

  • Being aggressive or easily frustrated
  • Having trouble at home, such as violence or bullying in the home or having uninvolved parents
  • Having trouble following rules
  • Seeing violence positively
  • Having friends who bully others

What are the effects of bullying?

Bullying is a serious problem that causes harm. And it doesn't just hurt the person who is being bullied; it can also be harmful for the bullies and for any kids who witness the bullying.

Kids who are bullied can have problems at school and with their mental and physical health. They are at risk for:

  • Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. These problems sometimes last into adulthood.
  • Health complaints, including headaches and stomachaches
  • Lower grades and test scores
  • Missing and dropping out of school

Kids who bully others have a higher risk for substance use, problems in school, and violence later in life.

Kids who witness bullying are more likely to abuse drugs or alcohol and have mental health problems. They may also miss or skip school.

What are the signs of being bullied?

Often, kids who are being bullied don't report it. They may fear a backlash from the bully, or they may think that no one cares. Sometimes they feel too ashamed to talk about it. So it is important to know the signs of a bullying problem:

  • Depression, loneliness, or anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Headaches, stomachaches, or poor eating habits
  • Disliking school, not wanting to go to school, or getting worse grades than before
  • Self-destructive behaviors, such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Trouble sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations

How do you help someone who is being bullied?

To help a child who is being bullied, support the child and address the bullying behavior:

  • Listen and focus on the child. Learn what's been going on and show you want to help.
  • Assure the child that bullying is not his/her fault
  • Know that kids who are bullied may struggle with talking about it. Consider referring them to a school counselor, psychologist, or other mental health service.
  • Give advice about what to do. This may involve role-playing and thinking through how the child might react if the bullying occurs again.
  • Work together to resolve the situation and protect the bullied child. The child, parents, and school or organization should be part of the solution.
  • Follow up. Bullying may not end overnight. Make sure that the child knows that you are committed to making it stop.
  • Make sure that the bully knows that his or her behavior is wrong and harms others
  • Show kids that bullying is taken seriously. Make it clear to everyone that the bullying will not be tolerated.

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The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.