What is Bullying?

Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time. Both kids who are bullied and who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

  • An imbalance of power: kids who bully use their power, physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity, to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
  • Repetition: bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.


Risk Factors for Bullying

No single factor puts a child at risk of being bullied or bullying others. Bullying can happen anywhere—cities, suburbs, or rural towns. Depending on the environment, some groups, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) youth,11 youth with disabilities,12 and socially isolated youth, may be at an increased risk of being bullied.

Generally, children who are bullied have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Are perceived as different from their peers, such as being overweight or underweight, wearing glasses or different clothing, 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
  • Do not get along well with others, seen as annoying or provoking, or antagonize others for attention

However, even if a child has these risk factors, it doesn’t mean that they will be bullied.

“The child who is overweight is the most likely to be bullied.” -Journal of Pediatrics

Bullying Statistics

160,000 kids per day skips school for fear of being bullied.1

When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.2

The 3 B’s of Bullying

  1. Bullier – 30% of youth admit to bullying
  2. Bullied – 1 in 3 students bullied at school
  3. Bystander – 70% have witnessed bullying

28% of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying.3
20% of U.S. students in grades 9–12 experienced bullying.4

Approximately 30% of young people admit to bullying others in surveys.5

70.6% of young people say they have seen bullying in their schools.6
70.4% of school staff have seen bullying. 62% witnessed bullying two or more times in the last month and 41% witness bullying once a week or more.7
When bystanders intervene, bullying stops within 10 seconds 57% of the time.2

6% of students in grades 6–12 experienced cyberbullying.8
16% of high school students (grades 9–12) were electronically bullied in the past year.9
However, 55.2% of LGBT students experienced cyberbullying.10