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What is bullying?

It involves an imbalance of power: students who bully use their power - such as physical strength, saying embarrassing things about others, or popularity - to control or harm others. Bullying can often happen more than just one time.


Even if a student is not directly involved in bullying, they may be contributing to it.

The different roles that students play when they see bullying:

  • Assisters: these students may not start or lead the bullying, but may encourage it and occasionally join in.
  • Bystanders: these students are not directly involved in the bullying behavior but they give the bullying an audience. They will often laugh or provide support for the students who are bullying. This encourages the bullying to continue.
  • Outsiders: these students remain separate from the bullying situation. Some may watch what is going on but do not laugh or talk about the situation to show they are on anyone’s side. But still, providing an audience may encourage the bullying to continue even if these students are not laughing, cheering, or supporting those doing the bullying!
  • Defenders: these students actively comfort the person being bullied and may come to the person's defense when bullying occurs. This type of student may create an important change in the patterns of bullying for the defended student in the future.

What can you do to stop bullying and help others?

1.  Be a friend.

  • Simple gestures that help include talking, sitting with them at lunch or break, or inviting them to play sports or other games during gym class.
  • Listen to the person and let them talk about the event. Ask how you can help.
  • Call or text the person that was bullied at home and provide support, letting them know you don’t agree with what happened.

2.  Encourage the person that was bullied to tell an adult, like a teacher or principal.

  • Let them know if one adult doesn’t act and stop the bullying, to tell another.
  • Tell as many adults as possible until the bullying stops. The more you can get involved, the better.
  • Go tell an adult yourself, even if the person that is being bullied does not tell themselves. You can contact your school counselor by clicking here.

3.  Help the student get away.

  • Create a distraction. If no one is paying attention to the students who are bullying, the behavior may stop.
  • Offer a way for the student to leave the scene. Say something like, "Ms. Scott needs you," or "They called your name to the office." This creates an escape for the person being bullied.
  • Never use violence to stop violence, even if you mean to help.

4.  Set a good example.

  • Bullying can only stop if the culture within the school stops supporting bullying. Notice and encourage kind behavior in others.
  • Get involved or start an anti-bullying group within your school. Share personal stories of being bullied with others, in order to prevent bullying in younger kids.
  • Refuse to give bullying an audience!

Those who bully are more likely to do the following:

  • Get into frequent fights
  • Steal and vandalize property
  • Drink alcohol and smoke
  • Report poor grades
  • Perceive a negative climate at school
  • Carry a weapon

Those who are bullied are more likely to experience:

  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Health problems
  • Poor grades
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts

Cyberbullying is sometimes more harmful than in-person bullying.

How is cyberbullying different from traditional bullying?

1.  Those who bully can be anonymous.

  • Those who cyberbully can often hide their identity. The victim is left wondering who is doing the bullying, which can cause a great deal of stress. This may also encourage bullies to say or do things they would not do in a face-to-face situation.   

2.  The victims of bullying are more accessible.

  • Most students who use typical ways of bullying harm their victim at school, on the bus, or walking to or from school. Students who cyberbully can cause harm any time of the day or night. Students who are bullied online can feel like there is no escape, even at home.

3.  Victims may be afraid of punishment.

  • Victims of cyberbullying often do not report it because of: (1) fear of revenge from the bullies, and (2) fear that their computer or phone privileges will be taken away.
  • Often, adults respond to cyberbullying by removing the technology from a victim - which in the eyes of the victim can be seen as punishment.

Cyberbullying is still bullying! It can cause all the same problems that traditional bullying does, and sometimes more.


What to do if you or someone else is being bullied online:

1.  Get away from the situation.

  • Change your username, unfriend, or unfollow the person or persons doing the bullying, or delete your social media account at least for a little while

2.  Don’t provide an audience - defend.

  • The same rules that apply in school also apply online. If you see someone being bullied online, stand up for them! Let them know that what they are doing is unfair and inappropriate. Often, this can be enough to get bullies to stop.

3.  Offer support.

  • Let the person being bullied know that you are supportive. Hearing from someone supportive can go a long way for someone who is being bullied.

4.  Involve an adult.

  • Print or send evidence of the bullying to an adult that you know and trust. Ask them to report the bullying to a school official or law enforcement. You can reach your school counselor by clicking here.

(Adapted from: stopbullying.gov; pacer.org - National Bullying Prevention Association)