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Fast Facts

Learn more about crisis issues like suicide, self-harm, and depression, including how to get help.

Bullying: What it is, who it affects, and getting help


What is bullying?


Bullying is ongoing aggression based on a power imbalance. In other words, it’s when someone repeatedly acts to harm another person, or is otherwise hostile toward them, using the power the bully has over the victim.

A “power imbalance” in bullying can mean different things: maybe the bully is physically bigger and stronger than the victim, or maybe they’re just more popular.

Acts of aggression and hostility become bullying when they happen more than once.


Bullying can be physical, verbal, or social.

  • Physical: Hurting or trying to hurt a person’s body or possessions. Hitting, kicking, breaking things, and pushing are all physical forms of bullying.

  • Verbal: Saying things to hurt a person’s feelings. This can include teasing, threats, and name-calling.

  • Social: Hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. If someone purposely leaves you out, spreads rumors about you, or tells other people not to be friends with you, you’re being socially bullied.


Bullying has harmful effects on the bully, the victim, and bystanders (people who witness it).

People who are bullied may experience anxiety and depression, which can continue into adulthood. Their eating and sleeping habits can be affected, leading to a variety of physical health issues. They’re more likely to miss school, which can damage their academic performance.

Bullies often continue to engage in risky or violent behavior, including alcohol/drug abuse, fights, criminal activity, and being abusive to spouses and romantic partners as adults.

Bystanders can have similar issues to victims, including missing school, depression, and anxiety.

Warning Signs

People who are being bullied may show any of these signs:

  • Injuries they can’t explain

  • Changes in eating and sleeping

  • Faking illness or claiming to feel sick

  • Headaches and stomachaches

  • Avoiding social situations, including people who were once their friends

  • Decreased self-esteem

  • Self-harm or other dangerous behaviors

  • Losing possessions

  • Worsening academic performance

People who are bullying others may show any of these signs:

  • Getting into fights

  • Getting into more trouble at school

  • Becoming more aggressive

  • Having friends who bully

  • Showing concern about their reputation and popularity

Bystander Effect

Bystanders are people who see or hear bullying happen. A bystander can be helpful (by getting help from a trusted adult, or, if possible to do safely, intervening by defending the victim or asking the bully to stop) or harmful (by cheering the bully on, joining in, or accepting the situation by doing nothing).

What Our Data Says

  • Texters ages 13 and younger experience bullying at 3 times the rate of other texters.

  • Texters dealing with bullying are 3 times as likely to be struggling with their gender or sexual identity, and twice as likely to also be struggling with body image.

  • The top five distinct words we see in bullying conversations are: cyber, middle, abused, verbally, and rumor.

Anti-Buillying Guide for Deaf Children For: Adults | PDF | Informative | Provides guidance on how to prevent and handle bullying incidents for deaf children *Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing approved!*
Cyber Civil Rights Initiative For: All Ages l Website l Support and Advocacy | Support victims of non-consensual pornography, revenge porn and other forms of online abuse.
PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center For: Kids & Teens | Website | Informative & Support | Connects students to resources, education and information for bullying prevention, awareness and support.
Stomp Out Bullying For: Teens | Website | Informative & Advocacy | Provides information and advice for advocates and victims of bullying, cyberbullying, sexting and other forms of abuse.
Stop Bullying For: Kids & Teens | Website | Informative and Advocacy | Federal website with resources on bullying, cyberbullyingprevention, responses to bullying.
Without My Consent For: All Ages | Website | Advocacy | Shares resources and tips for victims experiencing onlince privacy violations and harassment.
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