Facts about bullying What you can do A story Facts about Bullying

  • 4% of children in grades K-3 are targets of bullying. This increases after grade 3.
  • Nearly 30% of students in grades 6-10 are involved in bullying or being bullied by others.
  • Bullying is the most common form of violence in our society.
  • From 1994-1999 there were 253 violent deaths in school.
  • Bullying is most often a factor in school deaths.
  • Many children who are bullied suffer long-term psychological effects.
  • Many victims of bullying do not tell an adult about their situation.
  • More than 60% of people who bullied in grades 6-9 have least one criminal conviction by age 24.
  • Membership in either bully or victim groups is associated with school dropout, poor psycho social adjustment, criminal activity and other negative long-term consequences.
  • Bullying can lead victims to have suicidal thoughts or actions and thoughts of revenge on the bully.
  • Peers reinforce bullying in 81% of episodes.
    Peers intervene in only 13% of bullying episodes at which they are present.


Wintle, C. Stopping Bullying at School a Curriculum for grades 5-8 by (2002). cjwin@earthlink.net
Bullies, Victims, & Bystanders: Intervention Strategies, Handout by Steve Berk, Ph.D. Weston, MA.
Rigby, K. Bullying in Schools and What to do about it. (Ontario: Pembroke l998).
Coloroso, Barbara. The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, by (New York: Harper Collins, 2003).


What is Bullying?

Bullying is when a person or group of persons who are stronger, older, more popular, or more powerful in some way, intentionally and repeatedly treats someone else disrespectfully, whether it is, verbally, physically or relationally.

Critical to reducing the frequency of bullying in your school community is having a clear awareness and consensus on the part of all members of the school community, including students, teachers, staff and parents, as to what constitutes an act of bullying. Coming to this definition collectively must be a part of the process. Studies by leading researchers on bullying show that conducting student and staff surveys about how and where bullying occurs in the school community is a necessary first step in understanding the nature and intensity of the problem.

Bullying behaviors take many forms all of them have a victim or victims, or, "targets". All bullying behaviors involve one or more persons intentionally trying to hurt and or intimidate another person or persons repeatedly. Bullying behavior says, "I have more power than you do." The behaviors may be mild or they may be quite severe and illegal. They are aggressive behaviors, rather than assertive means of self-defense.

They range from: Teasing, making jokes at the expense of someone, gossiping, ostracizing, exclusion, picking on, name calling, hurtful graffiti, threats of harm to persons or property, stealing, destruction of person's property, inappropriate touching, neglect, sexual harassment, physical and sexual abuse.

In the process of leading your students through lessons on bullying they will be able to identify bullying behaviors more clearly, and can perhaps add to this list.

Who Bullies?

We all have probably bullied in one of the above forms at some point or other in our lives. Many of the acts of bullying mentioned above are socially sanctioned, or at least seen as quite within the normal range of behaviors. Bullying is not something that only children do. Adults are also often bullied, at home, in the workplace, in various social settings, including bars, nursing homes, and recreational sports. Sometimes this bullying looks more like abuse. Sometimes adults bully children, particularly in dysfunctional homes where families are blended. Bullying happens across all socioeconomic levels, and in most cultural groups. As you can see, the line between bullying and abuse is thin, and spreads across a broad spectrum from largely accepted behaviors to those that are illegal.

Studies show that boys bully three times more often than girls, but those statistics are changing in some demographics. The type of bullying girls do is also different with boys resorting more frequently to physical bullying and girls to relational bullying such as exclusion, gossip and stealing. This also is changing as more girls resort to violence.

Studies show that those who bully most often come from homes where there is little or no warmth or empathy expressed. These children get little positive attention in their families. Discipline is inconsistent and physical. These children tend to be arrogant and controlling with what may look like high self-esteem, but actually is not.

Who Are the Victims?

  • Children with low self-esteem
  • Children who are shy, anxious or nonassertive
  • Children who have difficulty reading social signals this includes children with various disorders such as autism, Asberger's, ADHD.
  • Children who react emotionally or cry easily
  • Children who are smaller, or different in some way including:
  • Those who wear glasses
  • Dress differently
  • Have a disability
  • Have an appearance, behaviors or mannerisms that others might stereotype as homosexual.


Where Does Bullying Occur Most Commonly?

Less supervised school related settings such as; recess, cafeteria, hallways, bathrooms, school buses and bus stops.

Children are also bullied after school on the telephone, internet, and on the street.

What about the Bystander?

Everyone has been a witness to bullying at least once over the course of their lives and often many more times. Those who do not do anything to help the victim often suffer from guilt afterwards. There can also be trauma associated with witnessing bullying depending on the individual and the situation.
Children need to know that there is a safe way to report bullying. The clearer they are as to what constitutes bullying, and what the school policy is, the more comfortable they will feel with reporting or speaking out.

Children need to know that by laughing at a bully's actions they are joining in on the bullying. They need to know that the bully gets a reward for his or her behavior when the bystander responds positively. They need to know that the bully is encouraged when no one speaks up to stop his or her actions. The bully also becomes encouraged or gets an emotional reward when the victim is allowed to suffer alone.

Why Bystanders Don't Help the Target

1) The bystander is afraid that they will be hurt if they intervene. Bullies are (or are perceived to be) bigger and stronger, or at least more capable of mean acts.
2) The bystander is afraid of becoming a target themselves, and being singled out for retribution by the bully later. 
3) The bystander is afraid of doing something to make the situation worse. If he or she tells the principle or teacher, the target may be punished, or embarrassed.
4) The bystander does not know what to do to intervene. They do not know what to say, or how to stop violence, or who to tell. Children need to be taught how to take smart and safe action in the face of bullying.

How Supporters of the Bullying Justify the Behaviors

  • They are friendly, or friendlier with the bully than the target.
  • They believe that helping the target could turn them into a “social outcast.”
  • The target is not their friend.
  • They don't want to interfere in something that isn't their problem.
  • They think the target is a loser, or deserves to be bullied, “He asked for it.”
  • Bullying will help the target to learn to better stand up for his or herself.
  • It's an unspoken rule that you don't “tell” on the bully.
  • The bully and join-ins are in the “in” group. To be in the “in-group” involves laughing at or otherwise supporting the jokes and pranks of your group members.
  • It's too confusing to try to figure out whether to help and what to do.
  • It isn't really harmful to the target. It's just teasing or “fooling around.” 
  • The students may have prejudicial belief systems about the target (race, religion, sexual orientation, special needs, predilections etc.) that causes hate or depersonalizes them. 


Adapted from sources including:
The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander, by Barbara Coloroso, (New York: Harper Collins, 2003).
Stop Bullying at School, by Carol Wintle, (see bibliography).