6 Things to Know About Bullying


Bullying means many different things to different people, but one thing is certain: bullying hurts, and it can impact any student. Did you know the latest data shows that 24 percent of female students and 19 percent of male students report being bullied at school?

  1. What is bullying?

Bullying is “systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt and/or psychological distress on another. Bullying can be physical, verbal or social. Bullying is not just child’s play, but a frightening experience many students face every day,” once every seven minutes.

There are an abundance of resources online on how to identify bullying victims or students who bully others. However, some of the signs that a child may be being bullied are if he/she has unexplained injuries, lost clothing or personal items, frequent feelings of sickness, declining grades, problems sleeping and more. Some signs that a child may be bullying others are if they are getting into fights, have friends who are bully others, blame others for their problems, don’t accept responsibility for their actions, get frequent detention and more. Learn more from StopBullying.gov.

  1. Bullying is especially harmful in how it impacts a student’s brain.

mad skater teen girlWhen students are bullied, they become emotionally stressed. Stress has many detrimental effects, including an impact on memory and the development of the brain. You can see how, aside from the emotional aspect of bullying, that this would be detrimental to a student. A student who is being bullied is constantly in a fight-or-flight mode.

“Bullying behaviors trigger stress in students, even if they are not bullied daily. They remain anxious because they are unsure when and where it will happen again. And many other students who witness bullying incidents, often referred to as bystanders, are also stressed because they worry it could happen to them. The education of all involved in bullying incidents is at risk. The school climate as a whole can become toxic,” according to NEA’s article Student Bullying, the Brain and Bonding.

  1. It’s more than bullying – school climate matters

School climate refers to the quality and character of school life, and includes student, parent and personnel experiences, goals and values according to the National School Climate Center. It is so important to have a positive school climate. When a school focuses solely on bullying prevention, it is only seeing the tip of the iceberg. It may be missing the more subtle signs of bullying and a negative school climate. Learn more about School Climate and Bullying Prevention online.

  1. Why students don’t ask for help

A father comforts his sonThere are a lot of reasons that students don’t report bullying or ask for help from parents or school personnel. The stress and pressure around the act of bullying might make a student feel the need to be quiet, or they might be ashamed and embarrassed of being bullied by others. Asking for help, to the student being bullied, highlights their “flaw” to others, and could be seen as weak, or they may be afraid that there will be retaliation from the student(s) who are doing the bullying.

What’s worse, the student might think they deserve the bullying due to low self-esteem and being critical of themselves. And, they may expect adults to handle the bullying automatically without being told about it, or might think that they are expected to deal with the issue on their own.

  1. Prevention is the best treatment

The best way to treat bullying and a negative school climate is to prevent it.

“The most effective tool teachers have to handle problem behavior is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) programs help teachers recognize the significance of classroom management and preventive school discipline to maximize student success. PBIS strategies are critical to providing all young people with the best learning environment. ” – NEA President Lily Eskelsen García

There is also evidence that teaching students mindfulness, or focusing on the present, can help prevent bullying in schools:

“Learning about mindfulness helps teach our students more about their physical selves and how parts of the body and mind work together, and against us. Mindfulness becomes a type of ‘medicine’ that they can use to combat the anxiety that may lead to bullying.”

  1. Students become bullies for a variety of reasons

Kids bully others for many different reasons. While the act of bullying is mean, it may be a signal that the student who is bullying needs help or guidance, or is seeking attention.

According to STOMP out Bullying, some students said that they bully because:

  • It makes them feel stronger, smarter, or better than the person they are bullying
  • They’re bullied at home
  • It’s what you do if you want to hang out with the right crowd
  • They see others doing it
  • They’re jealous of the other person
  • It’s one of the best ways to keep others from bullying them

The good news?

teacher-with-younger-studentsYou can help! Step up and be an advocate for bullied students. Not only that, but strive to understand why certain students are bullying and provide guidance. Check out StopBullying.gov to find free resources for educators to help stop bullying.

“It is important for educators to respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior in order to send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows that consistent intervention procedures can stop bullying behavior over time. Whereas doing nothing at all will make the bullying infinitely worse.” – How to Intervene in a Bullying Incident, NEA.

Additional resources

Take advantage of Ed Communities on NEA 360! Join the Bully Free group to learn more about issues related to bullying and school climate. Not registered for NEA 360? Click here to join. Then, search active groups for Bully Free and join the group.

BullyFree-Logo_horizontalNEA offers a lot of wonderful resources to address bullying in schools. This includes a helpful toolkit as part of the NEA Bully Free: It Starts with Me campaign.

Also from NEA, check out these links to find other free resources and tools related to bullying: 

Resources and Tools 
Teaching Students to Prevent Bullying 
Beyond Programs: A Teacher’s Role in Preventing Bullying

SAMHSA has also released an app to help parents prevent bullying, called KnowBullying to help parents talk with their children. There is also a section for educators online here.

And, be sure to check out our information on the following:

Bullying Prevention Leads to Positive Outcomes in Schools 
Seven Myths About Child Mental Health 
Signs of Stress in Children

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