Bullying 101

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. It is a time to unite us in our efforts across the United States in keeping our children and young people safe, happy, and healthy. As we begin this month-long bullying prevention focus, it is also a good time to bring forward some essential understandings.

1. What is bullying? Bullying is an act of aggression with three specific characteristics: it is intended to do harm, it is repeated or has a high likelihood of being repeated, and it involves an imbalance of power. All three characteristics must be present in order for a behavior to be considered bullying.

2. What are the types of bullying? Bullying can be physical, verbal (oral and written), social (or relational), or cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is bullying through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices. 

3. Is bullying a rite of passage? In 2016 the National Academies of Science concluded that bullying is not a rite of passage. Furthermore, because of the negative short- and long-term effects on anyone involved in a bullying situation, they declared bullying to be a national public health issue.

4. How prevalent is bullying? Bullying is reported from Kindergarten through 12th Grade. It peaks in 6th grade at 39%. One in five US students report being bullied on school property, a fairly stable statistic. This does not include bullying that occurs in neighborhoods, the home, or other places.

5. Who is most at risk for being bullied? While there is no single factor that puts a child at risk for bullying, some groups are most at risk of being bullied: LGBTQ youth, youth with disabilities, and socially isolated youth. Because bullying is rooted in power, a person engaging in bullying behavior perceives him/herself to be in a superior position to someone who is perceived as different or "less than."

Awareness is only the first step in bullying prevention. Knowing what to do and then taking action are the next steps. As Goethe said, "Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do."


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