Bullying & Cyberbullying

An effective anti-bullying program addresses the unique needs of a particular school, involves a school-wide approach that engages all affected groups (students, staff, parents, and community), develops social and emotional competencies, provides skills to prevent or intervene in bullying situations, and responds to bullying behaviors consistently and appropriately.

We provide various resources on bullying and anti-bullying strategies on this website.

Resources for Parents

Parents can become involved in reducing aggressive behaviors and creating safer environments for their children at home and at school. Parents are encouraged to become familiar with their school handbooks, bullying, discipline, and technology policy to gain knowledge of their school’s response to bullying behavior.

Resources for Students

Students play an important role in creating safe environments at school. Below you can find guidance and resources on how students can respond to bullying if they are a victim, perpetrator, or bystander.

Resources for Teachers

Teachers are important for bullying prevention as they spend the majority of time working with students. Below are steps and resources for teachers in preventing bullying.

Resources for Schools

This information will be framed through an MTSS model in how schools can address bullying behavior through a tiered approach.

Bullying Information

Conflict vs. Bullying: What’s the Difference?For behaviors and conflict to be considered bullying, it must fit the following criteria: the behavior is mean or aggressive on purpose, it is happening over and over, and there is a power imbalance between the offender and the victim (Gladden et al., 2014; Olweus, 1993). That means that the victim is unable to stop the behavior from happening. A power imbalance may be due to many factors, including but not limited to social status (e.g., having more friends), physical abilities, academic abilities, older age, financial abilities, a leadership position at school or in a club, or other situations where the offender holds power over the victim. The presence of a power imbalance between those involved is what differentiates bullying from other forms of peer aggression (Baron & Richardson, 1994). It is common for caregivers to wonder if their child’s experiences are genuinely bullying or if they are in conflict that is normal for their developmental level. In contrast to bullying, conflict is a mutual disagreement where both sides feel able to express themselves, there is no intention to harm the other person, there is equal power between those involved, and it typically stops when one realizes it is negatively impacting the other person (PACER, 2023).

  • Gladden, R.M., Vivolo-Kantor, A.M., Hamburger, M.E., & Lumpkin, C.D. (2014). Bullying surveillance among youths: Uniform definitions for public health and recommended data elements, Version 1.0. Atlanta, GA; National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Department of Education.
  • Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
  • Baron, R. A., & Richardson, D. R. (1994). Human aggression (2nd ed.). Plenum Press.
  • Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center. (2023, November). Bullying statistics. PACER Center, inc.

There are multiple roles within the bullying dynamic. Research has shown that individuals will often move between various roles throughout their school years; therefore, these roles are not fixed (Espelage & Swearer., 2003). Specifically, research has consistently shown that students who report both bullying others and being bullied (bully victims) are the most at risk for adverse psychological outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and school problems (CDC, 2019). Additionally, students who observe bullying (i.e., bystanders) but are otherwise uninvolved in the bullying dynamic are at risk for adverse psychological outcomes or future bullying involvement (Rivers et al., 2009). Although it is more important to understand the adverse outcomes that are a result of bullying involvement, knowing what role a student plays can help with intervening effectively and appropriately.

  • Bully Offender – bullies others.
  • Victim/Target – reports being bullied by others
  • Bully-Victim – both bullies others and is bullied by others
  • Bystander – observes others being bullied
  • No status/not involved – does not report any involvement with bullying

We want to emphasize that bullying is a behavior, not a person. This means that the behavior can be changed. As a caregiver or educator, it is essential to remember this and instill hope in the child that their bullying can stop.

  • Espelage, D.L. & Swearer, S.M. (2003). Research on school bullying and victimization: What have we learned, and where do we go from here? School Psychology Review. 32. 365–383.
  • Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (2019). Preventing bullying.
  • Rivers, I. et al. (2009). Observing bullying at school: The mental health implications of witness status. School Psychology Quarterly, 24 (4), 211–223.
  • 1 in 5 students (20%) report being bullied in the United States (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019). This number is down from 28% in 2005, when the United States government began collecting data on bullying and prevention and intervention programs (U.S. Department of Education, 2015).
  • Students who identify as female report experiencing more covert bullying (e.g., excluding from groups, spreading rumors) than students who identify as male, who report more physical bullying (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019).
  • The most common places that students report being bullied are in the hallway (43%), inside the classroom (42%), at lunch (27%), on the playground (22%), or online/texting (15%; National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019). Bullying most commonly occurs in the absence of adult supervision.
  • Bullying peaks during the transition to middle school, typically 6th grade, with 29.5% of students reporting being bullied (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019). This percentage remains above 24% throughout middle school years and decreases to below 20% for all high school grades.
  • Centers for Disease Control, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (2019). Preventing bullying.
  • Farrington, D. P., & Ttofi, M. M. (2011). Bullying as a predictor of offending, violence, and later life outcomes. Criminal behavior and mental health: CBMH, 21(2), 90–98.
  • Olweus, D. (1993). Bullying at school: What we know and what we can do. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
  • Swearer, S. M., & Doll, B. (2001). Bullying in schools: An ecological framework. Journal of Emotional Abuse, 2(2-3), 7–23.

The adverse effects of bullying often persist beyond the specific events that occur. Bullying is a mental health problem. There are psychological consequences for those involved, and they vary slightly depending on the individual’s bullying role:

  • Students who bully others and are bullied by others (i.e., bully-victims) are the most at-risk group for adverse mental health and behavior outcomes as opposed to students who engage in only one role (CDC, 2019).
  • Students who are bullied by others (i.e., victims) are at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and dropping out of school (CDC, 2019).
  • Students who bully others (i.e., bullies) are likelier to commit crimes in adulthood. This bullying role at age 14 predicted violent convictions between ages 15 and 20, drug use between ages 27-32, and an “unsuccessful life” at age 48 (Farrington & Tfofi, 2011)
  • Victims and bully-victims are more depressed and have lower self-esteem than non-victimized youth (Olweus, 1993; Swearer & Doll, 2001).
    • National Center for Educational Statistics. (2019). Student reports of bullying: Results from the 2017 School Crime Supplement to the National Victimization Survey. US Department of Education.
    • U.S. Department of Education, (2015). New data show a decline in school-based bullying.

Bullying has negative consequences for all students; however, specific subpopulations have been found to be at higher risk for experiencing bullying, with more severe adverse outcomes. The populations that tend to be most at-risk include students of color, students with disabilities, and students who are perceived or identify as a sexual or gender minority (SGM; e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender). Bullying has negative consequences for all students; however, specific subpopulations are more at risk for bias-based bullying. Biased-based bullying predicts more negative outcomes in all areas (Russell et al., 2012).

  • Sexual and gender minority youth are more likely to experience peer victimization than their straight and cisgender peers (Kahle, 2020; Norris, 2020).
    • Sexual minority youth experience more traditional bullying than straight youth, with up to 88% experiencing bullying victimization in their lifetimes  (Robinson & Espelage, 2011; Sterzing et al., 2019)
    • Sexual and gender minority students who are targets of bias-based bullying may experience more harm than from traditional bullying behaviors (Camodeca et al., 2018; Gower et al., 2018)
    • Sexual minority youth are at greater risk for depression, bullying, and other forms of violence than straight peers (Baiden et al., 2020; CDC, 2019; Fantus & Newman, 2021).
  • Students of color experience more peer victimization than their White peers (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019).
    • Experiences with discrimination negatively impact the physical and mental health of ethnic minorities (Benner & Graham, 2011).
    • Discrimination has been linked to more depression, psychological distress, and drug use, as well as decreased perception of mastery, lower grades, and increased negative attitudes about school (Benner & Kim, 2009)
    • Increased perception of discrimination has been associated with lower perceptions of school belonging and less supportive teaching environments. Both aspects of school climate and poor perception of school climate, in turn, are related to lower academic performance, school persistence, and school engagement (Edward & Romero, 2008).
  • Students with disabilities are more likely to experience peer victimization than those without disabilities (Rose & Gage, 2016).
    • Prevalence rates for being bullied by students with disabilities vary greatly between disability types. Using special education categories, researchers have found that the most common disabilities that are targeted are students with behavior and emotional disorders (35.5%), autism (33.9%), intellectual disabilities (24.3%), and ~20% for learning disabilities and “Other Health Impairment” (e.g., ADHD, chronic health condition; Rose & Espelage, 2012).
    • Reports of being bullied are more often dismissed when a student is in special education versus a student in general education (Davis & Nixon, 2010).

Interventions to decrease these disparities in peer victimization for these specific populations have had some success. Sexual and gender minority youth are more likely to report a positive school climate when the school’s anti-bullying policy includes specific protection for sexual and gender minorities (Kosciw et al., 2022). Compared to schools without gender and sexual minority alliances (GSAs), sexual and gender minority students who attended schools with  GSAs experienced lower levels of peer victimization related to their sexual orientation (17.7% versus 33.0%), gender expression (18.2% to 31.9%), and gender (17.7% vs. 30.2%; Kosciw et al., 2022). Additionally, all youth report fewer bullying experiences when these anti-bullying policies are inclusive of sexual and gender minorities (Hatzenbuehler & Keyes, 2013). Students of color are less likely to report higher peer victimization when the school has higher diversity among staff and students (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2019). Students with disabilities tend to report less peer victimization after engaging in interventions promoting positive and appropriate social interactions (Rose & Monda-Amaya, 2012). If you believe your student is being discriminated against for these reasons, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the school principal, superintendent, or school board for support.

Cyberbullying Information

As the use of technology increases in schools and society, negative behaviors via technology have also increased. Cyberbullying is an aggressive, intentional act carried out by a group or individual, using electronic forms of contact, repeatedly against a victim who cannot easily defend themselves (Smith & Slonje, 2010). It is important to understand here that “repeatedly” can apply to a single post, as it becomes repetitive once it is shared publicly, and many people continue to interact with the post through comments or likes. Often, adults perceive cyberbullying as an experience that exists only outside of school, when in reality, they are usually accompanied by in-person experiences (Espelage & Holt, 2013). Additionally, students who are victimized online by strangers are still more likely to be victimized on school grounds than those who are not harassed online (Hamm et al., 2015).

Report Cyberbullying | Social Media Apps, Gaming and Online Platforms

Prevalence of Cyberbullying

  • Of the tweens (ages 9 to 12 years) who reported experiencing bullying at school, 14.5% reported experiencing it both online and in school. In contrast, only 1% reported being bullied solely online (Patchin et al., 2020).
  • The type of cyberbullying tends to differ by gender just as it does in person. Students who identify as girls were more likely to say someone spread rumors about them online, while boys were more likely to report that they were threatened to be physically harmed online (Patchin et al., 2019).
  • 90% of tweens (ages 9 to 12 years) use social media or gaming apps (Patchin et al., 2020) and, therefore, are exposed to opportunities for this type of victimization.
  • Espelage, D. L., & Holt, M. K. (2013). Suicidal ideation and school bullying experiences after controlling for depression and delinquency. Journal of Adolescent Health, 53. Retrieved from www.ncdsv.org
  • Hamm, M. P., Newton, A. S., & Chisholm, A. (2015). Prevalence and effect of cyberbullying on children and young people: A scoping review of social media students. JAMA Pediatrics, 169, 770-777.
  • Patchin, J. W., & Hinduja, S. (2019). 2019 Cyberbullying Data. Cyberbullying Research Center.
  • Patchin, J.W., & Hinduja, S. (2020). Tween Cyberbullying in 2020. Cyberbullying Research Center and Cartoon Network.
  • Smith, P. & Slonje, R. (2010). Cyberbullying: The nature and extent of a new kind of bullying, in and out of school. Handbook of Bullying in Schools: An International Perspective. 249-262.
  • How to report cyberbullying or inappropriate content to specific websites/apps: Cyberbullying.org

Guidance on cyberbullying can be found here:

Contact a Bullying Specialist

Services: Respond to phone calls from concerned parents and community members regarding bullying incidents throughout Nebraska.

NDE Staff Contact: Jared Noetzel jared.noetzel@nebraska.gov ‪(531) 333-3419

NDE Staff Contact: Samantha Kesselring samantha.kesselring@nebraska.gov (402) 937-8402

Updated July 2, 2024 9:55am