National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
Boys Town Hotline: 1-800-448-3000
NDE Staff Contact:
Cesar Torres: Bullying and cyber-bullying research associate
Services: Help with bullying and cyber-bullying phone calls and emails and help with research and resources about bullying and cyber-bullying
Why it is Important:
For something to be considered bullying, it must fit the following criteria: It is unwanted, aggressive behavior that is intended to hurt someone physically, verbally, emotionally, or electronically. There is an imbalance of power due to social, physical, or emotional aspects. Bullying is repeated over time.
Individuals can take on different roles within the bullying continuum. These roles are not fixed. In reality, student’s roles often change and one student may engage in multiple roles.
- Bully Perpetrator – reports bullying others
- Victim/Target – reports being bullied by others
- Bully-Victim – reports bullying others and being bullied
- Bystander – reports observing others being bullied
- No status/not involved – does not report any involvement with bullying
Bullying is a behavior that can be changed. Helping students improve their behavior is critical in creating a safe school environment. Being proactive in reducing bullying behavior is important as it has negative outcomes for all individuals involved. Additionally, bullying is expensive, incurring cost from dropout, suicide, and litigation (Swearer et al., 2016)
Prevalence of Bullying
- Studies show that between 15-25% of U.S. students are bullied with some frequency, while 15-20% report that they bully others with some frequency. (Melton et al., 1998; Nansel et al., 2001). Bullying negatively impacts three out of four students during their school years.
- Bullying tends to peak in transition years – moving from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school. (Pellegrini, 2002, Swearer, 2004).
Bullying is a mental health problem; there are psychological consequences for those who are involved.
- Bullying at age 14 predicted violent convictions between ages 15 and 20; drug use at ages 27-32, and 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 et al., 2001)
- Bullying has been connected to both homicidal and suicidal behavior; however, greater variance is explained by depression (Swearer et al., 2016)
Impact on bullying on specific populations (multicultural and sexual/gender consideration):
Bullying impacts all those who are involved, however, specific populations who are targets of bullying behavior tend to have more negative outcomes, and experience higher rates of bullying.
- Both sexual/gender minority youth and heterosexual youth experience homophobic bullying
- Boys who were called ‘gay’ experienced more negative effects than boys who were bullied for other reasons (Swearer, Turner, Given, & Pollack, 2008)
- LGB youth experience biased-based bullying more frequently than heterosexual youth (Berlan et al., 2010; Poteat et al., 2009)
- A meta-analysis found that LGB youth are more likely to have experienced sexual harassment than heterosexual youth (Kats-Wise & Hyde, 2012)
- LGB population are at greater risk for depression, bullying, and other forms of violence than straight peers (CDC, 2015)
- Experiences with discrimination negatively impacts 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 decreases 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)
Visit for more information and for recommendations on how to help sexual/gender minority youth at school:
Bullying behavior can occur in a variety of platforms. Outside of school grounds, students can experience bullying from social media and gaming apps. Cyberbullying is an aggressive, intentional act carried out by a group or individual, using electronic forms of contact, repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend themselves (Smith and Slonje, 2010). When students engage in cyberbullying behavior, they use electronic/digital tools to hurt others (by threatening, humiliating or embarrassing, ruining friendships or others’ reputation). Focusing on cyberbullying is important as the Norton Online Living report states that 76% of U.S. teens, ages 13-17, “constantly” or “frequently” visit social networking sites. The internet is a part of many students’ daily experiences, especially since the majority of students use online tools to perform academic tasks.
Prevalence and Impact:
Studies have reported that about 20% of 11-18 year old students have been cyber bullied (Hinduja & Patchin, 2010).
Research has found association between students who engage in cyberbullying and the following outcomes: depression, anxiety, peer relationship problems, higher levels of stress, poor academic achievement, drug and alcohol use (Kwalski, Giumetti, Schroeder, & Lattanner, 2014).
Cyberbullying has negative outcomes for everyone involved in the bully dynamic. Students who were victims of cyberbullying were found to have the following negative outcomes: loneliness, depression, anxiety, lower self-esteem, drug and alcohol use. Additionally, students who identified as cyberbully victims typically had more severe outcomes.
For more information, strategies, resources, and recommendations about cyberbullying, please visit: