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To meet the criteria for bullying, the bully, or a group of bullies, must pick on someone who is perceived to be weaker, they must intend to cause harm with their actions and their harmful actions must occur repeatedly over time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), bullying occurs when an individual or a group of people repeatedly picks on a person who is weaker than the bully or bullies.

Bullying can be physical, involving direct violence or intimidation, it can be verbal, involving taunting, insults or teasing or it can be indirect and involve such tactics as rumor spreading or trying to influence others to reject or dislike the victim.

Bullying can occur in person, or it can occur via the internet or through texting.1

For a behavior to meet the criteria for bullying it must be2:

  1. Repetitive – a single incident of pushing or name calling does not qualify as bullying. Bullying occurs when that physical, social or verbal violence or aggression occurs repeatedly, over time.
  2. Targeted at an individual who is perceived to have less power – bullies don’t ‘pick on someone their own size’
  3. Intended to do harm – the harm caused by bullies is not accidentally inflicted. Bullies target their victims with the intent of doing harm

Some typical harmful bullying acts include3:

  • Direct physical violence
  • Damaging the victim’s property
  • Making the victim the butt of jokes
  • Verbal insults, teasing or taunting
  • Making sure the victim feels uncomfortable or scared
  • Ostracizing the victim – making sure that others also reject him or her
  • Making the victim do things they don’t want to do
  • Spreading malicious rumors
  • Sexual assault
  • Writing embarrassing or malicious things about the victim online on facebook, on chat forums, through IM and through other media

Who Gets Bullied?

Some people get bullied for no apparent reason at all, but there are some people who may be at greater risk of bullying, such as:

  • People who look or act differently
  • People from a minority race
  • People with disabilities
  • People from different religions
  • Gay, lesbian or transgendered persons
  • People who look as though they will not defend themselves from bullying attacks

Bullying Consequences

Bullying is not a normal part of the childhood or teen experience. It doesn’t need to happen and when it does go on for a protracted length of time the consequences can be serious – and in some case can last for a lifetime.

Research shows that children and teens who get bullied are far more likely to experience psychological problems, such as a low emotional well being and depression or anxiety, problems with social adjustment and even physical health symptoms. People who experience persistent bullying as children and teens can experience the negative consequences of this experience well into adulthood and people who persistently bully as children and teens are far more likely to become violent and anti-social adults.

People who are bullied may:

  • Be afraid to go to school/not want to go to school
  • Lose interest in activities that were previously enjoyed
  • Feel lowered self esteem
  • Experience symptoms of depression or anxiety (social anxiety) and these symptoms can endure into adulthood
  • Experience insomnia or nightmares
  • Experience physical health problems, such as stomach aches, eczema or headaches (in one study, being bullied resulted in health complaints that persisted for 3 years beyond the bullying)
  • Do more poorly in school (have lower average GPA, be more likely to skip school, be more likely to drop out of school)
  • Be more likely to have suicidal thoughts (in one study, being bullied in childhood was associated with a 300% increase in likelihood of having suicidal thoughts as an adult)

And it’s not only those who get bullied who suffer in the long run – research shows that bullies are also less likely to thrive in the long term and that an estimated 60% of middle school bullies will have a criminal record by the age of 24.

Bullies are also more likely to4:

  • Develop problems with drugs and alcohol
  • Drop out of school
  • Become abusive partners, spouses or parents
  • Continue to have problems with violence, destruction of property and other anti-social acts as they age

Dealing with Bullying

Bullying is dangerous, can cause lasting harm and should never be tolerated as "normal".

If you or someone you love experience bullying, you need to take steps now to stop or reduce the behavior and to protect against the consequences.

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Page last updated Jul 01, 2011

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