Bullying can happen anywhere at any time to anyone. Bullying hurts everyone: the bully, the person being bullied and bystanders (people who witness someone being bullied.)

The effects of bullying can have serious, lasting consequences. For example, mental health issues, substance use and suicide can be linked to being bullied. In a 2019 Minnesota Student Survey, 19 percent of students report they were bullied at least once a week during the past 30 days. Students from lower income households and LGBTQIA+ students reported higher rates of bullying than did other students.

When you know what bullying is, it’s easier to stop it.

What is Bullying?

  • Bullying is about power: a bully seeks real or imagined power over another person.
  • Bullying can happen over and over.
  • Bullying can happen at any age. Young people as well as adults can be victims of bullying.
  • A bully is aggressive. He or she:
    • makes threats
    • spreads rumors
    • uses physical or verbal attacks
    • intentionally excludes you or someone else from a group.

4 Main Types of Bullying

  • Verbal bullyingis saying or writing cruel things. A bully may tease, name-call, taunt, and use inappropriate sexual comments and threats.
  • Social (relational) bullyingworks to damage your reputation and your relationships. The bully may intentionally leave you or someone else out of a group, tell you not to be friends with another person, spread rumors and embarrass you in public.
  • Physical bullyingare actions that cause hurt to your body or your property. A bully may hit, pinch, kick, spit, use unwanted touch, trip or push, take or damage your belongings and make rude or mean hand gestures.

Cyberbullyinginvolves sending, posting or sharing negative, harmful, false or mean content about you or someone else over digital devices. It is immediate, persistent, permanent and difficult for parents and adults to notice. Digital devices make it possible to communicate 24 hours a day.

  • Cyberbullying  occurs over digital devices such as computers, tablets and cell phones. It can happen anywhere you can view, participate in or share content such as:
    • email
    • message boards and online forums such as Reddit
    • online chats, direct and instant messages
    • online gaming communities
    • social media (Tik Tok, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook)
    • text message and messaging apps.
  • A cyberbully may share personal or private information about you that leaves you feeling embarrassed or humiliated. Digital content creates a “digital footprint” of your views, activities and behavior, both positive and negative. This “online reputation” may be viewed by school staff, employers or future employers, clubs and others who may research your background now or in the future. Negative, hurtful content can harm the reputations of both you and the bully.

Bystanders and Upstanders

  • Bystander.If you witness bullying, in person or online, you are a “bystander.” A bystander can be a friend, family member, classmate, teacher or school staff member, a coach, even a stranger. A bystander may not speak up immediately if he or she feels afraid of the bully.
  • Upstander.A bystander who intervene or speaks up to a bully is an “upstander.” If you are bullied you can feel even more alone if no one who witnesses the incident speaks up or tries to stop it. You might feel like people agree with what is happening or that they just don’t care. Your support makes a huge difference to someone who is being bullied.
  • Ways to stand up and speak out when you witness bullying:
    •  Question the bully’s behavior. Shift the focus, question the bully or change the subject.
    • Be assertive.Explain how it makes you feel to watch what is happening.
    • Redirect the bully.Try to lighten the mood.
    • Find a friend or two.Together show your disapproval of the bully’s actions. There is strength in numbers!
    • Walk along with the person being bullied. Try to shift the focus of the bully.
    • Reach out.After the incident is over, check in on the person who was bullied to see how he or she is doing.

If you are bullied or see others being bullied, speak to a trusted adult, intervene if you can or report it.

To learn more about healthy communication, visit Change to Chill's Healthy Communication blog.