January 2021




  • 3.2 million students report being the victim of bullying
  • 160,000 students skip school every day due to bullying
  • 64% of youth do not report bullying to adults
  • Caregivers play an important role in fostering resilience in bullying victims

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Supporting Youth Experiencing Bullying at School

 By: Melissa Donadio, M.A.

Bullying is defined as targeted intimidation or humiliation, and/or aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance (Kosciw, Greytalk, Palmer, & Boesen, 2013). The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. There are five types of bullying that include verbal, social, physical, covert, and cyber (Kosciw et al., 2013). Verbal bullying involves insults, teasing, name calling, sexual harassment, racist language, and spoken threats. Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships and can include leaving someone out on purpose, telling other children not to be friends with someone, spreading rumors, and embarrassing someone in public (Kosciw et al., 2013). In addition, social bullying can take the form of alienation from peers (Holt et al., 2015).

Moreover, physical bullying consists of hitting, kicking, tripping, or the destruction of a person’s property (Kosciw et al., 2013). Covert bullying, the most frequently utilized form of bullying, is usually attempted behind a youth’s back and is meant to damage one’s reputation by rumor starting, mimicking, or playing unkind jokes intended to humiliate a youth (Kosciw et al., 2013). Importantly, adults may not be aware of this type of bullying, which makes it challenging to control and stop (Holt et al., 2015). Lastly, cyber bullying can occur through text messages or over the internet and may be only known to the victim and the perpetrator (Kosciw et al., 2013). Like covert bullying, cyber bullying can be difficult to stop if others are unaware that it is occurring (Holt et al., 2015).

Research shows that 3.2 million students report being the victim of bullying every year, and 160,000 teenagers skip school every day due to bullying (Cohen & Canter, 2014). However, 64% of victims do not report bullying to adults (Strauss, 2014), which may be related to fear of retaliation or believing that adults will not stop the bullying. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the signs that a youth is being bullied. Common signs that someone is being bullied are listed below:

  • Frequent absences from school, loss of interest in school-work, or declining grades
  • Signs of depression and anxiety such as avoiding school, depressed mood, low self-esteem, changes in sleeping or eating habits, or talking about suicide
  • Faking illnesses
  • Refusing to talk about what is bothering them
  • Lost or destroyed property (clothes, books, electronics, jewelry, money)
  • Unexplainable injuries

If a youth begins to show these signs, it is important for caregivers to inquire about bullying behaviors. If the child confirms that they are being bullied, caregivers can play an important role in promoting resilience. Caregivers can do the following to support children and teenagers who are experiencing bullying:

  • Teach coping skills.
  • Partner with the child’s school to address the problem and report repeated or severe bullying behaviors.
  • Teach the right way to respond to bullying, which can include walking away, disarming the bully with humor, and showing confidence.
  • Praise progress your child or teenager makes in avoiding bullying situations or disarming the bully.
  • Promote positive body language.
  • Listen to your child and keep an open line of communication.



Cohn, Andrea., and Canter, Andrea. “Bullying: Facts for Schools and Parents.” NASP Fact Sheet. Accessed February 9, 2014 http://www.nasponline.org/resources/factsheets/bullying_fs.aspx

Holt, M. K., Vivolo-Kantor, A. M., Polanin, J. R., Holland, K. M., DeGue, S., Matjasko, J. L., … & Reid, G. (2015). Bullying and suicidal ideation and behaviors: a meta-analysis. Pediatrics, peds-2014.

Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Palmer, N. A., & Boesen, M. J. (2014). The 2013 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN.

Strauss, V. “New data on bullying: 17% report regular abuse.” The Washington Post. Accessed February 10, 2014, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/bullying/2010bullyvictimdata.html