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Bullying - Topic Overview

What is bullying?

Bullying is acting in ways that scare or harm another person. Kids who bully usually pick on someone who is weaker or more alone, and they repeat the actions over and over. Bullying starts in elementary school and becomes most common in middle school. By high school, it is less common but still occurs.

Bullying can take many forms, including:

  • Physical harm, such as hitting, shoving, or tripping.
  • Emotional harm, such as making fun of the way a child acts, looks, or talks. Writing mean things about someone in emails or online journals (blogs) is also bullying.

Girls who bully are more likely to do so in emotional ways. Boys who bully often do so in both physical and emotional ways. For example:

  • A girl may form a group and exclude another girl or gossip about her.
  • A boy may shove another boy and call him names.

Both boys and girls take part in "cyberbullying." This means using high-tech devices to spread rumors or to send hurtful messages or pictures. Emotional bullying doesn't leave bruises, but the damage is just as real.

If you think your child is being bullied—or is bullying someone else—take action to stop the abuse.

Why is it important to stop bullying?

Bullying is a serious problem for all children involved. Kids who are bullied are more likely to feel bad about themselves and be depressed. They may fear or lose interest in going to school. Sometimes they take extreme measures, which can lead to tragic results. They may carry weapons, use violence to get revenge, or try to harm themselves.

Kids who bully others are more likely to drop out of school, have drug and alcohol problems, and break the law.

What are the traits of children who bully?

Children who bully are often physically strong. They may bully because they like the feeling of power. They may be kids who do things without thinking first and may not follow rules. These boys and girls have not learned to think about the feelings of other people.

Kids who physically bully others sometimes come from homes where adults fight or hurt each other. They may pick on other kids because they have been bullied themselves.

Children who bully need counseling. It can help them understand why they act as they do. And it can teach them how to interact with others in more positive ways. Family counseling is especially helpful for these children.

How do children who are bullied act?

Children who are bullied are often quiet and shy. They may have few friends and find it hard to stand up for themselves. They may begin to think that they deserve the abuse.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 25, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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